Thursday, January 3, 2013

Skippyjon Jones in a Nutshell

Five Skippyjon Jones books in one sitting is a lot to take in.  Personally, I had never read Skippyjon Jones before as my picture book reading was mostly contained to what I could use in storytime and what was winning awards and buzz.  Skippyjon didn't fit into either of these categories, so I mostly just let him alone.  But my little nephew loves him, so this is for you Anthony.

Basically, Skippyjon Jones is a silly little siamese cat, and as he says in every book, his ears are too big for his head and his head it too big for his body.  So, he pretends to be a chihuahua and scampers off into his closet for make believe adventures with a band of imagined chihuahuas.  The adventures he has are very strange, but it's a kids book, so that is fine.  I still hold my belief that these are not my type of story time book.  There is no consistency in rhyming parts, it's all very helter-skelter and the pictures are a little too much to take in with a group.  (My opinion obviously, because SJJ is huge at my nephew's preschool.)

Now for the controversy.  While SJJ has received some acclaim, it has also received criticism for poorly portraying Hispanic culture.  Skippyjon Jones becomes Skippito in the books, a Zoro-like bandit that uses mixed-up Spanglish and silly songs with claps.  While SJJ isn't the best role model, he is certainly not harmful, but keep in mind this is coming from a girl whose favorite children's book is Little Black Sambo (I'm in it for the pancakes people!).  

One reader on Goodreads also commented that she thought it was disturbing that SJJ pretended to be something he's not in every book.  That's what kids do!  And really SJJ is the only boy in his family and he doesn't look anything like his siblings, so of course he's going to pretend to be someone else for a change.  I'm not going to get into the psyche of a fictional kittenboy, but he probably feels some measure of ugly duckling syndrome here, like he was dropped off with this cat family by dog parents or something.  

My nephew loves these books because they are absurd, because SJJ sneaks into his closet and ends up in the desert or on Mars.  Because this silly little kittenboy is called all sort of adorable names by his mother (a few of which my sis uses to refer to Anthony).  And mostly because kids just have a really messed up sense of humor and this plays right to that audience.

So adults, stop ruining children's books with your own political correctness.  While I do not intend to become a Skippyjon Jones pusher, I see the merit of it.  If that's what Anthony wants to read, that's cool.  I'm sure that he will end up a well-adjusted member of society even though he read Skippyjon Jones as a child.  His adult neurosis will come from having a weird family, not from the books that he reads.  

And isn't that what we're all trying to avoid, permanently screwing up our children?  It's not going to happen.  Every child will have that one weird memory that scars them for life (mine has to do with the hiding of Christmas presents, but that's a story for another day), so you might as well go with it and let them read whatever they like.

Happy Reading!

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