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June 22, 2008

Children's Books I Have Banned

J0412398 I love children's books THIS much: My favorite gift ever from my husband was the entire "Little House" series, in hardcover. Before we had even had our two daughters.

So I'm more surprised than anyone that I've compiled a list of books banned in our household, books relegated to the Salvation Army bin in the basement so they can go torment some other mother.

Banned book No. 1 is one I bought myself, years before the girls were born: Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree." Like any self-respecting hippie-leaning liberal, I thought it was a wonderful book about the power of love or something like that.

Now that I'm a mom, I hate that book. It brings tears to my eyes every time, prompting my 4-year-old to point at me and order, "Don't be cryful!" But lots of books -- sometimes the phone book -- make this lactating mommy cry. That's not my beef with "The Giving Tree."

As a mother, I just hate to see that drawing of the pitiful old stump at the end of the book, still doing he

damnedest to please that old man.

Really, is this my future? By loving and loving my children, I will deplete myself until there is nothing left? And be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

My husband says I'm taking the book the wrong way, but I have my doubts. A little Googling shows that I'm far from the first woman to look askance at a story of a female tree giving her everything to a male child. Even if the book is a realistic look at self-sacrifice rather than the sick world view of a selfish male, I still don't want to read it ever again. It's like putting Wilbur of "Charlotte's Web" to bed each night with "The Omnivore's Dilemma." (Two books I love, by the way.)

I adore Silverstein's other works, but Nutmeg, the 4-year-old, banned "A Light in the Attic" herself after a reading of "Clarence" left her sobbing inconsolably over the idea of selling her parents in a garage sale. Thank you, Nutmeg, I appreciate that sentiment -- even though I'm hoping to retrieve the book from the bottom of a drawer soon so we can try again without reading that particular poem.

Another book that I'm slipping out of the bedtime rotation: "Guess How Much I Love You?" Why does that Big Nutbrown Hare have to show up his/her baby bunny at every turn? Sure, it's true that a child could never love her mother as much as the mother loves the child -- the compensation we parents receive for reducing ourselves to barren stumps is our amazingly increased capacity for love. But do we have to rub their faces in it?

I was delighted to see that the brilliant and hilarious Mimi Smartypants feels the same way about that one.

Then there are the books that just worry me. Why does bunny Ruby always have to take care of her little brother Max? He's a difficult young bunny, and it seems a bunny in her tween years should get a break from the babysitting at some point. Where are their parents -- did they fall victim to a loose dog or a busy highway crossing at some point? Busy all year dyeing Easter eggs in the Easter Bunny's hidden sweatshop?

And Charlie of Charlie and Lola would have a much easier time looking after his little sister of their parents would establish a few limits. I enjoy reading those books because of the fun artwork and because I love reading in a British accent, but it did not take long for "I Am Not Sleepy and I Will Not Go to Bed" to foment revolution in our house. Really, Lauren Child, children's books are supposed to be about getting sleepy, kissing goodnight, going to SLEEP. Like "Mama Says Goodnight," which always does the job, although I'm not sure if I can get through that tale of three bunnies' bedtime routine one more time, ever, without falling into a permanent coma myself.

So, "I Am Not Sleepy ...": banned.

You might say that book banning is wrong, but I say it's wrong to let little Lola get away with that kind of behavior. Otherwise, who knows what would come next on this road to perdition? "I Will Not Go to School and Besides I Am Pregnant"? "You Cannot Make Me Come Home By Curfew and I Just Stole Your Car"?

Maybe I can stomach one more run-through of "Mama Says Goodnight" after all.

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