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There is Nothing Funny About Eating a Turtle

The Wolvog, ChickieNob and I have been enjoying the Judy Blume oeuvre this summer, most recently Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Josh flipped out when he saw the cover of the book, mixing it up with Then Again, Maybe I Won’t.  I guess in Josh’s world, drinking Juicy-O and masturbating are one and the same.)

Before we got to the last chapter this week, I mentioned that something really funny was going to happen because … I remembered the ending as humourous.  Granted, I hadn’t read the book in about 30 years, so I had vague memories.

I wish I could have videotaped the expression on the Wolvog’s face as the scene unfolded.  First, the wide grin anticipating something amusing.  And then the knitted brow of a boy who doesn’t quite understand what just happened.  And finally, his lower lip trembling as tears rolled down his face, his heart breaking for the turtle currently being churned up by the acid in Fudge’s stomach.

He buried his face in my upper arm and sobbed.  For ten minutes.  I apologized several times, admitting that the scene wasn’t quite as funny as I remembered, and he informed me that, “eating someone’s pet is never funny.” (which is true.)

But the worst part came after he had calmed himself down and he asked, “is Dribble going to be okay?”  And I had to explain (since I thought it was why he was crying in the first place) that Dribble was dead after being pooped out by the little brother.  And the tears began anew, despite being promised that it was only a story (“There are some very real boys, Mommy, who would name their turtle Dribble and there are real boys who would swallow a turtle.”)

He finally told me that he needed a break from my stories.

So tell me, what book are you currently remembering fondly from childhood that you will soon discover is not quite as benign as you think?


1 Lynn { 08.12.10 at 7:33 am }

Hmmm…not sure if I’ll find it wasn’t as benign as I thought, but my favorite story from childhood, and one I look forward to reading to our children one day, is “The Littlest Angel” by Charles Tazewell. I guess I may find that it doesn’t truly reflect the multi-cultural society we live in, but I think our children will be able to see the people we love and interact with and know that not everyone believes the same, but that the story is lovely anyway.

2 loribeth { 08.12.10 at 8:02 am }

I grew up reading & loving the Bobbsey Twins — copies that had been passed down from my mother & uncle, who grew up in the 1940s & 50s, & not the “sanitized” versions that were rewritten & published in the 1960s & 70s. I didn’t realize until recent years that they are considered to be full of racist stereotyping, etc. — but when you go back & look at them again, yikes. Same with Nancy Drew (where the villians were often, dark, swarthy foreigners with accents, etc…).

3 Delenn { 08.12.10 at 8:48 am }

A couple years back I read the Little House on the Prairie books to my son…I had not realized the blatant racisim in some of the passages–they even talked about a minstral show…so, at those points, I just made up something and moved on. 🙂

4 Heather { 08.12.10 at 8:53 am }

As a little girl, I was totally enamored with Anne of Green Gables. I loved the thought of living in Canada, on an island, running free….
Yeah, then there’s the whole adoption thing…
Eh, it’s a little too close to home. J hated reading them.

5 Julie { 08.12.10 at 9:12 am }

BABAR. Holy Jesus, Babar. That is some heavy-duty colonialism there. Gah.

6 Krista { 08.12.10 at 9:18 am }

A few years ago, I gave a friend’s son the DVD Alice in Wonderland that I loved as a child. This TV version came out in 1985 and had a great cast — Sherman Hemsley, Red Buttons, Sammy Davis Jr., Shelly Winters. Anyway, my aunt taped it for me and I watched it over and over (fastforwarding through commercials, of course). One day, I found it in a store for $5 and I thought my friend Dorian (about 6 at the time )would love it because he’s very into make believe and nonsense. Little did I know that he would be absolutely terrified of the scene where the baby turns into a squealing pig and he refused to ever watch it again! My friend said he had nightmares for weeks!

7 Gail K. { 08.12.10 at 9:20 am }

Charlotte’s Web. I loved that book and read it over and over again, but the ending is so sad!

8 sharah { 08.12.10 at 10:37 am }

The original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie. As an adult, that movie is just … disturbing. On many levels.

9 Stephanie Himel-Nelson { 08.12.10 at 10:49 am }

Oh my! My oldest has a turtle, so you have just helped me avoid a book disaster in my home!
The Babar books were, um… eye opening to say the least. I loved Babar when I was little. But I couldn’t make it through one book with the kids. Oy.

10 loribeth { 08.12.10 at 10:51 am }

@ Heather: One thing I had totally forgotten about is that, in “Anne’s House of Dreams,” one of the later Anne books where she & Gilbert are newlyweds, her first child is stillborn (or dies shortly after birth, it’s not entirely clear). The author herself had a stillborn baby (the second of her three sons), so perhaps writing about it was a way for her to deal with it.

11 queenie { 08.12.10 at 11:48 am }

I thought the turtle scene was funny, too, but I was a bit older when I read them-maybe 9 or 10.

12 tash { 08.12.10 at 11:51 am }

Ditto julie on the colonialism in Barbar. (Peter Pan, Tarzan, etc. are also similar head-scratchers.) Actually, I’m way ok with death and I’m surprised how much so I was when I was a kid, apparently. One of our favorites then and now is Zerelda’s Ogre, and he eats children, for Pete’s sake. (It’s a foodie book. We all love it.) Books that toss around the word “fat” as a person/-ality descriptor really give me pause (I find myself editing if I’m reading aloud) now and I’m sure they didn’t then.

13 HereWeGoAJen { 08.12.10 at 1:07 pm }

The Grimm fairy tales traumatized me as a child. So much so that I refused to watch The Little Mermaid movie for YEARS because I couldn’t think of anything scarier than seeing that story as a movie. It turned out that Disney changed the story a little…

14 NotTheMama { 08.12.10 at 1:15 pm }

I took my 6-year-old niece to see Beezus and Ramona. My aunt met us there with her 12-year-old daughter and one of their cousins about the same age. My aunt and I were crying at several parts, but the 3 girls just thought it was all funny! I don’t remember crying when I was little and reading the Ramona books, but I DO remember identifying with Ramona, because I’m a middle child, too! 😉

15 Kir { 08.12.10 at 2:55 pm }

I’m really not sure since I have boys and all the books I loved as a kid were girly. But I think my very favorite book of all time, “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” will be hard for them the first time..the war and Aslan dying and coming back (and try explaining that…!!) and the mean things that some of the characters do to each other..etc.

I read a lot of Parents Press (I think that’s the name) like Cranberry Thanksgiving , The King with Six Friends, and I Wonder what’s Under…and I have a feeling that reading these will be hard on all of us, I remember them fondly, but you never really remember do you???

thanks you gave me a lot to think about 🙂

16 tara { 08.12.10 at 4:48 pm }

the original Curious George books were really really cheap at a recent book fair– I grabbed a bunch and wow, George smokes, runs off with strangers, steals balloons, gets arrested, beats up the jailor, etc. We read them anyway, but we often skip the post-dinner cigar.

17 Chris { 08.12.10 at 10:52 pm }

As a teacher, I guess the first thing I notice when I read my old favorites to my class (3rd graders) is that the vocabulary in the oldies is so much better than it is in most of the current stuff. I read Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing every year, and I’ve always got kids who cry at the end. I’ve also got sobbing kids at the end of Charlotte’s Web. Gotta love it. But then, when I was 7 reading the Little House books I sobbed when Mary went blind.

18 Elizabeth { 08.13.10 at 3:09 am }

Shell and all?? How in the world would that get digested? We have “if I ran the zoo” by dr. Seuss, and it’s horribly colonialist – he goes to capture animals in a country where “the people all wear their eyes at a slant” – and the illustrations of people of color are appalling. But my 2-year-old loves it. I skip some of the text.

19 S.I.F. { 08.13.10 at 3:37 am }

OK, that is the most adorable story ever! Poor Wolvog!!

One of my favorite books growing up was definitely Charlottes Web. I still remember that being one of the first chapter books my mom ever read me, and I loved it!

20 Amy { 08.13.10 at 9:09 am }

I often wonder why parents today are so hesitant to expose their children to the same types of literature that they were exposed to as children. We can’t protect them from everything.

21 Waiting Lisa { 08.13.10 at 10:25 am }

Oh no!!! Poor kid!

22 Turia { 08.13.10 at 12:02 pm }

I remember being horrified when I came back to read as a young adult C.S. Lewis’ final volume in the Narnia series (The Last Battle) (now being fully aware of the religious allegory). I couldn’t get over Susan’s rejection from heaven for liking boys and makeup.

I, too, used to love the Bobbsey Twins, but even as a kid I remember thinking something was askew with Dinah, the “coloured” chef.

With that said, there are lots of books from my childhood that I still love to revisit, warts and all, and I hope very much to be able to read them to my children some day.

23 Meghan { 08.13.10 at 2:38 pm }

This would so totally happen at my house. And then we would revisit it incessantly for weeks.

We just finished all the Little House books. There’s the racism, but I was ok with that because I used it to explain how people change their thinking over time. What I had a problem with was how much HUNTING there was–shooting, and skinning, and batting around an inflated pig’s bladder. Lots of on-the-fly editing there. I’ve been thinking about reading Anne of Green Gables next, but dd can’t yet see the beauty of adoption–only that somebody’s mommy and daddy died or didn’t want them, so I think we won’t go there yet.

24 Barb { 08.16.10 at 1:00 pm }

Aww. How sweet. Pinnochio always scared the CRAP out of me.

25 Michelle { 08.17.10 at 11:22 am }

I recently had to explain what a cannibal is while reading Pippi Longstocking to my daughter.

26 Bea { 08.20.10 at 6:38 am }

Oh my goodness. Oh my. Mental note: re-read childhood favourites before passing them down to the next generation.

Oh my.


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