Monday, October 7, 2013

These Stories are Not Okay

I know I've posted - and so have like a million other parents - about how inappropriate the good ol' Nursery Rhymes are. You know, how macabre they really are when you come to think of it, and how much damage they probably cause to an unsuspecting kid's psyche ( Rock a bye baby until you come crashing down, anyone?) So that part is done.

But when your children's playschool sends home weekend reading, you dutifully sit down with them and read those stories at bedtime - and the horror is relived all over again.

This weekend, we have Jack and the Beanstalk. So this dumb and disobedient kid exchanges his family's cow for some 'magic' beans, his mom smacks him and throws them out of the window, and the next day he looks out and (gasp) - a giant beanstalk. Naturally, he climbs to the top. A castle. A Giantess. She's kind enough to feed the greedy little fella, but when her husband returns, she tells Jack that he must hide. She distracts the husband and then Jack proceeds to steal numerous items from their castle on repeat trips, and then repays her kindness by killing her husband in the end. And of course, with the ill-gotten gains, Jack and his proud mother live happily. ever. after.

The values that this precious story imparts are too many to list.

It's a tough call between the above story and Puss in Boots though. There we have a guy who leaves his riches to his two elder sons and his cat to the youngest. In a thrilling twist, the cat is one who can talk, and for reasons that I have yet to comprehend turns out to be a bit of a prissy with a boot fetish. He demands boots and then proceeds to swindle the king of the land with stories about how his poor Master is actually the Marquis of Carabas. Here, too, an unsuspecting giant is slayed so that his castle may be presented as the home of the fake Marquis. The impressed King who is obviously the materialistic sort, offers his daughter's hand in marriage to Puss's master and they all live happily. ever. after.

Why? Why?? WHY???

More importantly - can you please recommend some good reading material for children in the age group 3-7 years of age? Much obliged. Thank you. 


  1. Try books by Leo Lionni and Bernard Waber. I don't know how easy it is to get hold of these books. Do let me know if you can get these. I could recommend some more amazing books my boys have read.

  2. You want stuff for the kids to read themselves or have read to them? What other things are they reading?

  3. My sister read books like Clifford the Big Red Dog, Richard Scarry, Dr. Seuss when she was at that age. Books by Richard Scarry impart some great values and are fun to read :) There was an animated series as well (available on YouTube); we loved watching it.

  4. Hi Yashodhara,

    Macabre yes. Bled..y all of them! Can barely read thru them now although must admit I did actively stock up on all fairytale(princess rescued by prince types) books when I was a kiddo and before I graduated to Roald Dahl and Enid Blyton and their ilk.

    Go to saffron tree for recos and reviews by fellow moms. Excellent blog for mom's searching for good age wise grouped reading material and since you're in India you will even be able to find many of the indian published books reviewed there.


  5. Hi Yashodhara,
    I agree completely and to add to the woes even Indian Mythological stories are violent and unethical (Krishna stealing girl's clothes!) and done by God!

    Anyway, my daughter enjoys the Panchatantra stories, the Bernstein bear series, Fancy Nancy series, and of course Magic tree house series.

    Good luck


  6. yashodhara,

    came across a similar post on this weblog a few days ago .. .. maybe u'll find it useful ..


  7. Hi! So I had the same experience when my daughter was born. Told her the cinderella story. Yikes. Panchatantra. Too violent. Ramayana.. Mahabharata.. gujarati folk tales (those are the worst!). Anyhow there's a couple of publishers w great books.. katha and tulika, but I will have to wait a bit till I introduce my daughters to older stories!

  8. My list:
    Marc Brown - Arthur series
    Clifford the big red dog
    Dr Suess
    Max and Ruby

  9. My daughter started reading these books when she was three and still loves them, especially the Arthur series by Marc Brown. She is 5 years old now.
    Arthur series (includes DW and Buster) - Marc Brown
    Clifford the big red dog
    Max and Ruby
    Dr Suess
    Richard Scarry

  10. Yikes. Poor kids. With such a wealth of English classics, are the school defaulting to these tales from some aim of morals education? I'd agree that the morals aren't that great in these archaic stories and any cautionary nuggets held within are just plain offensive.
    At 4-6 my son loved
    1) anything by Arnold Lobel (the 'Frog and Toad' series and 'Owl' are great),
    2) Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crocket Johnson,
    3) Syd Hoff's dinosaur series - Danny and the dino etc.
    4) Dr. Seuss classics (Cat in the hat, Cat in the hat returns, Horton ('hatches an egg' and 'hears a who', the Lorax, Yertle the Turtle etc). There's also a wonderful 'Learning LIbrary' series penned by Trish Rabe using Dr. Seuss characters but teaching science.
    5) The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osbourne is great
    6) Mercy Watson, a pig.
    7) Roal Dahl can capture even a 4 yr old (try 'Charlie and the choc factory) as can
    8) Beatrix Potter or
    9) A. A. Milne. My 7 yr old actually digs Winnie the Pooh more now than when he was younger. It's simply timeless.
    10) Paddington Bear
    Should I go on? We are so privilidged to have great libraries that lets us browse.
    For the older ages, try any series of chapter books. Flat Stanley is fun, Big Nate, Cam Jense, Harold an Mudge, High Rise Private Eye Detectives. The Scholastics web-site has a good browsing link by age too.

    Best of luck wading through all this awful school reading. Perhaps you should suggset they update their reading list with some of these titles.

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  12. Hi Yashodhara, have you tried the Jack and Annie Magic Treehouse series? My kids went through them like crazy starting when they were 5 and my younger one will still read one on and off (he is 7 now).
    Other ones for that age
    1. THe magic school bus
    2. Roald Dahl (both mine loved all the books when they were 7, except for Fantastic Mr. Fox and one of my boys is stil not crazy about the Twits)
    3. Flat Stanley
    4. For the younger ages, books by Jan Brett are a sure hit - Gingerbread Baby, The mitten (but pretty much all her books)

  13. Hey

    There's this really nice story (it's a very small book) called "The Little Prince" by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It's a very nice book with great values - I read it only a few years back (when I was 20!), but do read it yourself to make sure it's not too complicated for your kids :-)

  14. You're spot on! As for recommendations:

    Clifford the big red dog
    Berenstein bears series
    Amelia Jane
    Junie B Jones (for KG and up)
    Dr. Suess
    Little Critter books
    National Geographic little kids books
    Richard Carry books
    Roald Dahl

    There are many more but I cannot remember all the names.

  15. Hi, my mother had many, many issues with fairy a child, she read me a few.. and then moved on to other stories.. the panchatantra, jataka tales.. basically stories that make sense and send out the right message... I havent visited the kiddie section of book stores recently, but im sure these books are still in circulation.

  16. if you want indian stuff, take a look at pratham books.. some of them are good , and they are for a good cause adn i like the illustrations . again some stories are great i have not read them all. but i liked what i saw. and very reasonable cost too.

  17. My 4 year old absolutely adores the Mr. Men series. I quite enjoy reading them to him too!

  18. Try Tulika Books for a wide range of lovely books (among their latest is one about an elephant who loves colour and asks for his nails to be painted!) that kids can read by themselves or at least look at the pictures

  19. Hi Yashodharalal!
    today, after a gap of many months I visited you blog. though, I am not aware of specific books. But, I want suggest you to check out books from Pratham Books (Bangalore based). They publish quality books for young children of different age groups and in different languages.

  20. Yash I bust a gut reading this post from one of my fav bloggers. Since it addresses toddler books in the tongue-in-cheek way that only Honest Toddler can, i thought I'd share:

  21. interesting topic, atleast for me. I would suggest mythology. I grew up reading several mythology comics... mahabharatha, ramayna , or be it about history of India... where some people can find it a tad boring but definitely nothing short of morals and values there..


  22. I think we want to present nice views of the world (people are nice and friendly, honesty pays, be nice, kind and polite) but kids also need the 2% warnings so they can avoid being surprised when things don't go in the way we preached - fairy tales serve that purpose in my view, without leading them to a view of "my parents are naive little simpletons whom I have to protect"... At least not too directly :-)


Hi there. Go on, say it. Well? WELL?