Monday, April 12, 2010

Frog, Toad, and Bambi

I had a wonderful Pesach with all my little cousins (k"nh) and, though I am not usually much of a babysitter, I had the pleasure of reading both to Chaim Swia. and Menachem, on different occasions. As I was not about to go searching for the ideal storybook, we just made do with what was available. In Chaim's case, that meant the very shortened version of Bambi while Menachem lucked out with Frog and Toad together, four stories about... a frog and a toad. And I must say, there is a lot to say about children's books.

First, Bambi - by the way, did you know that the Hebrew word for a baby deer is baabmi? too funny, no? anyway, I knew before I started that I was not going to love reading this book and I have to say, my fears were confirmed. Chaim didn't seem to mind, but I was pretty horrified. First of all, the family situation there is not fantastic - totally absent father, whom Bambi only meets after he's already spent his formative years with his mother. Second, I was really not comfortable with his growing relationship with Filene... I mean I just don't think 5 year olds need to hear about the deer growing up and starting a family. I think most (all) of this goes right over the five year olds' heads but I don't want to be the one stuck with an awkward question... and of course, most disturbing of all - what is WITH that story? guns killing his mother, fire burning down the forest home, the old prince becoming weak and possibly dying (not too clear on that)... and what's the saving grace? a happy childhood and yes, a nuclear family in the end? I suppose the book is realistic enough - I mean many children grow up in less than stellar family situations, go through a lot of hardship growing up, and then manage to raise a beautiful family... but really, this is a children's book. it's a children's book about a baby deer! not a morality tale - I think the basic thing to get out of all this is that children's books can be deceptive - sometimes the ones that seem reprehensible are not all that bad, and the most innocent ones are just full of complete swill.

so much for bambi... what about Frog and Toad together (by Arnold Lobel, if you're wondering) - now that's a good book! it was totally adorable! I mean I suppose their middos (especially Toad's arent the BEST) but they are sincerely good friends who really care about each other and I don't think there's anything in the books I (or someone a whole lot more strict than I) would object to. and with all that, they are so funny! Menachem is 8, so he is old enough to understand the funny parts (especially when I pointed them out to him) and Toad's illogical yet very methodical ways of looking at life are hilarious (or at least funny) every time. I mean the idea that he can't go on with his life because he lost his list, but it's okay to continue it on the ground... his endless objections to Frog's attempts at willpower... their bravery from the well hidden confines of the closet... I would have kept reading this book even if Menachem had stopped (admittedly, I read children's book not infrequently so this isn't saying that much).

The most interesting thing about this whole experience was seeing how much more I appreciated the content of these books (for better and worse) when I read them to children - and children with - how shall I put it? - delicate upbrigings :)

so verdict - Bambi 1/5, Toad 5/5

long and short of it is - I Can Read all the way!


  1. LMTOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO rochel ur hysterical i cannot stop laughing at this stuff!

  2. i find this totally and completely charming and am proud to be you aunt. NB

  3. oh my! i have a typo in my comment -- can u fix it for me? It's "youR" aunt not you aunt. thx

  4. Oh actually I can't. Should I delete the comment? (even though I don't want to :))