Monday, September 22, 2008

For Purposes of Corruption

We recently got out the copy of Uncle Shelby's ABZ book that our friends John and Val gave us as a new baby present, with the inscription "for purposes of corruption." For fifteen years, this book has been on the top shelf of one of our tallest bookcases. We don't ever have to hide books from our kids; we just shelve them and see if they're discovered. The possibility of discovery has increased in the last few years; 15-year-old Eleanor is now about 5'10" and 12-year-old Walker is already 5'3". But there are a lot of bookshelves in our house....

The kids were greatly amused to find out that something their dad has always said, that he's going off to work so he can buy them "toys and oatmeal," is from the ABZ book. They were even more amused by the wickedness of the suggestion that daddy can't afford a haircut ("poor, poor, poor daddy") and he's taking a nap, and look, there are the scissors....

I'm not a big fan of picture books, generally. I don't have a lot of nostalgia for the days before my kids could read. But we did have a lot of fun with the ABZ book, almost as much fun as we had with Hilaire Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children, or Roald Dahl's Vicar of Nibbleswicke, Revolting Rhymes, and George's Marvellous Medicine. I found a review of George's Marvellous Medicine on Amazon that sums up the attraction of these kinds of books quite nicely:

3.0 out of 5 stars You won't want enquiring minds to know about this, February 24, 2005
By Amanda Richards "Modest to the extreme" (Georgetown, Guyana)
While all Roald Dahl's books push the envelope somewhat, I thought this one went far too far. As an adult, I did find it amusing, but as I read, the thought of my child copying this stuff kept popping to the front of my mind.
Yes, it is an extremely preposterous concept, and no-one in their right mind would take it as anything else than gross humor, but this is definitely not a book I would place lovingly in the hands of a young child, especially one in my care.
It's full of horrible people saying and doing terrible things, and Dahl isn't one whit apologetic about it. Even Jerry Springer does a little serious bit at the end of his show to try to soothe the bruises and soften the impact.
This book revolves around a little boy who uses non-consumable and extremely dangerous household items to make a batch of "medicine" for his miserable crone of a grandmother, without censure from his parents, one of whom actually encourages him to make another batch.
Nope, I like it, but I can't seriously recommend it for the children of people I like.
Amanda Richards, February 24, 2005
Ooh, obviously another one to put on the top shelf of your highest bookcase! Here's one more sample from the ABZ book--it's the first two pages:

A is for apple. See the nice green apple. M-M-M-M-Good. How many nice green apples can you eat? Make a circle around the number of nice green little apples you ate today.
1 2 3 4 7 12 26 38 57 83 91 116

B is for baby. See the baby. The baby is fat. The baby is pink. The baby can cry. The baby can laugh. See the baby play. Play, baby, play. Pretty, pretty, baby. Mommy loves the baby more than she loves you.

I hope my friends are pleased with our time frame for corrupting our children. We could have pushed it along a bit more, I know, but some things just can't be rushed if they're to be done correctly.

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