I’ve been reading children’s books lately in an effort to screen things for Big Girl. Well, probably for Little Girl, too, but she’s not finished with nearly every book in the house, as Big Girl is.
Some books are famous – they’ve been made into movies – and these are among the ones Big Girl would like to read. Though she hasn’t seen either one, she wants to read (and see) both Harriet the Spy and Bridge to Terebithia. I insisted on reading both before letting her loose on either for a good reason: Shilo. Yes, the book about the boy and a dog.
I did not screen Shilo and regret it now. The boy in the book thinks a man is mistreating his dogs, and he becomes attached to one of the new dogs who keeps running away. The boy decides he’s going to somehow get the dog away from his master and keep him. He wants to buy him (man paid $40 for the dog), but what happens is that the boy hides the dog after he finds him out again. Then he proceeds to cover up that he’s got the dog. Let’s count the problems here:
- more lying
- disobeying parents
And in the end, he gets to keep the dog, in spite of the fact that because of him, the dog was attacked. It’s a wreck, and my explanations to Big Girl about why I didn’t like the book (which I read when we watched the movie) only brought her to tears. She can’t understand why it’s so bad. “It’s FICTION!” she continues to cry to me. Yes, but when I realized that the movie and the book were so similar, I was sorry I let her read it. The role model in the book breaks several big Commandments, and is rewarded in the end!
And so I was trepidatious about Harriet and Terebithia, despite both being considered great children’s literature.
I have now nixed Harriet the Spy. Harriet spies on her friends and various people in town – sneaking all over, hiding in bushes – and then writes about them in her notebooks. The girl is absolutely fanatical about routine and about the notebooks. She is, quite simply, addicted to the notebooks. Her obsession is revealed after the contents of her writing is discovered by her friends, who discover that she’s been writing mean-spirited things about them all. They keep her notebook, and the next morning, she leaves early for school so she can buy a new one and continue writing. She cannot function without the notebooks. (It’s actually very sad.) She is sorry, but not for hurting anyone, and not for spying on people, and certainly not for writing such nasty things. She is only sorry that people looked insider her notebook when it said “PRIVATE” on the front cover. She is actually angry and feels that it’s not her fault that everyone is hurt by her actions and words. In the first section of the book, she has a nursemaid who winds up leaving to get married. She is heartbroken, as the nurse (Ole Golly) was like a mother to her. When Harriet’s world is crashing down around her, her parents try contacting Golly to get her to talk to Harriet about what has happened. Golly tells her that she must always be true to herself. Sometimes, she tells her, people will get hurt by the truth, so she has to decide if she wants to apologize or just tell a lie. Small lies are good if they spare people’s feelings. (I kid you not, it says this.) Now, Golly tells Harriet, use your spying to write stories because you wanted to be a writer.
Harriet winds up being rewarded in the end for her dispicable actions. (What is to be expected in a book where God is not mentioned even once? What is there to regret if you only tell the truth? Who cares if it’s only opinions and not necessarily the truth?) Harriet winds up being the editor of her grade’s page of the school newspaper. She starts using her spying to tell stories (still mean-spirited) about people in town that she has been sneaking around on. Everyone loves her stories for the paper, her friends accept her back without question (or apologies or even Golly’s other suggestion: lies), and all is well.
Harriet is a spoiled brat who is mean and nasty. Harriet does not change her ways. Harriet is rewarded for being a spoiled brat who is mean and nasty.
Then Terebithia, which I really wanted to read a LOT. First of all, the story is beautiful. Really, really lovely. I actually cried – make that sobbed – at the end of the book. But the reason I’m now trepidatious about this book is the language. There were multiple uses of “hell”, “damn”, and the Lord’s name in vain (which is actually a bit mild, as in “Lord!”, but I know will bother Big Girl a bit). And let’s not forget the use of the term “bitchin’”, as in “they start bitchin’ at you for breaking crayons.” These are completely unnecessary, and it is a real shame for them to be in there. That said, the book is definitely for a more mature child – probably upper elementary at the earliest, if you can stand the language – because of the death of a character in the book. (Which explains my sobbing last night.) I want to watch the movie before I decide about the book. I might – maybe – read it to the girls in preparation for watching the movie, as long as the language is a bit more tame in the film. I know Walden Media will have stuck to the book closely, in spite of the girl looking wrong, because that is just what they do. But, again, I was caught off-guard by the language, and I’m glad that I decided to preview the book first.
One more thing. Our family movie this weekend (did you think I’d forgotten?) was The Rookie with Dennis Quaid. What a really wonderful film! The story (a true one) was really inspirational, and everyone loved it.
I have two problems with it, though. (Gosh, I look like a real complainer here, eh?) The Rookie is rated G. Yet in one of the early scenes, we are treated to an ass-grab – CLOSE UP! Holy cow, I don’t do that to my husband near the kids, why on earth do I need them to see that filling the entire TV screen???!!!??? And there were a few “damns” and “hells” in there, too. People, this movie is rated G, and I felt like I should have screened it first. It’s completely unfair that such material is in a G-rated film. Can’t I watch anything with my children without being assaulted by inappropriate material any more?? Why should I have to screen a movie that is for “General Audiences” to be sure I don’t get a full-screen shot of someone’s butt being grabbed (right at the crotch, mind you!)???? I dang-near fell off the couch, I was so shocked!
From now on, I think I’m going to have to stick to movies made before 1960 for family movie night. At least Pollyanna and Mary Poppins didn’t have innuendos and ass-grabbing. Neither did Briggadoon. Yes, we’ll be looking for old musicals for next week. Or maybe Charlie Chaplin. It’s getting harder and harder for me to trust that a family film is really that.
And, as far as books go, I’ll be looking into getting For the Love of Literature by Maureen Wittmann as soon as possible. I need some help in getting decent books that protect my girls’ innocence and still challenge them.
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