Liberalism and Social Justice Warriors have ruined children’s literature.

A while back, some guy said:

Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.

Liberals take this very seriously.  That is why children’s literature now sucks so bad.

Evolutiontheorist left a humorous and insightful comment on my post about the children’s book The Tooth:

“I’ve noticed that the children’s book world is full of sentimental/boring works that only adults would be interested in. Every time I go to the library, it seems like I come home with at least one book that looked good, but turns out to be about a kid who’s pet died or a bird whose best friend turned out to be a snowball and then melted. Or about how the author grew up in poverty but it’s okay because they liked eating paint. (I am not making that up.)

Kids like books about cheeky toy trains, hoppy bunnies, funny superheroes, or grand adventures. They like rainbows and unicorns and swashbuckling pirates. They do not want to hear about how if you eat too much candy, you might have to go to the dentist and get a tooth pulled, for goodness’s sakes.”

If you don’t think that there is any particular agenda behind this, listen to the following children’s story.

Moral of the story: It’s fun being married to a cross-dresser!

But it isn’t (just) the liberal/SJW agenda that I’m objecting to.  If the story is well-crafted, I could talk through with my kids why I don’t agree with whatever political or “social justice” point the author was trying to make.  Kids’ books have always been a bit preachy in their own way, it’s just that back in the day the preachiness was aimed at getting kids to behave and be good and now it’s aimed at getting them to tear down Western civilization faster, faster, faster.  But the craft aspect to it is TERRIBLE now.  Thornton W. Burgess was a preachy conservationist, but my children loved hearing his stories about Reddy Fox and Lightfoot the Deer (you can listen to his stories being read by non-professional readers here).  He was a fine children’s literature writer despite his tendency to anthropomorphize deer and his inability to comprehend that slow death by starvation due to overpopulation is not kinder than a quick death by a hunter’s gun.

Several years ago on another blog I wrote a post entitled What is happening to children’s literature?  I think we understand now exactly what is happening to it, but I am going to repost that essay here since it seems relevant.

What is happening to children’s literature?  

Posted on 03/09/2014

Painting by Emil Rau | Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

If you have children, you probably already know that March is National Reading Month.

Because we don’t watch television, our family listens to a lot of audio books.  We try to choose ones that we all enjoy listening to and which will appeal to a range of ages.  A typical evening in our house finds us gathered in the living room, the children drawing or writing and me working on a blog post, while listening to stories on the CD player.  Because of this, I have listened to quite a number of both classic and modern children’s stories, and I have concluded that the modern ones are largely unimpressive.

Surely I am not the only parent who has noticed the startling decline in the quality of children’s literature?  I first began thinking about this about ten years ago, when my husband and I noticed that many of the picture story books that had the Caldecott Medal Winner sticker on them were so…weird.  The books were uninteresting to children and sometimes even frightened them, but I’m sure they were intriguing to the highly-educated, liberal parents of our generation who were raised to see things that are “alternative” as superior.  This is the basic ethos of progressivism; anything new and strange, no matter how objectively crappy, is better than what came before.  Weird, disturbing children’s books must be better than the simple, charming types of stories that came before, right?

We have continued to notice this trend as our children have gotten older.  One year awhile back, we joined a mother-daughter book club at the library.  One of the first books that was assigned to us was called The Higher Power of Lucky.  We were given a free copy of the book to read, and let me tell you, it was dreadful.  It was equal parts morbid and boring.  The ten-year-old main character is a girl named Lucky whose mother died from being electrocuted during a storm; her father is unaccounted for and she lives with her father’s first ex-wife in an old trailer in a depressing desert town.  She is obsessed with Charles Darwin for some reason and the primary adventure in the story seems to center around Lucky eavesdropping outside AA meetings and worrying that her guardian will abandon her.

Librarians are obsessed with this book.  It is everywhere; it is one of their most highly recommended books.  Just now we have returned from the library and there were five copies of the audio book on the shelf.  Five copies!  Audio books are expensive, and it always takes them ages to order the classic ones that I request, but somehow we have money for five copies of this book.  No one ever checks them out, but I’m sure it makes the librarians feel very cheerful and progressive to see them on the shelf.

There were several other books that we read for that book club, all equally strange and uninspiring.  Modern children’s books usually have main characters who are female, have an intense grrrll power message, and often involve scenes in which girls behave unethically to get what they want.  I allowed our girls to listen to a modern story called The Callahan Cousins on audio book last summer about three cousins (all girls) who stay with their grandmother for the summer.  The girls – all grrrl-powered up of course – lie, steal, gossip, sneak out, sneak around, and none of this is portrayed in the story as a negative thing.

I can’t imagine what kind of literature is out there for boys now.  I rarely see much of anything geared at boys on the shelves, other than stories based on movies, video games, and TV shows.  Classic literature isn’t used much anymore, but the new literature is mostly badly written, dull, upsetting, and uninteresting, mostly progressivist propaganda.  Virtually every book for girls in the age range of 7 to 12 seems to include some kind of self-conscious gender-bending or gender “stereotype” smashing theme.

I know that many of my readers are parents and would probably like to know of good books for children between the ages of 7 and 15.  I will start by recommending the following five books, none of which are Christian books.

All of these stories are available on audio book at our library, but even if you can’t get the audio version, I think your children would enjoy reading these stories:

The Miracles on Maple Hill  (1956) by Virginia Sorensen:

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939) by Margaret Sydney:

Rascal (1963) by Sterling North:

Larklight (2006) by Philip Reeve:

 

The Mistmantle Chronicles – start with Urchin of the Riding Stars (2005) by M. I. McAllister:

And our family’s FAVORITE series of audiobooks ever, Hank the Cowdog.

These are perfect for young boys as well as girls.  You can buy the books, but I very strongly recommended springing for the extra few dollars to buy the audio books.  The author reads them himself and includes songs, and his delivery is just so entertaining.  I recommend Hank the Cowdog very highly.  We have almost the entire series on audio book now (we’ve been purchasing them slowly over the past decade); also, check your library’s children’s audio book collection because they very well may have some of these or may be willing to purchase them.

Here is a YouTube clip of the author, John Erickson, giving a reading (he’s a much in-demand speaker and lecturer and is a salt-of-the earth Texan Christian sort.)

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Social Justice Warriors, small towns, and Trump rallies…let’s talk about my poultry instead.

Chelsea is a small town with a bit of a multiple personality disorder due to its rural location not far from the Evil Empire of Social Justice Warriors, also known as Ann Arbor.   Continue reading

Listening to the wind and counting blessings

The wind is a-howlin’ tonight and it has been raining ice for most of the day…a perfect night for curling up in bed with a cup of hot tea.  I spent most of the day in the kitchen, since bad weather always makes me want to cook and bake and clean.  I don’t know why; it’s like I have this deep need to prepare food when the weather turns very bad.

I have a bit of a wind phobia, actually, since about 13 or 14 years ago we had a terrible windstorm that brought down a huge old cottonwood tree on our house and crushed my car, which was parked in the driveway, like a pancake.  Since then I get the heebie-jeebies whenever it’s extremely windy.

“But we don’t have to worry about losing power,” I proclaimed happily to my husband earlier this evening, “because we have a generator!”  One of my most favorite little perks in this house has been the generator that automatically comes on when the power goes out.  It’s come on a handful of times since we’ve lived here when storms have knocked out the power, including the very first day we owned the house.

Not ten minutes later after remarking on how we don’t have to worry about losing power, the power went out.  The girls started to panic, but don’t worry girls, I said cheerfully, we have a generator.  And any minute now, it’ll kick on…any minute now…any minute.

Um.

Hey honey, why isn’t the generator coming on?

Five minutes later, clad in heavy boots and coats and bearing flashlights, we skidded across the icy grass over to the generator to have a look.  My husband’s usual first course of action in these kinds of situations is to give the non-functioning appliance a good swearing-at.  You’d be surprised how often just telling a mechanical object what a piece of shit it is will cause it to shamefacedly spring back to life.

But the generator stubbornly refused to be cowed into fixing itself by being called four-letter words.  And then the electricity came back on by itself, so my husband was spared having to try to diagnose and possibly fix the potentially-broken generator in the midst of the raining ice, raging winds and pitch dark.

Only now I’m sitting in bed all anxious, listening to the wind and worrying about the power going out.  Which would mean not only no lights, but no heat and no water since we have well water here.

So I’m counting my blessings instead of worrying.  Care to join me?

Let’s see…if your house wasn’t blown away in a tornado or flooded out like in Texas or Missouri, well then, you’ve got something to be very grateful for!  My sister and her husband live in San Antonio, and they didn’t get hit by any tornadoes, but as I’m sure you’ve heard on the news, many people in the Dallas area weren’t so lucky.

What else?  Oh, it you weren’t shot in the stomach today, you’ve also got something to be grateful for!

A 39-year-old Flint man was hunting with his 25-year-old nephew from Burton, and the pair were headed out of the woods about 5:40 p.m., Kaiser said.

“Those two are walking out of the woods at night. They hear a noise. They see a glimmer of light and believe it to be the eyes of a deer,” he said of the incident police have labeled an accidental shooting. “The nephew points his gun in that direction and fires.”

The Davison man, who was archery hunting, was struck once in the abdomen with buckshot fired from a 12-gauge shotgun, Kaiser said. The man was taken to a local hospital for treatment and was listed in stable condition.

Glad he’s okay, and I know it was an accident, but they literally hammer it into your head during Hunter’s Ed to always clearly identify your target and what is beyond it before you shoot.  You aren’t just supposed to say, “Hey, sumpin’ shiny!” *blam*

Well, you know, let’s enjoy a bit a cute humor to pass this dreary night, shall we?  This has been around for awhile apparently, but it’s new to me.  I think this might be what happens when the Youth Pastor and the high school ministry interns get a hold of the Children’s Ministry puppets.  High church-basement madness…

Which reminds me of a story from when our eldest daughter was about 3 years old.  One day whilst we were driving to church, she was wondering about how Jesus had told his disciples that he would eventually be crucified.  Well, I said, I think he managed to communicate that to them in so many words.  “But how?  Like did He use puppets or something?”

My husband and I about died laughing.  But it made sense; in her little world, profound Biblical truths were nearly always communicated via puppetry or felt boards.

May your night be safe and peaceful!

And now, for those puppets…

“You can do what you want”: transplantism instead of tradition and friends instead of family.

The author of the blog Face to Face sometimes writes about the social trend he calls transplantism, which refers to people who migrate in adulthood to a different state from where they were born and grew up.  It seems to mean not just moving, but moving in order to satisfy some aspect of status-striving. He outlines three types of status-striving: career, lifestyle, and persona.

He has a number of very interesting posts on this subject, but one caught my eye on Thanksgiving evening, as I was relaxing with a cup of coffee just before we left to go out of town overnight, Transplant-ism Breaking Down Large Family Reunions on Thanksgiving.
Read the whole post (it’s brief), but I’ve picked out a quote that I found interesting:

“My memories of Thanksgiving in the ’80s still included most of the extended family, aside from an uncle and his wife who moved Out West awhile ago (my cousins through them were absent, too). For those of my mother’s siblings who stayed in the general region, it was common to see all the aunts and uncles, as well as the cousins, and of course the grandparents on that side. But those get-togethers involved one-way travel times of at most three hours by car for all involved, and usually under two hours. You could travel there and back in the same day, so nobody needed to put you up.

Contrast with today, where transplants spend seven or eight hours door-to-door, one-way, and will have to be put up for one or more nights.

There’s another way in which the lifestyle strivers seem to be making things worse. Since they’re foodies, meals are a fashion contest, and fashion corrodes tradition. So why would a foodie want to trek all the way back to family, just to have the same old things for Thanksgiving? They would rather spend Thanksgiving alone and pick up a pre-made dinner from Whole Foods, as long as they put sriracha in the stuffing. That’s something you could post to Facebook for status points — not whatever your non-foodie parents would have prepared.”

I found it interesting because this is a subject I’ve written about a bit myself*.  But I didn’t realize how bad the whole “foodie” and “friends instead of family” thing had gotten, especially among Gen Y and millennials. I even wondered if maybe he was exaggerating a little bit.

We got into the car and when we hit the highway, I settled back and decided to read the news on NPR on my phone.  This was literally the headline article:

How to Put Real Giving into the Friendsgiving Feast:

“Culturally, we’ve seen the rise of Friendsgiving, as young professionals take the opportunity to create the Thanksgiving they want with their friends,” says Clay Dunn, chief communications officer for Share Our Strength, a hunger nonprofit. “You can avoid your Aunt Ina’s terrible cranberry sauce. You can do what you want.”

And as long as you’re reinventing traditions, he says, why not put more emphasis on the “giving” in your feast? That’s the idea that Share Our Strength is pushing this year. It’s asking people to leverage their holiday goodwill by turning their friendly gatherings into fundraising opportunities to fight childhood hunger.

[…] So if the Friendsgiving fundraiser piques your interest, there are plenty of places to look for tips on planning the feast, like here and here. Share Our Strength has resources, including templates for table name cards and a Pinterest board for cooking and decorating inspiration, too.

[…] And if the do-good feeling isn’t enough to motivate you, Dunn says there are prizes. The top fundraiser will get to tour the official Food Network kitchens in New York.

I just had to laugh at how well the guy from Face to Face had described this.  Hey, don’t like the boring cranberry sauce that’s going to be served at your family’s?  Then don’t even bother with that multi-state drive home to see them.  Do what you want, but whatever you do, make sure to earn status points by creating fancy table name cards and signaling how charitable you are by making it a fundraiser for some charity no one’s ever heard.  Of course, there might be a little somethin’ in it for you, you Foodie, you!  How many of your friends have gotten to tour the Food Network kitchens, I ask you!

The sad thing is that these young people are chasing after the lie of modernity that blood is no thicker than water.  It’s not really about with whom you ate Thanksgiving dinner this year so much as it is about the whole ethos of the age, the disconnectedness, rootlessness, and emptiness of individualism (“You can do what you want!”) in place of family, faith, and tradition.

*Here are a few of my posts that are related to this subject:

Apples from Lesser Farms!

This past Saturday we dropped by Lesser Farms to get apples.  If you live in this area, I highly recommend Lessers.  The family has been in the Chelsea area for a number of generations; I saw in the paper that old Mr. Lesser recently passed away in his late 80s and had farmed in this area his whole life.  His sons and grandkids farm around here now, and one of the Lesser farms is within walking distance of our house.imageimage

It’s not a fancy place; it’s a real, working farm, diversified as small family farms tend to be, with a little bit of this and that, but of course a whole lot of corn, too.image

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One of our daughters paying for the Cortlands and Honeycrips we bought.

Fruit sales happen on the back porch:

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Fresh eggs and their own honey are always available on the side porch of the house.  It’s help yourself and self-pay on the honor system.  Our daughters discovered the joy of eating honeycomb last fall thanks to the Lessers.

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Lessers grow their apples conventionally, which means they are sprayed several times during the growing season.  During one of the aerial sprayings this summer, my husband and one of our daughters walked over and hung out with the Lessers to watch their new crop duster guy, who was some kind of winged madman.  My husband said one of the Mr. Lessers was just shaking his head in amusement as the little crop plane whizzed back and forth at a ridiculously high speed.  Everyone was amazed he didn’t crash.  Our daughter amused herself by trying to catch one of the barn kittens, which Mr. Lesser said she could keep if she could catch.

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Yesterday I cooked a traditional Sunday dinner and invited my mother-in-law to join us for a big pork roast with maple syrup glaze (made with syrup from Jane Kelly’s farm in Dexter), mashed potatoes, and butternut squash from our garden, and I made two big apple pies for dessert from the Cortland apples we’d bought.  Cortlands are my favorite pie apple by a mile:

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Here is my favorite pie crust recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 2/3 cups lard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add 1 2/3 c lard.
  3. Cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together water, egg, and vinegar.
  5. Pour into lard mixture and stir until dough is thoroughly moistened and forms a ball. Divide into 4 portions (if you like a thicker crust, I recommend only dividing the dough into three portions instead of four) and wrap tightly until used.

Here is the pie filling recipe I used:

  • Enough Cortland apples to fill 9-inch pie plate (heaping)
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 T butter sliced over the apples
  • Mix one egg with 2 T Half n’ Half and brush over top crust. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350° for one hour or until crust is golden brown and apples are tender.

Of course, if you are going to go to all the trouble of making a homemade pie, I recommend making two.  A slice of bacon, a sliver of leftover apple pie, and coffee with cream makes an awfully nice breakfast on an oh-no-it’s-the-start-of-another-hectic-week Monday morning.

Teach a man know-how and he’ll know how for the rest of his life.

You know that old cliche saying Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime?  As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know that we really are headed for a massive collapse in the near future because I’ve been hearing that for so long that I’ve sort of come to the conclusion that, while it’s certainly within the realm of possibility, it seems more likely that what our world is looking at is a decline from which we aren’t going to recover to our previous baseline of material wealth.  But in either case, know-how and tools seem more important to me than actually storing a ton of finished product.  Now, I say this as someone who likes filling my pantry with home-canned food from my own garden, but I don’t find it useful to have more than a season or two (or at most a year) worth of food stored up (other than salt; I like having a good back-stock of salt, just in case).  What my husband Philip and I do value highly is increasing our know-how.

That popped into my head when I read this comment from JohnnyMac on Frank’s post Brace for Impact:

Our log splitter died and [my brother’s] response was, “We should go out and buy another one.” I diagnosed the problem to a blown gasket where the carburetor joined the engine block. Ordered the $9.30 rebuild kit while he wanted to go out and spend $1,200-.

 

I’ve known people like this, who replace anything that breaks.  That’s so expensive and you don’t learn anything from it!  You don’t increase your know-how.  My husband didn’t really know much about fixing stuff when we first got married, but he finds satisfaction in learning how to fix things and has greatly increased his know-how over the years.  Honestly, I believe he can fix nearly anything now.  I felt such admiration and gratitude when my dryer conked out a few months ago and he disassembled it, spent some time online looking at the manual (nearly all user manuals are available online if you don’t have your original), diagnosed the likely problem, and ordered the necessary part.  He had it working again within a couple days for under $40.  In the mean time, I used drying racks, which I ask for every year for Christmas (I’ve now received six of them).

Here is a little know-how tip for you: Repair Clinic is a valuable resource for diagnosing problems with your appliances and tools and ordering spare parts (disclosure: I have no relationship with this site and receive no compensation from them; this is my honest opinion based on our personal experiences).  You can even call them, as my husband often does, and speak to a person about the problem.  Now, we happen to live within driving distance of their warehouse, so we order the parts for pick-up, thereby saving on shipping, but I bet even if you have to have the parts shipped, it’s still cheaper than buying new, plus you’ve increased your know-how and kept another item out of our overflowing landfills.  It’s a win all around.

Modern Americans are terribly helpless but it doesn’t have to be that way.  It’s pretty much indisputable that our material wealth in this country is declining and will probably continue to do so permanently now.  So what?  Maybe eventually we’ll live like people lived 150 years ago.  Again I say, so what?  I’m not all that enamored of what post Industrial Revolution life has done to family life, and what could be more valuable than know-how regardless of what the future holds?

If you read prepper sites, you can get super overwhelmed and feel like you can’t possibly do it all – you can’t store up a year of food, ammunition, medical supplies, etc.  So what I always tell people is start by making a short list of things you want to learn how to do.  Then budget for and acquire the necessary tools to do that thing, learn all you can about it, and then do it.  Right now, go ahead and make yourself a list of the three most important things you’d like to learn how to do, and then start on number one right now.

I’ll even tell you mine:

  1. Continue to improve my food preservation skills, especially focusing on salt-brine lacto-fermentation.  Plan: order a fermentation crock and make sauerkraut with some of my home-grown organic cabbage.
  2. Learn how to cultivate my little orchard so that I actually get a harvest of organic fruit.  This is harder than it sounds.  Between the Cedar-Apple Rust and the Japanese beetles and all the other critters that eat fruit trees, I could easily never harvest a piece of fruit if I don’t increase my know-how.  So far we’ve cut down our cedar trees and put deer fencing around the apple trees:imageI’ve learned that I can hand pick Japanese beetles by dropping them into a bucket of water and then dumping it in the pond, where the fish immediately eat them.  Plan: acquire Tanglefoot and wrapping paper for tree trunks and learn how to apply it.  Learn more about pruning peach and apple trees. Prune our semi-dwarf peach tree which is now in its second year:

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    One of our two peach trees, surrounded by butternut squash vines.

  3. Learn how to fish (no kidding).  Plan: A friend of my husband’s has offered to come over and look at the fishing poles we found in my in-laws basement, show me how to get them operational and how to catch a few of the catfish in our pond.  Then I’ll gut and cook them.  Our daughters have caught fish at camp, but I have never caught or gutted a fish before, and because it involves killing a living creature, this is the one I’m most nervous about.  But I think it’s a good skill to know.

My husband’s:

  1. Build a root cellar type pantry.  Plan: Get industrial metal shelving from someone who wanted to get rid of it but needed it disassembled first.  Clean, paint, and install shelving in our basement storage room where the temperature is always quite cool.
  2. Learn to hunt.  Plan: Take hunter’s ed (which he’s wanted to do for three years but never had the time to do) so that he and the guy who plows our driveway can hunt deer on our land this fall.
  3. Continue to improve his tree-felling skills.  He has cut down several small to medium trees on our property and is learning how to fell them where he wants them and then cut them into logs for use as firewood or in the hugelkultur garden beds I’m working on for next summer.  Plan: cut down old, blighted apple trees.  Cut down larger dead (probably ash) trees.  Acquire chainsaw chaps for safety.  Inventory and sharpen our axes and hatchets and practice cutting down small trees manually with an axe.

Are there any useful skills you want to learn?  What is your plan for learning those skills?

For my further musings on this topic, see my post Helpless.

 

 

Why we are cutting down all our cedar trees.

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When we first moved into this house last September, the cedar tree you see above was in bad need of pruning.  Its branches were all over the roof and pushed up against the side of the house; it doesn’t seem like that would be a hard job, but my husband risked his life doing it because what you can’t see in this picture is that there is a steep drop off to a hill right behind that tree; our house is built into the back of that hill such that 1.5 stories are visible from the front, but another full story exists as a walk-out lower level when you look at it from behind.  So he was perched two stories up on a ladder trimming those branches – scary!  We debated cutting the tree down, but it’s a nice, mature tree so we decided to leave it.

I began noticing in the fall that smaller cedar trees had sprung up here and there all over our property.  My husband has cut those down now and we are waiting for a professional arborist to remove the big one next to the house.

Why?

Well, this past spring after a particularly heavy rain, one of our daughters came rushing in to inform us that there was orange snot all over the cedar tree.  She wasn’t kidding:

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Big, slimy globs of bright orange goo were hanging all over the tree.

“What the heck is that!?” I gasped, grossed out.

After some time spent online, I learned that is a fungal infection called Cedar Apple Rust.  It’s a very unusual fungus in that, like White Pine Blister Rust, it requires two years and two species of tree to complete its life cycle.  It starts out as hard, brown balls in the fall on cedar trees and sends out those orange globs of yucky stuff, which are actually the fungal spores.  The spores then become airborne and infect apple trees and other plants in that family (crabapples, Hawthornes, some pears, roses), resulting in a rusty infection on the leaves and severely blighted fruit.

You can see the rust blight now on some of our apple trees even though we sprayed them with Immunox, a fungicide, after we figured out what was going on:

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Since we are trying to grow our produce organically, we don’t want to have to keep spraying our trees, so we are taking out the cedars and we are planting apple cultivars that are resistant to Cedar Apple Rust.  You can find a list of apple cultivars, both heirloom and hybrids, that discusses each cultivar’s level of resistance to cedar apple rust here.  I ordered several Liberty and Empire trees to add to our little orchard because they are resistant to CAR and I shouldn’t need to do much spraying, if any at all.

The cedar wood will go to good use; it makes great fence posts because of the naturally-occurring resins in the wood, which make cedar wood slow to decay.  You can also use it to make nice camp fires in your fire pit without waiting for it to dry out, though it does smoke a bit as the resins burn.