George Washington's Teeth

December 12, 2017
Subheader: 

I cannot tell a lie. But this book can.

The book almost seems like it's trying to set the record straight about Washington never actually having wooden teeth, but it fails at this because it's not accurate about what actually did happen, even according to its own timeline! At least it's not marketed as a non-fiction book, but kids aren't going to know that, and most parents probably won't even notice. But I guess ultimately the book isn't really about what the teeth are made out of, it's about dealing with problems.

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Message: 

Washington had problems with his teeth that were completely fixed by hippopotamus ivory dentures.

Big Red Lollipop

December 10, 2017
Subheader: 

Maybe she was just hangry.

Parents need to be a voice of reason, and curtail the behavior of the youngest children when it encroaches on the rights and happiness of the elder, just as they would tell the older child to stop pushing over the youngest when the youngest is learning to walk and much smaller. And parents also need to understand that children are often better judges of the attitudes of their peers than parents, especially when cultural differences are involved. I hope I never act like the mother in this book.

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Message: 

Younger siblings are jerks, but if you respect and forgive them they'll grow out of it.

Apple Pie 4th of July

December 6, 2017
Subheader: 

Chinese-Americans are Americans, too.

What does this mean? Is it just pointing out that Americans don't get takeout for lunch on July 4th? What does the normal customer flow at the restaurant look like? I have no frame of reference here. Is the girl wrong? Right?

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Message: 

Parents understand more than you think. Or, Americans like Chinese food every day.

If at First You Do Not See

December 4, 2017
Subheader: 

This caterpillar misplaced his hookah.

What on earth? This is an acid trip of a book. It's a series of images that appear different when turned upside-down. So it looks like a basket of fruit when the book is right-side-up, but if you turn it upside-down it kind of looks like a man. It kind of reminds me of Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the painter who made lots of surreal portraits entirely out of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and other things.

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Message: 

None.

Henry's First-Moon Birthday

December 2, 2017
Subheader: 

And I thought only six weeks of maternity leave was bad.

It's okay. It's not bad, but it's not the best book ever. If you're trying to aggressively multicultural-ize your young child, this might help. It's certainly not offensive. The characters perform tasks that are pretty much broken down by traditional gender roles, though (father fixing car, mother cleaning, grandmother cooking, etc.).

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Message: 

Chinese people celebrate first-month birthdays in this way.

The King With Six Friends

November 30, 2017
Subheader: 

Not a terrible message, just sexist.

He paid the girl, and gave her a kiss of thanks. Great. This book is traditional in many ways, including one of which is its sexist nature. The king has no female friends. They are all male. The princess doesn't do anything in the story except get her hand in marriage won.

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Message: 

Good leaders are important.

Mabela the Clever

November 28, 2017
Subheader: 

Clever girl.

It's a good example of a story where cleverness wins the day versus cleverness rather than versus fools. She's not particularly clever, though, she's just observant and surrounded by oblivious mice.

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Message: 

Pay attention to what's going on around you so that dangerous things don't happen to you.

Baby Can

November 24, 2017
Subheader: 

But a baby is too big to fit in a can...

I think it's important for older siblings to understand that the reason that adults do that is because the younger sibling previously couldn't do those things. It's not that people are saying that there's anything inherently special about being able to sit up, but that there's something special about this person sitting up. And while it's important to pay as much attention to both siblings, just patronizing the older child and feigning interest in their ability to do things like sit up isn't really a good long term solution.

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Message: 

Older children can do the same things babies can do.

The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen

November 22, 2017
Subheader: 

Published in 2014, the heyday of hula hooping.

She says that her neighbor is like a grandma to her, and took care of her mother when her mother was little, and then took care of her when she was little, and all this girl does is hula hoop. How did her neighbor not know that she hula hoops? And how did her neighbor not tell her that she also hula hooped as a kid? And now I have semantic satiation with the phrase "hula hoop" which is like the goofiest phrase in the world.

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Message: 

Own up to your mistakes and everything will turn out okay in a deus ex machina kind of way.

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