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For my 40th birthday, my mother sent me all of my old
toys and books so that I could share them with my kids. My old dolls with their yellowed dresses and stained
bodies were a hit. My daughter loves to
put her baby dolls “to bed” next to the ones that I loved three-and-a-half
decades ago. I was sure she would reject
them because of their careworn appearance, so her embrace of them in spite of
their flaws was a huge surprise.
The books I thought would be an easy sell. A good story is a good story, right? I remember sitting on the couch reading with
my mother every night before bed. I was dying to share my favorite books with my
I started with a sentimental favorite—Babar
by Jean de Brunhoff. I showed my kids the front cover where I’d
written my name in kindergarten. “You
guys will love this,” I assured them. I
suppose I’d forgotten some of the details, like the fact that Babar’s mother
dies within the first three pages. Poachers shoot her. How could I forget that? My children were horrified and refused to
read any further.
“It’s too sad, mommy, stop reading this.”
“Let’s try Curious
George, the H.A. Ray classic.” I
remember asking my parents to read this book over and over again. Holding it in my hands after all those years
felt like a reunion. Who doesn’t love Curious George? I think he’s still “a thing.” My kids were totally into it until we moved
past the title page. My daughter was
upset when we read that George was sad that the Man With the Yellow Hat took
him from his home. “It’s too sad, mommy,
stop reading this.”
I have zero memory of being sad reading Curious George. I remembered him accidentally calling 9-1-1 and
ending up in jail. That passed for
hilarity back in the 1970s. Times have
changed, I guess.
I had one more gambit. A book I loved that did not involve any animal cruelty was Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. I’d always loved the language and the
artistry of this book. “This one, I’m positive you will love.” And while they loved it more than Babar and Curious George, they were a little traumatized by the part where
each of the young brothers practically drowns in a well while waiting for
rescue. Truthfully, I was a little
traumatized reading that to my kids.
With three strikes, I gave up. No way was I going to read them any more treasures from my childhood. Who knows
what cruelty to animals or near-death experiences are waiting at the bottom of
that box from my youth? From now on,
we’re sticking with the baby dolls.