Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mystery Reader

I was the mystery reader in J's classroom this morning and nervous as hell. Making presentations at work is infinitely easier than impressing a dozen five to six year old kids. I think I did okay judging by how many kids hugged me afterwards and the big group hug before I left. Mrs. H gave me two books to read. Princess Smartypants had the popular vote to be read first. This is a fairytale gone ultra-modern. The princess has no desire to find less marry any Prince Charming.

She puts all prospective suitors through their paces. They don't past muster and in as such fail to win her hand. Finally, there is Prince Swashbuckle.
He passes all the tests the others failed but he does not think that Smartypants is all that smart. She kisses him a magic kiss and that turns him into a monster toad. The princess remains Ms happily ever after.

The kids enjoyed the twists in the tale and I am sure they are all familiar with Snow White and Sleeping Beauty genre that this story parodies. I was not sure if there story conveyed was positive or affirming message for either sex. As the Salon columnist points out :


Both "Princess Smartypants" and "The Paper Bag Princess" indulge in a '70s impulse to solve gender inequities by eliminating men from the picture altogether.

That is a rather retarded idea and does more disservice than good to little girls.
The next book, The Wolf's Chicken Stew was truly delightful. The kids loved it much more. Even the girls thought it cooler for the Wolf and chickens to become friends in the end than have a princess turn a relatively harmless prince into an ugly toad. I was glad to see that kids are able to tell trash from the good stuff. Use of pop-culture props and Disneyfication of story are the not surefire ways to win them over. If they are introduced to classic literature quickly they will be able to resist the revisionist, pseudo-feminist forces. I hope Mrs. H is doing that.

...it's important to approach reconstituted fairy tales as a supplement to rather than a replacement for the classics, which have their own transgressive beauty and irresistible folkways.

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