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The Book Blogger Awards 2017

You Can Say No

You Can Say “No”

Submitter: After working for [Library] for over seven years, I left to begin a career as a school librarian.  During my first year, I weeded close to 400 books from a library with 13,000 holdings.  Among “Electricity for Boys” and “Cooking for Girls,” I found a few gems to add to my personal collection.  One of these gems is “You Can Say ‘No'” by Betty Boegehold.  Attached are pictures of the cover and my favorite pages.  It is downright creepy.

Holly: These books do creep us out, but let me ask this of our readers: how DO you write a book for kids that stresses the importance of “bad touching” – without mentally scarring them or scaring the heck out of them?  There MUST be books out there on this topic that do a good job of discussing this topic in a way children understand.  Anyone?



0 Responses to You Can Say No

  • Honestly we don’t need books to teach this lesson. We need parents and teachers who can see the child’s face and respond to what the child needs.

    • More often then not it’s the parents or the teacher doing it and the child feels like they can’t say anything.

      I think books like this are important because it shows the kid they don’t have to keep quiet.

      There’s no un-creepy way to say it, either.

  • “I have another big doll in my house-just for you.”

    Um, oh my! That scars me coming from a children’s book and I am a thirty year old woman. There has to be better more current info out there that best serve the community. Downright creepy is right!

  • Agree with kherbert. There’s no way to make a good, non-creepy book with this message. But if you’re going to, the title could use some work. “You Can Say ‘No'” – really? That makes it sound like sometimes you can say “Yes” – or should. Creeptastic.

    • I completely understand the title. It’s like I said, most of the time it’s a parent or teacher that is doing the molesting. Kids are taught they’re suppose obey their parents and teachers. They’re not suppose to say no. This book says it’s okay to say no when what the parent or teacher is doing is bad.

  • We actually had this book when I was growing up and it scared me even then!!

  • “Next on our list, we’ve got a new self-help title by Betty Boegehold. I guess, seeing as how it’s a kids’ title, we ought to pair this text with some random illustrator who won’t understand that typical children’s drawings will seem jarringly out-of-place when we’re strongly suggesting molestation….”

    Bad decision, Golden.

  • Huh,

    I actually remember this book from when I was a child. My parents bought it in 1988 thinking that it would be a good way to teach me how to protect myself. However, I think the best self defense came from my dad teaching me how to punch/kick a guy in the junk, not from this crappy book.

  • Oh man. I am of the generation that HAD this book as a child – well at least a friend of mine did. And it was utterly creepy.

  • Plus kids learn about it in school. We had people come to talk to us in kindergarten, with these big stuffed dolls, to teach us about “uh oh touches,” and up through 3rd grade, someone always came in to tell us “no, go, tell” (say no, go away, tell an adult). I even remember a video we watched, with one kid and his creepy uncle, and another and his baseball coach (or something like that).

    Trust me, it’s covered. Look, I even still have the phrases burned into my brain a decade and a half later.

    • Is that true anymore? I remember anti-molestation advice to children was a big right-wing flashpoint on education policy last year.

  • ^ Totally agree. I had a book called “What’s wrong with bottoms?” and it was about child abuse, but for me, It was better to have parents and teachers teaching us what is and isn’t ok. I don’t think books can replace parents/teachers in this situation.

  • Child of the ’80s here.
    I had that book when I was little.
    On reflection as an adult, yep that’s totally creepy.

    As a kid though, I knew what it was about, and I understood it. So maybe it achieved its objective?

  • I don’t know what I like better about the cover–that the guy in the car looks like Hitler or the way the dog is distracted by the bird.

  • No! That is NOT an appropriate book. I had the one about divorce.

  • Eww. The second page makes me feel funny.

  • I don’t know how one could reduce the creepy factor of such books. It is a difficult topic to discuss. Nevertheless, it has to be done.

  • Another 30 something who feels like she just watched a little bit of a horror show. Creepy.

    Hm, I just bought some stranger danger books from Scholastic, because we haven’t taught our preschooler anything about that yet and I’m not sure where to start (and they come in packages with teeth brushing books… the kid has been asking why he has to brush his teeth, I figure this will explain). We’ll see what they’re like.

    • The problem with this topic is that most actual abuse is NOT perpetrated by strangers–its the trusted people that are allowed access to the children-the parents, teachers, family, etc.

      I’d rather the children learn something age-appropriate about bodily autonomy than have adults be a little creeped-out.

    • One of the problems is that we teach our kids about stranger danger, but the fact is that most molestation is committed by someone the child knows. It’s tricky to walk that fine line of teaching our kids how to be safe without scaring the bejeebers out of them.

  • The racial/ethnic implications of the illustrations also a whole new dimension of ickiness. Watch out, Goldilocks, here comes a big bad Latino-looking wolf! And there’s a different Latino-looking driver stopping for another couple of blond kids too. Pictures speak louder than words, and I suspect many white kids will take away the message that they’d better watch out for friendly-seeming people who are darker than they are.

    • that janitor looks Caucasian enough for me, unless we’re assuming all janitors are latino…?

      • Certainly not assuming all janitors are Latino! This one struck me that way, though. In any case both he and the guy in the car seem to me to be ethnically distinguished from the hyper-blond victims.

      • I thought the janitor looked very Latino to me as well. My husband is Latino and he did maintenance work for a living for twenty years so this kind of grates on my nerves how it is portrayed in the book.

  • Someone get Ado Annie a copy of this book, stat!

  • Unfortunately, it’s very hard to write anything non-creepy about this subject for reasons detailed here. Quoting from the page, “any attempt to tackle serious subject matter honestly is problematic when the Moral Guardians are watching. You often end up with children being warned about something dangerous — but exactly why that something is dangerous is often never explained.”

    Though there was a Berenstein Bears (of all things) book/tv special that approached the issue and, interestingly, addressed the problems with trying to teach this lesson to children. Papa Bear tells Sister bear that strangers are dangerous. Next morning, she’s completely paranoid. (I can relate because one such tv special worked one hell of a number on my little five-year-old psyche.)

  • This is really really creepy…

  • Yet another 30-year-old who really needs a shower right now. I’m pretty sure I remember seeing this book in my hometown library.

  • Just double-checked that we didn’t have this one (like I always do). No, but there is one title here by Betty Boegehold: The pleasure of their company : how to have more fun with your children. Just fine, I know, but creepy under the circumstances.

  • The big problem is the “creep factor”. It’s the concept. The cold hard fact is that children are raped by parents, grandparents, and other close relations: Not creepy janitors and bicycle-shop owners.
    Stranger abuse is high profile, but rare.

    You need to stress the act, and not the person doing it. Keep it clinical, no nonsense.

  • After I learned about “the subject” as a kid, I went through a phase where I thought EVERYBODY (adult) was a child molester. I didn’t even like my parents to hug me. For the record they aren’t perverts to any degree. It took years to get over the suspiciousness.

  • Man, those illustrations take me back. That illustrator did so many picture books about the Care Bears. I recognized her style right away. She did pictures fo books about the Popples too (anyone else remember Popples?)

    • Popples! Man, now that I think about it, we 80s kids were big into changing things into other things. Popples, Voltron, Transformers, She-Ra, He-Man, Barbie and her convertible dresses…

  • I remember Popples lol

  • You’ve got to put these stranger danger books in the context of the period: in 1981, Adam Walsh was kidnapped, molested, and beheaded by a stranger. I suspect that a lot of the child safety education we thirty-somethings received back then originates from that single crime. Frankly, though, I don’t know where the idea that a stranger would try to entice a child into a car comes from, although the Ted Bundy case was certainly in the public consciousness by then. Bundy used various tricks to lure unsuspecting adult victims into his car, so maybe the fear of monsters in automobiles stems from Bundy. Anyway I think a proper modern book on the subject would need to strike a balance between teaching kids about how a stranger might try to abduct them, and how an adult they know and trust might abuse them as well. Kids do need this type of education, as creepy as it might seem to us.

    • The “stranger in a car” was exactly what I was taught to watch out for when I was in kindergarten in 1960. That and not accepting candy from strangers. So whatever events prompted that particular idea are much older than Ted Bundy or Adam Walsh.

  • Best book on the topic I’ve ever seen (and I used it for years with kids) is I Am Safe: A Child’s Book of Personal Safety by Kate Soucheray.

  • I agree with Holly. While there are books that do a less-than-stellar job of dealing with this issue, we NEED books on this subject. I had a mom come in who wanted books in the “good touching, bad touching” genre and we had NOTHING in our library system. I checked amazon and there were no recent books just some old crappy ones. I attempted to order these old crappy ones through interlibrary loan and there were no locations found. We need to petition an anti-child abuse charity to publish some good books for kids on this topic.

  • As a kids’ librarian, I have to point out that there are some books out there that are NOT particularly creepy and handle the whole “inappropriate touching” issue very well.
    No More Secrets for Me by Oralee Wachter (originally from 1985, revised in 2002) has a bunch of situations that can happen to kids, good to read together with a parent.
    Not in Room 204 by Shannon Riggs is a story of a girl who is being abused by her father, and decides to confide in her teacher about it.
    Your Body Belongs to You by Cornelia Spelman is also well-done and not creepy.
    There are lots more good books on this subject. Ask your friendly local librarian!

  • I think the happy, colorful illustrations combined with the subject matter are what make this creepy, especially to adults. Kind of like the dichtomy of the Evil Clown.

  • Wow, this would make me grow up thinking all people who do “menial” tasks for a living are “scum”…and probably make me ashamed of my “special places”.

  • Good Christ, I’m a Janitor. Why’s it always gotta be the Janitor?

  • The Right Touch: A Read-Aloud Story to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (Jody Bergsma Collection) by Sandy Kleven is a good title to use with young children. I ordered it for my library a few years ago. This topic is disturbing but it is good to have some books available for parents who want to have the discussion with their children but are not sure how to start.

  • Holy crap, I HAD this book as a kid!

  • This booook!!! I read it as a kid. It wasn’t mine, I checked it out from a library. Ahh, Sweet, Tender youth.

    I will also reiterate: It’s more likely to be a mom, dad, Stepmom, stepdad, aunt, uncle, grandmother, grandfather, close friend of the parents, or even clergy(that’s actually how the currently known catholic molestation and abuse cases came to be–the clergy would preen the parents, as well as the children, to the point that the parents would trust the guy to take their kid on long solo trips, etc), as well as any sort of person who has lots of bearing over a child’s behavior(some famous coaches come to mind…).
    I also say that there should be a companion book for parents for this, or at least a page in the back, on how to approach their child if they’re worried or tell their child that it’s always okay to tell them if something like this is happening. Several things I find happen more often that cause these not to get reported:
    1.) it’s a close friend of the family, and if the child does tell, the parents don’t believe them. and 2.) it’s usually someone respected, whom they believe is more trustworthy than the child.
    3.) Kids are smart–they know reporting something like this will upset their parents and ’cause problems’–if they’re raised like I was, to “not cause trouble” they won’t say anything. Kids need to be told that it’s okay to speak up when bad things are happening to them.

  • I had this book! Along with another one by either the same author or publishing company that I think was called Don’t Talk To Strangers? Anyway I grew up in the ’80s as well and even at the age I was at the time (around 7 when I got it I think), I was kind of creeped out by the excerpted story. I can only vaguely remember a few other stories, but I’d definitely remember them if I read the book again (I no longer have it, though). I seem to remember one about a little girl who gets lost in a shopping center, and I THINK there was one where the kid’s parents tell him/her not to ride around with the mailman or something like that, although that might have been a different book. I don’t remember off-hand anything else that was in there.

  • Addendum: Okay, the other book I was thinking of was called Never Talk To Strangers. It was this one: