The No David books have been some of my 3yo's favorites, probably his first favorite book ever *was* No David. We recently checked out David's Christmas and it was so sad to me! Telling him he is naughty and no christmas! All of the books seem so mean to me. Soap in the mouth was really hard to explain to my kids. When i read the books i always find myself trying to explain the adults' behavior, saying that they are nervous and david was just being silly, not naughty, etc. Anyway, I try to read the books in the gentlest way, but the funny thing is that my 3yo loves reading the books himself and chastising David loudly on each page. I guess that is the appeal. It reminds me of all my struggles through these last seven years, since the birth of my first child, to shed my aggressive impulses toward my children.
Are there books that you find offensive toward children but your children like them? I remember a discussion a while back regarding Bedtime for Francis and other spanking books. I read one recently called Only Opal, illustrated by Barbara Cooney (one of my favorite illustrators) and the orphan girl talked about being hit and smacked and I was getting so mad, but then at the end I found out that the story was based on the diary of a little girl from the 19th century, so it was a little more understandable, but still.
I screen my children's books pretty heavily, and edit out ones that don't fit our lifestyle, or have snotty children in them or something.
Now that dd is reading lots and lots, and lots...I try to preread things for her, and then give her our spin on it. For example, she is reading "All of a Kind Family" right now. I didn't like how the girls in the story spoke to each other, and how they were raised in a manipulative "you do this and I'll give you that" atmosphere. The whole punishment/rewards thing. Also, the dad really really wants a son, and though he likes his girls, you get the feeling that they aren't quite enough. But, the family is Jewish, and he needs a son to pass on the lineage. So, dd and I were able to have a respectful conversation about the Jewish culture, and also about how, in our house, we don't rely on punishment and rewards. At 6 (which is younger than I thought), she is able to sift through a bigger worldview, and decide what she likes and doesn't like, and why. But, I think a big part of that is because we were careful to protect her version of "normal" in those early years.
Right now I am reading the "Secret Garden", and I'm deciding what to say when I give it to her...IF I even do. That poor little girl is so mistreated in the beginning...
"If you keep doing the same things you've always done, you'll keep getting the same results you've always gotten."
I was surprised while reading "Pig Will and Pig Won't" by Richard Scarry because the one Pig gets a spanking from Dad. I just glossed over it (said the pig got in trouble) but my son is 6 and can read and knew I flubbed something. We just kept on reading though. With older more logical kids I don't see anything super wrong with reading books where the characters do something we don't condone...because it can open up conversations about our choices. I don't murder people because I read murder mysteries. I agree that when the kids were younger I protected them from influences I didn't think they had the maturity to handle, but now at 5 and 7 it helps open up dialouge to help them think things through.
Have you ever read Not Now Bernard? My son still loves that book. We usually talk about how the parents are quite mean and neglectful. DH and I like to think of it as a metaphorical child's guide to psycho-analysis...why do good children turn into "little monsters"? hmmmmm
And in Where the Wild Things Are when the mother send him to bed without supper? I also find that sad.
I don't censor the reading though. DS's favorite books are the Captain Underpants series. The main characters are hardly role models, but the situations are silly and fun to read, and the way the grown ups treat them is perfect for a discussion on appropriate ways to handle adults who treat DS unfairly (without resorting to hypnotizing the principal into thinking he is a superhero clad in underpants...plus I get a kick out of the fact that there are teachers named Miss Anthrope and Mr. Meaner.
As long as you can talk about it honestly with them, I don't see the harm in the odd story that exposes a different lifestyle.
We were given a "No, David" book when DS was born. I gave it away because everything that David did was wrong, even though he was only doing things most kids do. I mostly stick with classic books and discuss books with my older DS about why things are done and what could have been done differently.
As for Max getting sent to bed without his supper, there have definitely been nights when I feel like Max's mom and want to send my kid away while I'm making dinner. I will give some credit to his mom, he was obviously tired because he slept and had an interesting dream, and he did get his dinner, still piping hot, after he had calmed down a bit. "Where the Wild Things Are" is one of my all time favorite books both for the creative story and the illustrations.
Just now Micah quoted a line from No David that struck true.
"I couldn't help it!"
We say this line in the book as gently as we can because it's true! Sometimes a person just can't help themselves and that's ok! Because everyone does it sometimes!
Yes we have these books. I don't censor books. The kids will ask, like, "Why does he have soap in his mouth?" and I will answer, like, "Some parents put soap in their kids' mouths to punish them, but don't worry, we'd never do that." So really I just answer questions.
I don't censor books either. I might put books that I hate in places where they're unlikely to be frequently found, but that's mostly for books that I hate to read. Those mostly have to do with poorly written books. There was a set of really really dreadful "moral tales" that someone gave us. They retold classic tales such as King Midas and Stone Soup, but they were badly written retellings and the basically hit you over the head with the moral. I object to that. I read them, but not often.
It can be good for kids to be exposed to things that are different from how your family operates. Dd and I had a really interesting and thoughtful discussion about Native Americans last week because she's re-reading the Little House books. She commented that it was weird that people hated the Indians. We talked about different cultures, how the European settlers didn't understand the Indian way of life; they thought that people who weren't like them were lesser humans, and didn't value the way the Indians used the land. That led us to a discussion of reservations and attempts to make Indians like Europeans to solve "their" problems. Later that week, when we were talking about where we're going camping this summer, dd noticed a reservation on the map we were looking at and we had another good discussion about how that land was the land that the Europeans didn't want (high desert, not easily arable, not good hunting or fishing land). Dd was touched and angered by this information.
Now, I don't expect this kind of in-depth discussion with a toddler, but my dd is only 7 and she got the major concepts, was able to contribute to the discussion and saw the injustice. I want my kids to be to see that the status quo, whether it be spanking or racial discrimination, is something to be questioned. They can't do that if they're never exposed to different points of view. They also can't do that if they have any knowledge of the other way of thinking. That doesn't mean I have to advocate the other position, but it's not bad to expose kids to it.
I enjoy reading the "No David" books, even though they were a bit hard to explain. I really appreciated that they were David Shannon's perspective growing up (I think these were based on sketches he found that he did as a child).
I did have a hard time reading Bossy Bear series to my child. I found these books hard to explain why this is poor behavior.
Good point, orgomom, about them being hard to explain!
One thing I realized that we took from that book was the page where he is making the face during his class picture and he says, "I couldn't help it!" Our conversation is something like, "That's true, sometimes I just can't help it either! I just do silly things. And the baby can't help it when she hits me. All babies do that."
And the one where he ate the cake we make him say it silly, like *obviously* it was me but it looked so yummy, because everybody sometimes just *must* take a taste of something super yummy.