The other day, I asked Mr Bunches where we should go for our adventure.
"Fitchburg Library," he said, which is the library one town over, where they were rumored to actually have the much-sought-after Star Wars ABC book on the shelf!
Mr F is not really a fan of libraries, at all, and when we got there, he reacted about as I would expect: hiding behind a bean bag in the kid's area before I could make him learn:
While Mr Bunches worked with the librarian to find Star Wars ABC (which had been TAKEN OUT! *gasp* and had to be reserved) Mr F saw me pick out a book and head his way. He took defensive measures:
That didn't work. I still made him read a book about a striped sheep that was different from the others. More on that in a moment. Anyway, after we read that book, I helped Mr Bunches with looking for other books, and then I was heading back to the seating area with the book Mr Bunches and I were going to read when Mr F caught sight of me coming with a different book in my hand.
Enough's enough, he seemed to say:
Anyway, two final thoughts about the books we read, or almost read:
First, the one Mr F and I read, Digby Differs, was ridiculous. This sheep is striped like a barber's pole, and feels different than the non-striped sheep.
One day, a balloon striped like him goes overhead and the sheep follows it to the city, feeling a kinship with it. But the balloon floats away, and the sheep wanders around the city noticing other things like a soda cup that are striped like him but not fitting in, so he hops on a train (!) and hoboes it out to another part of the world where he finds a lighthouse that is striped just like him!
Story over, right?
WRONG. The sheep then travels to a different hillside that is identical to the one he left right down to being filled with non-striped sheep, but this hillside is within sight -- barely -- of the striped lighthouse.
The story finishes with this muddled idea
“Digby was different from the others, but it didn’t matter — because here, it was O.K. to be different.”
WHY? I mean, it's not like I need a ton of backstory in a kid's book, but there is simply no reason a kid should know that the first sheep are somehow worse than the second, or understand why it's okay to be different in one place but not in the other. Even The New York Times was puzzled:
What makes the coast more hospitable than the countryside where Digby started out? Can he really be happy with the lighthouse as his only striped companion? Is the lighthouse a symbol of God, and has Digby found religion? Koch’s happy ending is peculiar, but then again, so is Digby, and for some readers those unanswered questions may be a source of pleasure.I will say: I had no idea, when I read the book the first time, that there might be some sort of religious subtext. Then again, I didn't really get that the Narnia books were Christian until they were made into Christian movies, so I may not be the best guy to pick up on that.
ANYWAY, Digby Differs was nowhere near as bad as:
This is the one I was going to read with Mr Bunches but luckily I previewed it. It's a charming little book with hand-drawn stick-figurish trees and elephants inside. I will not spoil it for you right away. You can watch an animated version of the book -- the drawings are the same, just animated -- right here. It's only about two minutes:
The Elephant and the Tree - English Version from Huang Kun Quan - KQ on Vimeo.
OH MY #*#%&#%& GOD. A children's book ends with a shot of its two protagonists chained together in a pen dreaming -- only dreaming -- of the days when they were happy and free. OH AND ONE OF THE MAIN CHARACTERS IS DEAD.
I don't even know how that book exists.