I made a rookie mom mistake today. I started reading a book to my two youngest kids and didn’t read through it myself first. I assumed since it is was an eco themed kids book that I would like it. I didn’t like it an regret reading the first 5-6 pages to my 3 and 4 year old kids.
I don’t like to do negative reviews when it comes to small business or mom products so I won’t name the book. But the experience showed me that not all books in the eco kids niche are created equal. I want to talk about the reasons why I feel an eco book for kids can take a dangerous turn into the inappropriate and why.
The book was about bears and forest animals losing their homes to environmental destruction told from the viewpoint of the animals. No red flags going up by the sound of it but the way it was told was kinda of like a junior horror story. My mom spider senses started tingling on the third page of the book when one bear is driven far from his home and relates the story to another bear including the kinda inappropriate detail about his best friend being by murdered by humans. The picture accompanying this was startling. The message was clear. Evil humans are targeting defenseless bears. Okay I don’t want to argue the validity of that point or not but I know my 3 and 4 year olds didn’t need to hear about it at this juncture in their young lives. There are numerous ways it should be phrased or represented to be sympathetic to the bears without making men at large look like villains.
The book declined in my esteem with every page, and we stopped reading after more bad humans caused some sort of explosion in the forest. In the picture the animals were terror stricken and running for their lives while humans stood about indifferently in the background.
I continued browsing silently and found pictures of an animal meeting where the bear at the head of the table was outraged with a fist slamming the table. Pictures of kids taunting and teasing animals for fun and another picture of kids almost drowning. Most of this book unfolded like a train wreck…total doom and gloom. Yes the end was nice with the animals and kids working together for change but there was still condescending language about their parents being the humans who caused all this and how the kids need to stop them.
My hubby was sitting next to us while I was reading and he kept glancing over in alarm when some of this stuff came out of my mouth. His response after I stopped reading was “are you reading communist, liberal, anti propaganda to my kids?” He was of course kidding but his point was valid. This is exactly the reason why so many environmentalists get labeled as wacko and our message gets lost. I just don’t think this is the way to raise awareness and help kids take up the cause to save our planet. I really don’t.
There was no need to paint adult humans (and kids) as evil and mean. There was no reason to show such violence. I don’t want my children to think that people are inherently bad and that they are just too mean or stupid to care about the environment and the animal inhabitants. Even if there is some truth to that in some instances they don’t need that to be the framwork for their worldview at 4-8 years old… the target audience for this book. The same story could have been told by appealing to their emotions and not scaring the crap out of them. I was very dissapointed by how the message was delivered and I will be much more careful in the future.