Thursday, February 07, 2013

Curious George by H. A. Rey, A Classic Revisited

According to old family tales, I requested that my parents read Curious George  to me so many times that they resorted to accidentally on-purpose "misplacing" it for a while--just long enough to get a chance to read something else to me. (I think it backfired, because then I wore them out with Richard Scarry's Great Big Schoolhouse. That said, as a bookwyrm librarian, I have struggled with how best to share this story with my students. As a kid, I loved all the craziness George gets into and how the man in the yellow hat loves him regardless. Now, I find myself cringing at so many things-George being stuffed into a bag and taken from his home, George smoking a pipe, George being put "in prison" for "fooling" the firemen. That said, I'm finding that many of my students (so far, the K-2 ones) love this story. There are usually giggles when George thinks he can fly, gasps when George goes to prison, and big grins when George shares his balloons with the other animals at the zoo. So, this is how I am reconciling my adult-cringe-factor with my childhood love of this classic.

To begin, I introduce the concept of copyright date as a book's birthday and where to find it (on the back of the title page--aka the "verso"), and how to use that date to tell how old a book is. Then, to put it into perspective, I tell them the story of my parents hiding the book, (some of them have already asked if I knew Ben Franklin, so they already think I'm ancient), how their parents, their grandparents and probably their great-grandparents probably read this same book when they were kids. Then we talk about what it might have been like 70+ years ago--did people dress the same, did cars look the same, did they have cell phones--you get the idea. We spend some time looking at the illustrations as we discuss this and the kids seem to be fascinated with the idea of a dial-phone (need to find one and bring it in). As we read, we spend some time discussing some of the things in the pictures that might not be familiar to the kids now. Other things that we end up discussing? Why the words say they row out to the big ship when the rowboat looks bigger than the ship (they love pointing out that it only LOOKS small "cuz it's far away").  (I take this opportunity to introduce a new vocabulary word--perspective--with the added bonus of appealing to my visual learners. Then we talk about whether this story is "made up" or "informational" to lead in to reading a non-fiction story. I've been pairing Curious George with Chimpanzees  by Helen Frost or Jane Goodall by Jo S. Kittinger.

I gotta say, I'm having fun all over again with this story.  Maybe growing up (a little) isn't so bad after all.  ;D

1 comment:

  1. As a former professional nanny, I understand the dilemma, and have lived it many times through many books.

    There were times when I resorted to changing the old Frog Prince story, for instance; changing what happened so that the princess doesn't marry the prince, but becomes best friends with him. Acculturation through storytelling is a powerful force, and we who have lived through the process of rearranging our tortured psyches never want to pass on the worst of it to our young charges.

    Sometimes the bad rides in on a wave of good, sometimes you have to add balance, as you've done.