Friday, July 29, 2011

the book I wouldn't read

Okay, so maybe there are LOTS of books I refuse to read, and most of them are by Nicholas Sparks.

I'm talking about a book I refuse to read to my child.

It's called Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus. Maybe you've heard of it?

There's currently a movie in theaters, and there are 29 books in the series. It's beloved, it's popular, it has a great voice, it's hilarious, and it has priceless illustrations.

But I still won't read it.

I picked it up at the used bookstore a few days ago, and after reading one chapter, offered to buy her a brand new book of her choice if she would give it back. And that's why I've read The Berenstain Bears Go To School 32 times today.

But I digress.

Why did I reject this well-written and well-loved book?

Because I don't like the message it sends to my daughter.

First of all, there's the grammar. While it's cute and funny, I feel all fidgety correcting Junie B's voice as I read, and I refuse to read a book to my kid that has blatant grammatical errors. She already has trouble with brang and brunged and brought.

Next of all, it's Junie B's negative attitude and outrageous behavior. Maybe it's funny to an older child who knows what's expected at school. But for a four-year old about to enter Kindergarten, it's just going to give her bad ideas.

Oh, I can kick people and call them names and interrupt teachers and talk back? AWESOME.

But most of all, it's because I think this book is capable of instilling fear in my mostly fearless child. She's excited about the bus. She thinks everyone will want to be her friend. She thinks her teacher is the nicest lady in the world, and school is going to be wonderful, and she's going to be happy forever.

And even if none of that is true, she's not going to hear it from me, and she's not going to hear it from a book.

I don't think Junie B. is a bad book, not at all. I just think it's not the right time. So I'm putting it high up on the bookshelf for the day in third grade when somebody is mean to her and she feels like an outcast. And then I'll tell her all about what happened to me on the bus as a kid, and we'll pull out the Junie B. Jones book and laugh about what bastards kids can be.

And that, dear friends, is why I hate censorship so much. I don't trust anyone else to make that decision for me. It's my job to read it and make a judgment and put it on the high shelf. And not just because it's got curse words or sex or violence.

Because sometimes, it's the wrong time.

One day we'll meet again, Junie B.

One day.



Rachel said...

AMEN TO THAT! Why on earth would you want a book with bad grammar for little kids?! What genius publishing house decided that was a good call?

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

Oh, I get it. The author is trying to capture the voice of a 6-year-old, which she does quite well. But to a child already struggling with learning the ropes, it just seems confusing.

When I read Gator Gumbo or poetry or something else with unusual grammar and accents, I don't mind. But this book, like with the behavior thing, seems like it could make the bad grammar appear acceptable.

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...

Oh, and the publishing house is Random House, and they're making mad cash off Junie B. Just goes to show-- what works for one mom might not work for another. =)

But I'm glad we're on the same page. I'm never sure whether to blog about this sort of thing.

amybhickman said...

I bought several Junie B books before discovering the language issue too. And the behavior thing. And I spent the entire first book that I read to the boys "correcting" the grammar and explaining what bad choices she was making. It was then that I realized these were really more suitable for older kids. But Carter's PreK teacher had already read his entire class several of them. So, I, too have a stack of them on the bookshelf. I have read a couple of them to them but we quickly skipped over to Magic Treehouse and Bailey School Kids instead.
Good for you. The bus might be a little smelly, but mostly it's just loud. She can figure that all out for herself and she will probably love it! Send her a notebook and pencils and a bottle of water and she will be good to go.

kimberchu said...

I read the entire Junie series when I was a kid and loved it, but I was also in 3rd grade. My mom never made any executive decisions about books I grabbed from the library, and when I started reading from the teen section... well.. she probably should have.