Misadventures in kiddie lit (or, why I’ve been inspired to write a children’s book parody called, “Curious George Gets What’s Coming to Him”)

I love reading to Lily. I really do. It’s one of my absolute favorite activities to do with her. But frankly, there are some books I’m less thrilled about reading to her than others.

We have a very truncated board book version, for instance, of “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and Lily seems to like its colorful illustrations, but the story drives me batty. Why? Because it might as well be called “The Shameless Goniff and the Beanstalk.”

Things start off fine – Jack sells a cow for magic beans, his mother throws them out the window, and the giant beanstalk grows and reaches up through the clouds overnight. All well and good. But then Jack steals a bunch of treasure from the giant’s castle and scoots down the beanstalk to safety. And then he decides to go back up the beanstalk for more, because apparently, he’s developed a taste for bling. But while trying to make off with an enchanted harp, the giant wakes up, and Jack barely makes it down the beanstalk in time to chop it down and send the giant plummeting to his death.

What exactly is the moral here? When you steal, make sure you get out of there quickly? And are we really expected to cheer for the boy who stole a bunch of stuff from a giant that was minding his own business, living atop the clouds, before having his home invaded? Who exactly is the victim in this story? (Because of my misgivings, I think this book will mysteriously be “lost” in the very near future.) Continue reading