Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reader's Diary #241- Nancy Tafuri: You Are Special Little One

On a hot savannah
under a shady tree,
a lion cub asks,
"How am I special?"

And Mama and Papa Lion reply,
"Dear little one,
with your dense, golden coat
and your deep, resounding purr,
you are special,
and we will love you
forever and ever and always."

I know a lot of people who love this book. They are all adults.

Most commonly cited reasons? It's full of love. It has a rich vocabulary. Repetition. Variety of animals. Soft, friendly illustrations. Introduces the concept of "special" as unique.

Love. How about overly saccharine? It should still be entertaining. Even Robert Munsch's Love You Forever, of which I'm also not a fan, had the good sense to throw in a psychopathic mother to keep things interesting.

Rich vocabulary. First of all, I have a preschool aged child who uses words like "compromise" and "versatile". I am not afraid of teaching children big words. But this book is relentless, and it offers little in the way of context to figure out what they mean. Resounding? Really?

Repetition. I have to admit, I see value in this. When children recognize patterns, they are quicker to join in and perhaps even begin reading themselves. Still, when it's buried in such a book as this, the value is minimized.

Variety of animals. Not a bad point. Don't expect too much of a biology lesson though. Tafuri presents quite the Church of Latter Day Saints version of the animal kingdom (I'll elaborate later).

Soft, friendly illustrations. The artwork isn't bad, but it's not stellar either. I'm not sure why, but I'm more reluctant to harp on the illustrations than the text, even though they're all done by the same person. For some reason I feel crueler when I do so. Anyway, I will say that in the final drawing of the human family, it looks as if someone drew the child's face on a balloon and then blew too much air into it.

Special/Unique. I'll give you 5 seconds to think of 5 animated Disney movies. Now, which of those started and ended with two parents? I'm guessing not many. I'm not sure why this is. Compared to Disney, each of the critters in Tafuri's book is unique; they each have a mama and a papa. No, I don't think a hunter needs to come out of the woods (a la Bambi)and blow mama beaver's head off, but I do think a little variety would have been nice.

The rewrite:

...a lion cub asks
"How am I special?"

And mama Lion replies,
"Dear little one,
with your adopted brother
and my girlfriend
and your father in a Thai prison,
you aren't all that special.
Still, you're alright kiddo,
big ears and all."


Barbara Bruederlin said...

Damn, boy, I would totally buy your version. It might help even more though if the kids have two moms, as well as a dad in a Thai prison.

"Walt Disney killed my mom" - oh that's a great one.

John Mutford said...

Something tells me Tafuri wouldn't sell the rights. Does one need the rights for a satire?

Allison said...

I still love Robert Munsch.

But your version wins, hands down. And I think you should win Barb's label award for the Walt Disney comment.

John Mutford said...

I'm okay with some of Munsch's books. Not that one though.

And as I wrote that label, I thought, "I hope Barb doesn't think I'm pandering for her award." I was, mind you, but I didn't want her to think that.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Okay, don't tell the other kids, because I don't want them to think I don't love them, but that's been my favourite label this week, so pander away.

I find Love You Forever too smarmy as well, but love some of Munsch's other books.

Anonymous said...

Maybe this author believes in a traditional family which is best for any child I don't care what society does or thinks. The children regardless of their circumstances may be instilled with a desire to attain that goal when they grow up. Funny it used to be the norm to have two parents now it's becoming more of a fantasy.

John Mutford said...

Leazwell, I'm not condemning traditional familes by any means. I came from one and am in one now. I think they're great! But I do think Tafuri could have had at least one family that wasn't that way in the book. Not just for reality sake either.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you are right, of course, reasons beyond our control often leave children without one parent or or both - in nature as well. I was having a myopic episode.

John Mutford said...

Quite alright Leazwell. I'm myopic at times myself.