Monday, November 28, 2005

Goodnight Ashtray; Goodnight Moon

If you have children you know the essential and omnipresent role of certain books in their developmental life. GOODNIGHT MOON is one of these books. If you have never read this book to your child, please report yourself to Child Protective Services immediately.

In memorable board books, the illustrator's reputation is often equal to or higher than the "author" of the book. Clement Hurd's colorful, vivid drawings have captivated generations of babies and small tots. The most recent edition of the book is drawing some controversy, however. Not because a female is depicted as knitting (subservient role! sexist!), but rather for an equally ludicrous act of political correctness: the photo of the illustrator, in which he sported a flaming cancer stick, has now been altered so that the hand is shown suspended in air, sans cigarette, as if Hurd had some cruel, disfiguring arthritis that denied his right hand a relaxed pose.

A Kansas City bookstore complained:

"This is one of the best-selling kids’ books of all time," he said. "There are certain responsibilities and obligations on the part of the publisher as a steward - not just a marketer - to what I consider an archival document. To go in and do something like that is the pinnacle of arrogance."

I agree.

Kate Morgan Jackson, editor-in-chief for HarperCollins Children’s Books, responded with the typical nanny-state verbiage so common to those who appoint themselves to protect us all:

"One of our responsibilities is to make sure we are publishing" the book "the right way throughout the ages and making it healthy for every generation," [Jackson] said.

Mmm. Perhaps they should print future copies of this always-best-selling book on totally recycled paper, the kind that produces a virtually unreadable page. This would aid in making it "healthy for every generation." Or perhaps they could replace illustration of the female knitting with an obvious male engaged in knitting, to confound the use of unhealthy gender roles.

The leading critic of the digitally-altered photo, Pete Cowdin, has a website to promote his worthy cause:

His cause is most likely a lost one, however, as tobacco is ranked well above terrorism in the liberal list of infractions.


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