Sunday, April 01, 2007

Thankfully, I Do Not Write for Children

Yesterday was a birthday party for my nephew. The little butterbean is a year old! Yay!

I needed presents for him. And this is a kid who already has every toy imaginable. So I headed for books, which I love.

There I was at the book store, trying to find books that a one-year old might enjoy. I saw one called "Five Little Ducks." I am incredibly tactile, and could not resist the super soft little fluffy ducks sticking out of the cover. Soft yellow ducklings to pet! What could be more compelling for a one-year old? Or me? Pet, pet.

So I opened the book and started flipping through thick, glossly, cardboard pages. Pages designed to withstand a good deal of chewing. There are holes in the initial pages for all five ducks to poke through. Then the holes are reduced page by page, thus hiding the ducks one by one.

Basically, and if you don't know the story, let me just warn you there is a spoiler ahead, the mother duck takes her five babies out for a walk. The first time, only four come back. The second, only three. Then you get down to two, and one...and none!

The mother duck, as you may imagine, is very sad. At this point, you are out of holes for the fuzzy ducks to poke through.

On a side bar: I'd like to work out some elaborate system of this sort in my office for basically eliminating the dragon ladies from sight, and thus from my existence. I know of at least one engineer who reads my blog, so if you have any suggestions, I'd be delighted.

And I was thinking, "Holy shit! I can't buy this book for my nephew! All the little duckies are dead! One by one they probably got eaten by frogs! (Do frogs eat ducks?) Or drowned by the fat orange koi, just like my brother and I actually saw happen in the pond at the hotel when we were kids on that one family trip to Hawaii! (We cried, as you may imagine.) Or maybe they ate rat poison! Or got stepped on by a cow! Or squished by a tractor!"

There are lots of ways a fragile little baby duck can perish, you know. At least in my very urban imagination.

I had the book in hand, and was thinking how shockingly unkind it was to kill off all the fuzzy yellow ducklings. What a horrible trick to play on a kid, to start a book so fluffy and happy and then: Bam! All gone!

I was about to put it down when I realized there were a couple more pages. They were just regular illustrated pages, with no holes for the fuzzy ducks to poke through. I flipped the pages.

Relief! The next time the mom goes out, ALL the little ducks come back!

And I was thinking, "Thank goodness! You're back and I can buy the book!"

And then I thought, "Stupid ducks. It's just a fucking pond. It's not like your mom took you to Disneyland, where there are all these rides for distraction! Or kidnappers waiting to snatch you from under your parents' nose."

But I bought it, and my nephew loved the fluffy yellow ducks even more than I did.


  1. Nephews are AWESOME! I imagine nieces are awesome too, but I don't have any of them.

    I've got a 10 week old nephew. He is so much FUN!!! And I got to play with him yesterday! And then his mean old mommy and daddy whisked him off to go see his other grandparents. :-\ Oh well. I'll get to see him again in a few days.

  2. Wouldn't it have been slightly amusing if, on the final pages, the soft yellow fluffy missing juvenile ducklings were found in a factory slaving over an assembly line making Nike athletic shoes?

    Regardless, that seems a much better gift than a SILENCE OF THE LAMBS activity book:
    - It takes its favorite crayon and colors in the lotion on its skin; it does this whenever it's told.
    - Oh no! His dog Precious fell and is hurt real bad. Where else could you threaten to hurt Precious to gain leverage to get out of the awful pit?
    - Use your blunt-tip scissors to cut out your own suit of skin from the following pages. (Be sure to follow the correct pattern for your body type!)

  3. VVK - Yes, nephews are fantastic! I had no idea being an aunt would be so much fun!

    Anon - I quite like that as an ending to the duck book! The Silence of the Lambs one scares me, though. Are you a fan of Roald Dahl? He has some fantastically creepy and very compelling stories!

  4. Once again, Lisa, KINDRED SPIRITS.

    I'm glad I don't have to buy children anything EVER! given I'd probably think a Scarface DVD would suit them just fine.

  5. Kris - you just made me laugh out loud.

  6. Things:
    - Revised book ending: "And they all died of exhaustion due to the lack of effective duckling labor laws . . ."
    - Riffing on LAMBS is sort of in the public domain; but SILENCE seed above could be seen as derivative -- and perhaps less horrific because -- of the following:
    Polly Prissy Pants & the bucket of lotion
    Bebe and her boobs play Cartman's fun little game
    Oh no! Precious!
    - Think I may have read a wee bit of Roald Dahl (really, really want to place an 'n' at character position 3 in that first name) many, many moons ago. I mean, beyond the standards: "Charlie and the Indonesian Garment Factory" & "Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator" (with the terrifying Vermicious Knids). But don't really recall any details. So perhaps I didn't.
    - And for future reference, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Gold & Platinum" -- featuring such classics as "That Smell" and "Whiskey Rock-A-Roller" -- makes an excellent present. It is appropriate for males, ages 1-3.

    By the way, you do realize that the passage, "Stupid ducks. It's just a fucking pond. It's not like your mom took you to Disneyland, where there are all these rides for distraction! Or kidnappers waiting to snatch you from under your parents' nose." would have made a stellar inscription on your gift. Maybe somewhere towards the end. In really tiny handwriting. On the back of a page. Upside down. You know, somewhere where your nephew wouldn't find it until he was of suitable age. Like 5.

    - jfk

  7. For my niece's 10th Bday I bought her a Hello Kitty Fender Strat (b/c she's always asking to learn since her dad and I both do) and a really obnoxiously loud amp...

    Hearing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" over and over again on an ALMOST in tune pink guitar is driving my brother crazy.

    Just like I planned.

  8. I love my nephew too...he's 2. A precocious little guy.

    I got him TJ Bearytales for his 2nd birthday/Christmas (his b-day's close to it) and he loves it. It's similar to Teddy Ruxpin of the 80s.

  9. Anon - I have to admit that I learn a lot of pop culture every time you comment. All this South Park stuff everyone else knows. Simpsons references as well. Thanks!

    INPY - That is awesome. I will definitely use that approach as Zach ages.

    GS - Fun! This is my first time being an aunt, so I'm just getting acquainted with kid stuff at all.

  10. Oh c'mon, that's just irresponsible parenting to blame. What kind of mother with four kids loses one each time she takes them out?

  11. I'm sorry, but what's this deal with koi drowning ducks? What is THAT all about?

  12. I-66 - Although, if you had that many kids, you might be kind of relieved to lose one or two every once in a while.

    G&D - We thought they were drowning them on purpose, but I have to imagine what happened was that the fish got so excited about being fed and were flailing around and flopped on top of a little duckling. And maybe he even came up for air somewhere else and we just didn't see. We were really upset about what we saw as the mean, duck drowning fish.


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