Peter Rabbit and Ruby Bridges

As many times as I tried, I just couldn’t get into Peter Rabbit and his companions.  He’s boring.  Nothing ever happens. And all that doesn’t happen happens in a patrician English accent.  Which is to say that it all sounds very proper in addition to not being terribly interesting.

Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail don’t even sound like they’d be interesting characters.  Nor does Squirrel Nutkin nor Miss Moppet. And “Nobody ever scolded him, and he never got a cold,” is an actual line from Mr. Jeremy Fisher.  Not exactly high drama.

I’ll admit I’m feeling cranky and contrarian today; what other excuse would someone have for trashing Beatrix Potter characters?

Yet it got me thinking about what sort of children’s books I like (whether they are from my childhood or from what I read to my own children when they were small).  From my own childhood, I liked books about misfit girls who observed things and wrote all the time (think “Harriet the Spy”).

I asked my children (now young adults, in college and married) what they remembered me reading to them.  They said they pretty much only heard terribly sad stories related to the Civil Rights movement  (Robert Coles’ “Ruby Bridges”) or about death (Alice Walker’s “To Hell with Dying”).  Ah, the joys of childhood, the carefree days… considering Bull Connor and nursing homes in one sitting, in Momma’s lap.  I’m sorry they don’t remember that I often lightened it up with Dr. Seuss, anything Dr. Seuss.  I too needed a reprieve from all the suffering in the children’s department at the library.

But I guess I can deduce from this that I have always preferred reality to fantasy. I don’t like anthropomorphic aardvarks or other cutesy creatures.  I don’t like fantasy as a genre.  I like gritty reality, with real people, with interesting problems. Because I believe that stories matter, that the truth sets us free, that once we name something, we are on our way to healing or redemption (that’s where the Psalms often start).

Yet as I think more about it, I do believe that Peter Rabbit and his sibs were orphans, and that their father was made into a pie by the evil Mr. McGregor.  Maybe I just got distracted by the pastels and missed all the potential horror, reality and redemption in that story.  Darn.  Well there will — I hope — be grandchildren one day.

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~ by Cary on June 14, 2010.

2 Responses to “Peter Rabbit and Ruby Bridges”

  1. You are wonderfully hilarious, Cary! And, you speak the truth in such a refreshing way. I often wonder what my children will remember, and this made me laugh! Thank you!

  2. What do you THINK they’ll remember? It would be interesting to write it down. I always like to think intentionally about what atmosphere I am building (and then life just, well, happens).

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