I started this blog to be a safe haven for families. No negative talk or subjects just upbeat happy discussions to bring a little peace into a world over run by negatives. But, every now and then, something from the other side pops up and needs to be addressed especially where it does concern our children. I am well aware that the subject matter here has some very politically and socially charged content in it but I am going to write from an observers and a mothers point of view. It is not my intent to start an ugly rant on this blog. I simply wish to bring to attention an issue which a few of my friends have asked me to take on. So lets begin.
I was asked to include a children’s book list to Music City KIds. I was also asked what I thought of the Olivia the Pig books and if she was a good role model for kids. Well, in truth I had not heard of the books before they brought them to my attention. I have boys and they have certain characters they love to read about and it’s hard to get them to look at something new. Shortly after that I read a post about one of the Olivia books in which she was traveling abroad and was “very pleased” to be searched for weapons by TSA. Of course there were gasps of horror! Upon first reading this your mommy brain goes one of two ways. Oh no he didn’t! Did he really say that it is acceptable for us to submit to illegal searches by TSA? As adults we are all too aware of the issues that have come up due to the methods used by TSA in their efforts to keep us safe and the many scandals associated with the organization itself. I had one miserable experience with them and vowed never to fly again. I don’t believe that a citizen should be chosen at random, strip searched, interrogated like a criminal, and have personal belongings and luggage dumped on a table to be rustled through by every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It is not ” normal ” for citizens to be searched at all unless it is believed that they are believed guilty of a crime. So yes, these two pages of drawings and one brief statement certainly does ring of indoctrination. It also makes me feel as if all the talks we have had with our kids about respecting personal space and stranger danger were all for naught because here is a character in a children’s book who says we should be pleased to have strangers intrude upon our personal space and search us. Our children internalize these fictional characters almost as if they are real live people and if Olivia said it is so or Olivia can do such and such then why cant I?
On the other side of the coin one could say that he only wished to address the issue of fear that a young child would feel if about to experience a TSA search and that it is not really scary. But then there are many other ways he could have worded himself that would have explained so much better to a child that they will be ok. But here again my mommy brain kicks in and says but how many times have you told your kids that if someone tells you to do something that does not feel right don’t do it. So again I feel a sharp contradiction from what I have instilled in my children and what this character would have them to believe. Still, I said I would give the author the benefit of the doubt till I could research this subject a little further. It did not take but an hour of research to find other alarming issues brought up by this unassuming little pig. Issues that I don’t believe most parents would add to their child’s library wittingly.
Their are subtle little hints in some of Olivia’s comments and adventures to other socially charged issues. I strongly disagree with filling a child’s book intended for girls ages three to eight with these kind of ideas. In this same book Olivia goes to Venice She makes reference to ugly people and fat people and health conditions as well as vandalizing Venice and being run out of Venice all together. Again as a mother I have to wonder why thesereferences are included in a child’s book especially one aimed at such an early age. It is during these first early years that we are trying to establish what is acceptable conduct in public. I do not know any mothers who allow their children to say someone is fat or ugly and I thought these were part of the public schools campaign of teaching tolerance. How can we stand on one foot and condemn such behavior and then stand on the other foot and read these statements from a beloved character to our children. In my observation Olivia the Pig does not teach tolerance.
In the tv series she was quoted as saying that we do not always have to obey our parents because they are not always right.My mommy brain turns on again here. Wait, did an actual children’s book character just tell my children that it is ok to disobey? How is this a role model for our kids? In his book Olivia and the Fairy Princess, Olivia is trying to decide what she wants to be when she grows up. There is a moment when her father is trying to cheer her up and tells her she will be his princess. Olivia retorts that everyone wants to be a princess “even some boys”.Ok my mommy brain has switched back on and has to wonder why this statement is made and to what is he referring. Well when asked about this he references it to another children’s book entitled A Princess Boy. This book is a child’s book about cross dressing. Again these are hotly debated social topics that I do not believe should be in a children’s book especially one for children this young.This is not appropriate material.No matter which way you stand on this issue I think most parents and teachers would agree, not appropriate age material. Here is a link to some questions put to the author and what he said about his work.http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/interviews/article/53761-q-a-with-ian-falconer.html. Sorry for the long link short one wouldn’t work for me. He wants girls to know they don’t have to conform. But to what is he referring to? That girls should not be content with pink they should demand new colors? I get the sense that he does not want them to conform to traditionally accepted values for girls and perhaps our boys too. The author exposes himself in this Q & A session on Publishers Weekly. Olivia is a strong-willed, sassy little character who does not seem to show respect for others and craves attention so where is the good character building role model in this. She has been compared to Madeline but here is the difference. Yes Madeline was different from the other girls. She was the smallest and youngest she had red hair and she always found an adventure sometimes by not following the rules. But there were consequences and lessons learned from the adventure. What lessons are being learned from Olivia. To be the center of attention at the expense of another and that it is ok because she got what she wanted in the end. She is self-centered and intolerant. Do I think she is a good role model for our children? Decidedly not. Are the messages of these stories appropriate and hold up to classical standards of good character building children’s literature? Absolutely not. But what would you expect from a man who illustrates for the New Yorker and other similar publications and makes his home in the Village in NY. Mr Ian Falconer please keep your politics and social view points out of children’s books. That is not the realm for your discussions and it is very poor taste.