Literacy

One of the bags of swag the Ladybug made out with from Christmas was a small library of “board books,” children’s’ books that, paradoxically, are on Viagra: large, stiff pages suitable for handling and groping. Right now her attention span is on par with a caffeine-addled chipmunk, and so the Ladybug is less interested in hearing the narrative of the books than she is is trying to disassemble them into itty bitty pieces. Nevertheless, we still sit down together, me trying my best to convey the plot to her and she trying her best to escape my pedagogy with her book in tow.

One of her books is Eric Carle’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?, a charmingly illustrated book in which a congregation of monochromatic animals look at each other in sequential order before finally being summarized by the children in a classroom. The Ladybug likes the big illustrations, and I get a chance to do animal voices and noises when I read it.

We also have a sequel book called Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What do you see?, which I incorrectly assumed would be a bi-chromatic extension of the previous work. Instead, it’s a tree-hugging crystal-gripping hippie revision of the previous work. The back cover of the book indicates that Eric Carle has also written something called Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?, which clearly implies the bugger is just phonin’ in his books anymore. (That, or he’s a college textbook writer: new edition, same old crap.)

The Ladybug also snagged several copies of Goodnight moon, a classic lullaby in which a little bunny family systematically wishes goodnight to everything in the house and the heavens. I suppose the book is cute and the poem easy to recite for little kids, but I find the book troubling on two counts. First, the protagonists in the book are anthropomorphic rabbits who have taken in kittens and mice as pets, and I have a deep aversion to these caste structures imposed on fictional animal communities.   Freedom for all mammals, you elitist rabbit bastards! Viva la revolucion! (Yeah, and I still got my eye on you too, Disney! Let Pluto free!)

Second, and much more deeply disturbing, is the following, seemingly innocuous picture of the rabbit household:

It’s hard to make out in the reproduction above, but on the dresser by the young rabbit is a copy of the book Goodnight moon. This raises some serious existential questions. Are the characters in the book aware that they are merely characters in a book? Or are they “real” entities in some convoluted Escher-esque reality that coils recursively upon itself? Does this imply the existence of an infinite number of rabbits, and what if any is the relationship between a given rabbit and its metarabbit? Assuming a reality similar to ours, does the existence of such a book necessarily imply predetermination of events, or necessarily invalidate free will? Goodnight moon is an existential nightmare waiting to be unleash countless ¬†horrors on your psyche. I’m not letting the Ladybug near it ’till she’s finished with college.

Instead, the Ladybug and I are sticking to the classics: Dr. Suess. Today we sat down in the living room and read Are you my mother?, a Dr. Suess book by Dr. Not-Quite-Dr.-Suess. As we finished up, the Queen B walked in from downstairs. She spied me holding a wildly squirming Ladybug, who was in turn holding her book with a Vulcan death-grip. “How was the book?” she asked.

“Fine,” I replied, and let the Ladybug go. “We actually got all the way through it before she tried to escape.”

“What’s it about?”

I summed up the plot. “It’s about a baby bird who falls out of its nest and goes looking for his mother. He asks a kitten who says no and then a hen who says no and then a dog who says no and then a cow who says no and then a Snort who finally puts him back up in his nest and his mom finally shows up.”

“What’s a Snort?” asked the Queen B. “Is that a pig?”

“No,” I said, “it’s a big construction digger. It’s exhaust sounds like a snort.”

“If it’s a machine, how did it know to put the bird back in the tree?”

I shrugged. “I assume the driver saw the bird fall and put it back up there.”

“Oh.”

“However,” I added, “given that the bird engages in English discourse with all the other animals, who likewise converse in return, it is perhaps not unreasonable that in the alternate, parallel reality depicted in the book that the digger itself possesses some degree of sentience and awareness, and therefore determined on its own to help the bird out.”

The B pondered this for a moment.

“Ha dah!” said the Ladybug.

“Yes honey. He is a dork.”

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