The Mommy Wars: now in children’s book form!

First let me say that I totally needed something to distract me from my recovery.  I have watched WAY too much TV and read far too many trashy magazines in the past few days.  I was cruising through my Google reader yesterday, checking out all the latest “momspiration” (that’s like Thinspiration for a mother FYI) from my favorite mommy bloggers.  One of my favorites is Mommin’It Up by Jenny and Emily.  If you haven’t fallen in love with their daily dose of hilarity and insight check out the whole blog here.  Go check it out and come right back, because I can’t wait forever to drop this next thing on you.  Hurry up! Go!

Okay now that you have learned all about Jenny and Emily and have become a follower of Mommin’It Up ….I am going to draw your attention to one particular article.  Emily posted a little parable entitled “The Mommy Wars: Storytime Edition” yesterday.  Being a school librarian (as well as a Mommy) I was of course interested.  By the time I finished reading the piece I was literally screaming at my iPad.  My blood pressure went up exponentially and I might have opened up my healing incisions gasping for air.  Seriously.  The book that Emily is discussing in this article is enough to cause heart palpitations or panic attacks in anyone- much less someone like me who is recovering from surgery.

First let me say THANK YOU to Emily.  I appreciate your writing about an uncomfortable situation.  If you didn’t say anything to the school or the teacher then you are a much better person than I.  You handled the situation admirably. There would have been angry letters and screaming and possibly cursing (but not in front of the kids) if it were me.  I love that Sam’s school has a book sharing bag.  I am guessing that this book was chosen for the bag for the month of October because the mother is a witch.  That is no excuse, but I am assuming that was the rationale.

Second, as an educator and a library media specialist I fancy myself well versed in literature for children and young adults.  I make an effort to know pretty much every book I can, because a patron (student) may ask me about it and all they can say is “I think it has a blue cover and it’s about a fish” (or my personal favorite query “I am looking for that book, you know, the one about the girl who does that thing and goes to that place and that guy that does the stuff”  YEAH- I know just the one you are looking for!).  It’s my job to know what book they are requesting.  I sorta need to know what I am doing.  This book however has never crossed my radar.  How is that possible?  Perhaps because the librarians who came before me did not deem it appropriate or wise to purchase for the libraries I have worked in.  Book salesmen have been smart enough not to bring it as a book sample for my consideration.  The many book stores I have perused don’t waste shelf space on things that won’t sell. (Just guessing here.) That being said, a simple search tells me that the fair people of Goodreads (whose opinion I generally trust) apparently have no problem with this book.  Their reviews are all positive, there is no visible outrage as I expected.  (Check out the reviews on Goodreads here.)  The illustrations are instantly recognizable as the work of Tedd Arnold, beloved for his Fly Guy books.  I am shocked.  Strike one for Fly Guy’s future in our house!  I hold grudges HARD, Tedd!

This makes me reconsider my initial reaction.  I have mulled this over for 24 hours now, and I have come to one conclusion.  I still strongly dislike this book.  I do not think that it simply strikes a nerve within my working mother heart.  I do not think that it is a symbol for my own frustration and worry.  I do not think that I am making a mountain out of a molehill.  I am deeply offended by this book!  Yes it worries me and it hurts my feelings, but dang it it is sending a completely incorrect message!  The actual verbage may not be SAYING to my daughter that having a working mother is a bad thing, but it is certainly IMPLYING it.  I could go on and on but that’s not my point.

The librarian part of me cannot let go of this, so I continue my research.  Kirkus reviews of this book are good.  It was published in 1994 (the year I graduated from high school) which wasn’t THAT long ago.  The trusty Scholastic website has not flagged it as the work of the devil (not that they do that but you know what I mean).  School Library Journal actually LIKED it.  What gives?  How am I so offended by this and the rest of the world (at least my professional world) is not?

It turns out that while I was busy raising a toddler and working (OH the irony!) there has already been a virtual sh** storm about this book.  If I had taken the time (oh the luxury of time) to read Tina Fey’s latest book “Bossypants”, apparently she experienced a similar reaction to this book and it became a strong conversation point on her book tour.  Read all about it in this article from “The Business Insider”.   Another blog I have loved The Tired Feminist discussed this way back in April 2011, and you can read that article here.   I am just late to the party apparently.  But if I am late then so is Emily.  And so are all the angry mothers commenting on Emily’s blog!

Am I making too much of this?  My mommy brain and my professional brain seem to be in agreement that this is just wrong on so many levels.  I do believe in what we librarians call “reader’s rights”, but this book is just crying out to be colored on or to fall victim to a terrible Kool Aid accident.  With hot melted chocolate.  Left outside in the rain.  Overnight.  Covered in trash so that raccoons would be attracted to it.  It would be a perfect example for my “this is what happens when we don’t take care of a library book” lesson.  Sleep with the fishes book.  Catch my drift? No offense to the author or illustrator, but I am really torn about this.

What do YOU think? Mountain, molehill, or mommy wars 2.0?

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5 thoughts on “The Mommy Wars: now in children’s book form!

  1. Emily from Mommin' It Up says:

    First of all – thank you so much for the kind words about our blog and my post. I’m blushing!

    I returned the book to Sam’s school and as I handed it to the teacher, I told her I didn’t think it sent a very good message and let it drop. After I left, I wished I had been more thorough in explaining myself and my thoughts on the book. So, that was a fail. I appreciate you posting about this and continuing the conversation, though, particularly from the perspective of a librarian!

    I read Bossypants and for the life of me I can’t remember reference to this book, but I am always late to the party – that is nothing new!

    • mommyparadox says:

      Like I said- you handled this MUCH better than I would have. I am a bit of a hot head so I totally admire your approach. Thank you for posting about your experience, it got me thinking and that is the point of blogging, isn’t it! I really hope others will post with their opinions (on your blog and mine!) as I am anxious to see if others react as strongly to this as I did.
      One more thing- I am totally doing the happy dance that you read something I wrote! Actual Snoopy dancing right now! 🙂 Thank you!!!!

  2. Anna says:

    I am another person offended by the book – and let’s face it in addition to bashing on the working mom, it’s not very clever, inspiring or well-written. If you wanted to do something clever with witches and working moms, you could have the witch-mom busy in the fall around Halloween, and then have her relaxing with the kids in her “off” season, or you could do something cute and not offensive about getting a ride with a friend when her broom was broken and she had to get to work. Anyway, that said… I love your research and open-minded approach which would have also served the writer of that book well!

    • mommyparadox says:

      Thank you Anna! I agree that the author could have really worked the “witch” angle and developed the story differently, it would have made it much more “cute” and changed the tone of the book entirely!
      Headed over to check out your blog now! 🙂

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