Saturday, September 10, 2011

A Good Little Monkey

Every father wants his child to grow up and be a genius. We want our kids to be able to understand the world, solve problems, win Nobel Prizes, and furnish our vacation homes during retirement. To this end, we begin reading to them before they can even focus their eyes to see the pages. As my son progressed from “board books” [Books that contain upwards of seven words but are printed on heavy-duty cardboard to prevent children from destroying them and so the publisher can charge $19.99 for them] to more toddler-friendly material, I found myself suddenly remembering the books I was reading from my own childhood. And was I ever surprised. Take Curious George for example. In my childhood, the Curious Little Monkey was always in great danger. In one book alone he was thrown in jail, escaped by balancing on a power line, floated hundreds of feet in the air held up only by balloons, and landed on a street amidst rush hour traffic. The more recent renditions of George’s adventures, however, are not quite so fraught with peril.  These days George goes to the beach, and gasp, loses his picnic basket. This is hardly the material of a compelling plot. [Although this particular title does feature the Man in the Yellow Hat wearing a bathing suit, flip-flops, and sunglasses.]  In another recent Curious George story he takes a trip to the aquarium where he faces the imminent threat of entering the penguin paddock. Yes, penguins, those bloodthirsty, flightless killers.  George miraculously escapes and is made an honorary staff member at the aquarium.  Really? Is that the lesson I’m to teach my young son? Here, son, hop over this fence and play with the giraffes. When zoo security arrives I’m sure they’ll make you an honorary staff member rather than haul my butt to prison and refer me to child endangerment. Yes, gone are the days when Curious George smoked a pipe after breakfast, joined the circus, and flew rockets into outer space. H.A. Rey’s memory is not being honored here. So instead of my son learning to face adventures and hardships armed only with his curiosity, he gets gentle reminders to keep better watch over his picnic basket. This is not how Rhodes Scholars are made; I may need to rethink my retirement strategy.   

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