Saturday, July 26, 2008

Spin the Bottle and Left Hooks

Betcha thought I was gonna talk about high school hijinx and bar room brawls. Nope. I'm talking about our beloved friends, The Berenstain Bears. Last year I complained to the five readers I had then how appalling it was that Sister and Brother Bear played "spin the bottle" at Sister's birthday party in "The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Birthday." Not pin the tail on the donkey. Not musical chairs. They played spin-the-freakin-bottle. I halfway expected it to be an empty Corona bottle full of cigarette butts the way the story was going. Oh you can imagine the questions from my kids because they don't. miss. a. beat, and I couldn't contain the look of horror on my face as those words spilled out of Little Red Riding Hood's mouth from our beloved Berenstain Bears books. "Mom what's spin the bottle? How do you play? Why haven't we ever played?" Well, because it's usually played by teenagers up to no good, that's why! Now go brush your teeth after saying those words.

So tonight, we read "The Berenstain Bears and the Bully." The story told of how a little girl bully named "Tuffy" beat up Sister. As revenge, Sister learned how to throw a left hook and an upper cut. I kid you not. Tuffy then tried to bully a baby bird on the playground the next day. Sister wasn't having any of that so she threw a right cross knocking Tuffy on the ground. I'm not making this up. The two bears ended up in the principal's office where Tuffy cried that she didn't want her parents to know because she wouldn't "be able to sit down for a--well, a long time." Okay, that issue aside, the principal let Sister off the hook completely for protecting a bird and

"As for Tuffy, the principal didn't call in her parents. But she did lose a week of recess, and she had to visit the school psychologist twice a week for quite a while."

Helllooo? Mr. Berenstain? You're kidding right? No punishment for Sister at all? Yeah the baby bird needed protecting, but Sister used a boxing move on a kid! And Tuffy was being sent to a psychologist without the parents knowledge? What school district and century are you in pal? No child gets sent to a psychologist without a slew of testing, and forms and signatures, and oh yeah, the parent's permission! She was in a fight for crying out loud. Don't the parents need to be notified? It's elementary school! It bugs me that this book portrays this as truth for kids and parents to read. It leaves them with the impression that kids have no consequences for hitting another child in the name of subjectively defined altruism , and that kids can be sent to a school psychologist without parental knowledge let alone consent. That just doesn't happen. I'm sure Mama and Papa Bear would want to know that Sister was throwing upper cuts that Brother taught her in the cellar. And Tuffy's Mom deserves to know that someone hit her baby bear and got away with it. I know it's just a book, but still. It bugs me because they are widely read, and this is irresponsible. Irresponsible, I tell ya.

Am I off-base on this? I'm probably overreacting. I do that from time to time you know. And don't get me started on those Junie B. Jones books. Just don't.


post signature

34 Comments:

veronica said...

Whoa Debbie! Calm down!! hee, hee Remember it is just a book. I think you are just over analyzing it right now. I am not really a big fan of Berstein Bears or Junie B either. I don't really like series book for kids. I think there are many other choices that kids and parents can make but you have to be willing to take the extra time to look for those good books. My suggestion to you would be stay away from popular series books because they tend to be too generic and they usually are very well written. I know how you like well thought out and well written books.

veronica said...

Sorry I meant not well written.

MB said...

I totally get what you're saying and NOTHING gets past kids these days - they are too bright to "dumb down" and think they won't get the underlying meaning of things. I had to laugh because as I was reading it, all I could think of was my sheer disdain for Junie B. And then you said her name....

Britt said...

*sigh* no I don't think your reaction is over the top. I have to agree. As a 21 year old mother of two, my teen years barely a blink behind me, I remember so many of my higshchool friends and friends of friends whose parents had no idea what they did during the day. Or night. Either that or they turned a blind eye. That doesn't happen magically when they hit highschool. Those books are planting seeds, and honestly I'll have enough 'mind weeding' to do when my girls hit their teens. Might as well start planting good crops now. :o)

Debbie said...

V....I hear ya loud and clear. I just had to vent. We are usually grabbing books and going at the library...and Hunka Hunka likes the BB's...so he grabbed this one...Finding "Don't be Silly Ms. Millie" offset the Bully book. That book is fun and funny. ;) And lucky you has had to listen to my book gripes for the last 18 months!
FYI..I am getting ready to start the "Friday Night Knitting Club" per your recommendation.


MB, you are right. Kids don't miss a trick these days. And Junie....ugh...She isn't allowed in our house. Seriously.

Debbie said...

HI Britt...you must have been typing while I was....I love hearing the perspective of someone alot younger than I am. (I could be your mother but I'm gonna pretend I didn't say that!) Thanks for sharing. You seem WAY WISE for your years.

Lauren W said...

You know, I totally remember reading those books(we actually also had a video of them), and I feel like I remember sometimes things were a little, ummmm, rough around the edges. None the less, it's insane to me that they actually mentioned spin the bottle. I mean, wow... I guess even kids books aren't really "safe" anymore.
One more reason for moms to read with their kids. Like britt was talking about, so many parents turn a blind eye. That doesn't magically happen either, you know?
Anyway...

Bobbi said...

I read the BB's and Junie B. to my children, but I also had a discussion with them when something controversial was written about. I don't like all the commericalization of non-age appropriate material to young children, but unfortunately that's the world we live.

Z's Mom said...

We haven't gotten into the Berenstein Bears books yet...but yeah, sounds like we shouldn't get into them either. Zander LOVES Basil Bear books. And Basil goes to church,or Basil goes to school,or Basil goes on Vacation...you get the gist. Anyway, Basil seems pretty safe.

Jenni said...

I sadly probably never put that much thought into it (though we don't read a lot of BB) but now that you point it out I am in agreement. I also am sometimes surprised by the violence in Disney and other children movies and books.

Kathi said...

Wow! Crazy!

I hate it when those writing for kids, whether it be books, tv,or movies include such garbage.

I've never read either of these. My kids had a couple of the BB books that were okay....but none of my kids loved them, so we didn't read tons of them.

Evi said...

It's a conspiracy Debbie...much safer to just stick with Bratz! :P

Piggy said...

SPOILER WARNING! My baby just received a book in the mail for her 1-year birthday and it was about Sock Monkey being "offered the role of a lifetime in a singing cowboy movie....Sock Monkey doesn't want to kiss a girl, but he does want to be a star. When the big moment comes, will Sock Monkey chicken out and ride off into the sunset, or will he corral his courage and pull out a brilliant performance?" Here's the spoiler. Sock Monkey couldn't do it and it made Lulu cry. "Sock Monkey felt terrible. He realized there was only one thing he could do....Sock Monkey kissed Lulu!" At least they didn't continue to tell you that the kiss made Sock Monkey's celebrity wife jealous and their Hollywood marriage ended in a divorce. Georgie Porgie had the opposite problem. While Sock Monkey made the girl cry 'cause he wouldn't kiss her, Georgie Porgie made the girls cry because he kissed them all.

Kat said...

We've never been fans of the bears. Of course I got hung up on the fact that their names are brother and sister. And they don't have real names like the other characters. But I digress.

I don't mind Junie B. Really. Even though she is rather sassy...the kids are amused to read it - and know they'd never get away with such in this house.

Both girls have varied tastes in books. Katie likes fantasy - series like Warriors or Harry Potter - and then Madalyn prefers non-fiction. She'd rather read books about penguins, Ecuador, or deserts anyday...

Mamasphere said...

We have the bully book!

I think I was more shocked at the ending because of the alluding to physical abuse in the home, and then, nothing more! That was it! Perhaps that's the next book in the series?

Missy said...

Darn Debbie, those are some rowdy bears! A psychologist...really? What's next...child protective services bear coming to investigate sister's allegations of spankings?
I know I'm laughing because it isn't MY baby reading it yet, but it is a riot how you describe it!

Nik said...

OH MY GOSH! I don't think you're overreacting at all. (BTW - I'm a drive through friend of Betch aka HTL)

I'm simply amazed at the books that are out nowadays...AND it was a HUGE wake up slap in the face when I started letting my kids read and/or see things that I saw when I was a kid.

Thankfully, books like that provide lifes little lessons or as I like to call them "Mom's life lectures" which brings many many many rolled eyes from the boys....but they still gotta listen.

I think we have one BB book upstairs and I don't think either of the boys have read it...I'll have to go look and see what kind of debauchery is inside. LOL

Melissa said...

It's shocking to me what you will find on kids shows and in books. I sometimes just blindly pick up books at the library because my kids like the look of the cover and I wind up having to change words as I'm reading them.....i.e.Junie. That doesn't even work for my 7 year old anymore
since he can read on his own. I like the Magic Treehouse books.
I can barely keep my eyes open. I need a nap. Good post. Thanks for bringing it to my attentions. I don't think you are off base....
you're a discerning mom. Good for you.

Julie said...

Ever since that post last year (I was one of the five readers :) I have looked through the books we have and they are okay... but we only have a couple, but the ones you are finding... they are something! Oh my...

Preach it friend!

Swirl Girl said...

I guess by today's standards - these books are rather tame.

Watch any Peter Pan or Dumbo lately? The two most racist and violent and stereotype reinforcing Disney Classics ever.

So what's a little lack of 'for every action there is a reaction' lesson every now and then. That's what mommy is for.

I often sit and explain all the double entendre and grown up lessons from books and tv and movies that come out in the form of questions from my kids.

I am just glad they ask the questions in the first place.

Susie Harris said...

OMG!!!I will make sure I dont pick those up for a good night read!! Having a very smart 8 year old that doesnt miss a beat... those books wont be on her list... Im sure she will here it soon enough... Thanks for the heads up! Susie h~

Steph said...

How about the Good Dog Carl books?? Leave your baby in the care of a Rottweiller or whatever the heck monster dog it is!

Lula! said...

Wait...
I can't get past the "Tuffy had to see the school psychologist..." bit. FOR REAL?

I have no words. None.

Elena said...

Okay, so I don't like the fighting bit in the BB, but does spin the bottle always have to be naughty? We used to play it as kids and it was completely innocent. And I have to say, I LOVE Junie B. Only because I swear the author studied one of my daughters before she wrote it. Seriously, I've read the entire Junie B. series to try to get some incite into my daughter's way of thinking. They walk to their own beat that's for sure. There's my two bits, and I hope I don't hear that my kid is being sent to the psych any day soon. :)

Michelle said...

I totally get it. I am careful with what little tv/movies the wee ones are exposed to. And the books we read are approved by me (the Shrek beginning reader that my husband brought home from the library quickly went back).

In defense of the Bears... they were written last century, and things were somewhat different then in terms of what was acceptable.

My approach when something like that sneaks by is to talk about what would happen if the wee ones did something like what happened in the book or had it happen to them and how books aren't always perfect. That and reiterating the mantra that "just because someone else does something wrong doesn't mean it's ok for you to do something wrong, as well."

But I'm with you. I get it. And ... good luck. But wait -- I thought Junie B Jones would be good. What happens in them?

Amy said...

Oh goodness, my daughter loves Junie B Jones. Maybe that is where she is getting her sassy mouth from? I thought she just picked that up from her dad...heehee!

Rhea said...

OMG, I haven't read Bernstein Bears in a while...but spin the bottle, seriously? No way.

Christine said...

I am completely speechless. I can not believe that either of those stories were in the Berenstein Bears. That is amazing to me.

Heather said...

Oy vay!! What is the world coming to. What ever happened to the cute little Bernstein bears that got bummed out because it rained on their picnic day?

And they were playing spin the bottle???? Egads.

Kimberly said...

It is just a book, however, I think kids should be able to learn real-life lessons from some of the things they read. I think it really depends on the conversation that happens after the book. If kids don't know how to differentiate real-life application from fantasy, then we will have kids trying to slay serpents and shoot spiderwebs from their wrists. Books are like movies, not to be taken too seriously, but not to be ignored as methods of influence on kids.

EEEEMommy said...

I used to love BB books when I was growing up, but as an adult, the thing that gets to me is how they make Papa out to be a complete moron; just a grown up kid. A lot of sitcoms do that too. I don't have any tolerance for that.

Feathering My Nest said...

Oh Debbie, I went through those same two books a few years back and had an almost identical reaction to them. I can remember some girls played spin the bottle with some boys down the street in sixth grade. I didn't know about it until it was over. I'm thankful I didn't go. I know that kissing was involved. Yes, kissing in the sixth grade!! I'm so thankful I was a nieve girl. I actually didn't get my first kiss until I was 16.
I've decided to stick with the tried and true "Dirty Hairy" books for my 6 year old, and as many little innocent books as I can find. It's so hard to stay on top of things, but we do try.

Have a great week Debbie.

Gina said...

Whoa! Where have I been? You have gone on a tirade and I wasn't even around top witness it post by post!

So, I don't like the bears because Papa bear is S.T.U.P.I.D. and my cubs don't need to think that way about thier papa. Also the reason we don't watch much T.V.

Jennifer P. said...

Now THIS series I will agree with you on. Mr. Berenstain did NOT have a good copy editor because those books are WAAAAAAY too wordy. I would groan when my kids would bring one to me to read because it would take a 1/2 hour. And they all seemed to have something slightly "edgy" about them (i.e. school psychologists, child predators, etc..). The only one I liked was "Get the Greedy, Grumpy Gimmes". THat one was kind of cute. And I actually like the TV series.