Fuse #8

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Triumvirate of Mediocrity

It's just too doggone dull today. The sun is shining brightly, people who don't have to work are having all kinds of fun, and the temperature is somewhere around 65 degrees. What better day then to shake things up a bit? Today I officially announce the picture book...

TRIUMVIRATE OF MEDIOCRITY!!!


    #1 The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
    #2Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

    ... and last but not least...

    #3 Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

    Defend them if you can. Mwah-ha-ha-ha! I full expect some of you to adore one of these three and for others of you to agree with me that they are insidious little separate branches of awfullness. My own husband, I will note, is a fan of The Giving Tree. Now The Giving Tree is perhaps the best regarded of the three. With that in mind I shall direct you to the Gotta Book blog where one Mr. Gregory K. has written a concise Oddaptation of this very special book.

    19 Comments:

    At 2:34 PM , Blogger Gregory K. said...

    You'll get no argument from me on that trio. We kept "losing" our copy of Love You Forever... given by a dear family friend (and boy, do we feel for her kids!). And thanks for the plugola!

     
    At 10:12 PM , Blogger Kelly said...

    Okay, Fuse (and Gregory K.), I agree with 2 of your choices. In fact, I'd go beyond "mediocrity" to describe numbers 2-3 and describe them as "scary" or "annoying" or just "shallow."

    But, I have a soft spot for "The Giving Tree." I read it as an environmental tale as a kid (we need to think more about those trees that give us so much), but I could have read too much into it.

     
    At 12:57 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

    I suspected that "The Giving Tree" would earn more love than its fellows. My husband reads it as a book in which the tree gets what it deserves. I'd be willing to go with you and say it was environmental, except that the ending comes across as a happy one. For all that I find it an odd odd book, it certainly does leave itself open to multiple interpretations.

     
    At 1:45 AM , Blogger Gregory K. said...

    I'm a HUGE Shel Silverstein fan, but no matter how I parse the Giving Tree, I can't come up with a way I like it. I like your husband's take, and for all I know that's what S.S. intended. Still, when I first started Oddaptating picture books, the three you mentioned were the type that were just SCREAMING for fun. And to think I'd often thought I was the only one who saw the Rainbow Fish as untterly inexplicible....

     
    At 12:22 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

    Oh, sweet "Rainbow Fish". I don't think its betraying any trust to say that Jane Yolen was the first person to call this the "Triumverate of Mediocrity". I stole it outright from her. Still, I agree wholeheartedly with her opinions on the matter. I've always seen "Rainbow Fish" as an odd marriage of marketing (look kids... SPARKLY!) and weird weird messages.

     
    At 11:54 PM , Blogger What Maternal Instinct? said...

    I never read "Rainbow Fish." Geez, I feel kinda left out. I wanna hate it too!

    I did read "Love You Forever" when my nieces were little. I kept snorting at inappropriate moments.

    They got me back: after I gave birth to my son, the now-grown girls showed up on my doorstep with gifts ... including that book. Gah.

     
    At 1:02 AM , Blogger Mr. Jonker said...

    As a newly hired media specialist I want to say THANK YOU for this post. Can we get some more over/under rated selections in the future?

     
    At 10:25 AM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

    We can certainly try. Actually, I'm currently reading a book that my mother told me last night was the only picture book she actually physically threw out for fear that another child might see it. I just hope there aren't any "A Mouse Called Junction" fans out there.

     
    At 10:37 AM , Anonymous Susan said...

    Oh, now I know what "Love You Forever" is. I knew it rang a bell but had to check it on Amazon. I'm gonna whisper this so they won't hear me, but my son's sweet preschool teachers LOVED this book, and once read it to the children and parents, forewarning everyone, "You're going to cry." Weeeeiiirrrrrdddd little book, that one. Bring on the Bill Peet was all I could think. "The Spooky Tail of Prewitt Peacock"? Now that's a good story.

     
    At 5:01 PM , Blogger Dan McCoy said...

    I like The Giving Tree... but y'know what? I've never thought about what the message actually is.

    Maybe a metaphor for parenthood? After all, what child truly considers all the sacrifices their parents gladly make for them? The fact that the "parent" is a tree does add all sorts of weird anti-environmental overtones, though.

     
    At 6:00 PM , Blogger fusenumber8 said...

    See, what really gets me about ole Tree o' Giving is how it ends. The tree has been utterly reduced to smithereens. There's nothing left but a stump. So this ancient man who the tree has loved continually without so much as a "thank you" comes along and gives it the ultimate insult. He sits on it. I always interpreted this to mean that the tree was in an abusive relationship with a kid it just couldn't say "no" to. Or is that throwing all my own peculiar preconceptions onto an otherwise perfectly nice book?

     
    At 8:26 PM , Blogger Little Willow said...

    I cannot stand Love You Forever! I think it is, in one word, CREEPY.

     
    At 5:00 PM , Blogger Afton A. said...

    It's so refreshing to hear someone put these books in their place. Thank you! My Father in Law makes a special point of reading "The Giving Tree" to my sons from time to time. I feel like it's child abuse.

     
    At 8:54 AM , Blogger Library Lady said...

    I used to work with a children's librarian who read "Love You Forever" to her two year old group every year. The mothers would all sob gently while the kids ran amok, ignoring the book.

    I thought it was mawkish junk aimed at adults more than kids and that the kids reaction proved it. Everyone said, "oh, you'll feel differently when you have kids". And now I do. And I don't!

     
    At 8:26 PM , Blogger Jillian said...

    Well, I'm just about a year late on this, but I was just nudged this way by Cheryl Klein in her comment box. I had mentioned ever-so-casually that THE RAINBOW FISH is a complete stinker of a picture book, and...well, I ended up here, feeling quite vindicated and self-satisfied.

    The book made my stomach drop every time I tried to read it out loud to my children. It's just THAT poorly written.

    So. Thanks for verifying that I'm not the only one who feels this way. "Love You Forever" absolutely stinks, too. :)

     
    At 10:45 AM , Blogger p dog said...

    My son's kindergarten teacher endeared herself to me Fo Evah when she told me she thought The Giving Tree was "a terrible model of generosity."

    When we get given a copy, I put it in the recycling. But I cut the picture of SS off the dust jacket and use it to scare myself away from the ice cream in the freezer.

     
    At 3:15 PM , Blogger Teacherninja said...

    I worked in a bookstore and agitated to get Love You Forever moved from the children's dept. to Parenting. They finally went for it, and it makes so much more sense there. Still hooey, but now properly shelved hooey.

     
    At 11:10 AM , Blogger Jenny said...

    I have to admit that I just bought The Giving Tree for my goddaughter for Easter. It seemed appropriate somehow. That said, I still don't really like it. We own it, but it's my least favorite of all his books.

    I can't stand Love You Forever and I find that sad, because otherwise I adore Munsch's books. How is it that Silverstein and Munsch ended up on this list because of their worst books? They deserve to be here, possibly, but not because of those two.

    (I have no strong feelings on Rainbow Fish.)

     
    At 12:05 AM , Anonymous tstreet said...

    The popularity of Love You Forever has puzzled me from the beginning! It's a story about a dysfunctional mother who only tells her son she loves him when he's asleep! Climbing into his bedroom? Come on! Will this father perpetuate that perverted love when his daughter is grown? How mawdlin and inappropriate, yet so many people love, love, love it forever. ICK!

     

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