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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

O for the subtext-free days of youth....

The Daughter, at bedtime tonight, asked me to read from The Very First Easter, which I didn't even know she had. We're about halfway through it, and it's an OK, straightforward telling of the whole Easter tale. The paintings are really good, even if I find the Jesus of the book disturbingly similar in appearance to Bo Bice of American Idol.

But I found the book's very first page really odd. I mean, downright strange. The book's framing device is that a boy's father is teaching him about Easter, so there are questions-and-answers throughout the book, interspersed throughout the story. Here's the text of that first page:

Christopher sat at the kitchen table, dyeing Eater eggs. "Mom, I just love this time of year, especially the jelly beans and chocolate bunnies," he said. "Remember when I used to think that red Easter eggs came from red chickens? Some kids at school told me that was a myth -- whatever that is."

"A myth? Well, that's like a fairy tale," said Mom, smiling.

"Oh. But remember, Mom? I don't like fairy tales anymore," Chris sighed.

"Oh, that's right. You only want true stories -- like the one I told you about the birth of Jesus." Mom rescued several eggs from getting dyed to death, then her face brightened with an idea.

"Chris, why don't we read the true story about the very first Easter?" Mom asked. "It's much more important than the Easter bunny, colored eggs, or even jelly beans."

"Splendid idea, dear!" Christopher's father said as he walked into the kitchen.

"Hi, Dad!" said Chris. "Hey, you used to be a teacher. Maybe you should tell me about Easter instead of Mom."

"Okey," Dad agreed as he sat down next to Chris. "Since Easter is next week, let's read about it tonight."

That night after supper, they sat down for evening devotions. "Chris, this has been called 'The Greatest Story Ever Told'," Dad began. "Do you remember how you and your mom read from the gospel of St. Luke to learn more about the birth of Jesus?"

"Sure! But I read more of it than Mom did!"

"Good for you! Well, let's continue reading from Luke."


And so on.

First of all, I know this is a children's book and it really isn't the place to get into what myths really are, but did the author have to give an answer to "What is a myth" that was this simplistic?

But what really put me off on this passage were the two little digs at the kid's mother. Learning about Easter is Mom's idea, but the kid ditches her the second Dad walks in -- "Hey, you should do it instead of Mom!" "Great idea, son!". (And in the book, this passage is opposite a painting of Dad and the Kid sitting at the table while Mom stands behind the kitchen counter, grinning like June Cleaver.)

And a bit later on, Dad mentions that the Kid and Mom read some of the Gospel of Luke, but the Kid immediately jumps in with, "I read more of it than Mom did!" "Good for you, son!"

I found this all condescending and, well, almost subliminally sexist. Was this really necessary?

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