Can Children’s Books Ruin Our Lives?

Jun 23




LittleEngineAm I saying that Pat The Bunny (no relation) can warp young minds, or that the Little Engine that Could shouldn’t have?

Well, I’ve just been to a play, The Misanthrope, that led me to think that.
FYI: According to my trusty dictionary on my trusty I-Mac, a misanthrope is: a person who dislikes humankind and avoids human society.

In case you didn’t happen to catch this play at Drew University . . . with a fine cast, gorgeous costumes and one very hunky guy . . . it’s about a misanthrope (duh), and how he deals (horribly) with a society that is full of hypocrisy, lying, scheming, and malicious gossip. People, in short, behaving badly. The way things are today. Except that this play was written in the 17th century and first performed in 1666.


The lead character in the play wasn’t born such a crank, and neither were all those grouches you know today. Misanthropes generally start out eagerly embracing the world and end up desperately wanting to flee from it.

And believe it or not, that’s where children’s books come in . . .

As a writer, editor, and producer of a lot of Kid Lit, as we in the biz liked to call it, I know too well that children’s books give you the impression that life is always warm and fuzzy,

MooseMuffinIt’s a world full of cute little curious puppies, big yellow birds who want to be your friend, adorable mice (and moose) who get cookies (or muffins) and where saying goodnight to the moon solves everything. These books make you think that all adults are there to help, that everything turns out okay in the end, and that life is . . . fair.

Then you grow up.

You stop reading children’s books, and discover a world that isn’t what it was cracked up to be. In fact, no matter what you do, how well you behave, how hard you try, or how strong you build your house, sometimes the big bad wolf IS at the door. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you.

And maybe the difference between the idealistic world of children’s books and the (Gasp!) real world is so great that it makes you, dare I say it. . .bitter? And that is the first step to becoming a card-carrying misanthrope.

Misanthropy goes way back but children’s books don’t.

Wait a minute! They didn’t have many children’s books in 1666, when the playwright Moliere was addressing this question. Certainly not in the time of Plato (or was is Aristotle?), who lamented about how coarsened and perverse society had become —compared to the days of his youth.

Spoiler Alert: There were no Good Old Days.

AngryCavemanOnce upon a time there was probably a cave drawing out there depicting a misanthrope waving this club in utter disgust at the state of (cave)mankind. I see Bill Maher in the movie role.

The thing is, people tend to be more idealistic when they’re young, and then become more cynical as they age. It’s always been so. Therefore, my theory has been shot to hell.

Children’s Books Are Innocent After All!

Whew! The cuddly creatures of our beloved children’s books aren’t the real culprits and they can live happily ever after, after all. Turning curmurgeonly is simply a result of growing up, which happens, sooner or later,  to us all. And think about it, have you ever known a young curmudgeon?

I’m so glad it’s not children’s books and their unending cheeriness that has caused this problem. I’d hate to see these delightful books go all Bambi Meets Godzilla or Mr. Bill. Oh noooo!.

In fact, I’ve often thought about how nice it would be to live in a children’s book, with frizzy-haired teachers and their magic busses (we could ride off to the chocolate factory all the time), and I’d have that elephant who’s faithful 100 % as my new BFF.

But since that’s not going to happen any time soon, and because we do have to grow up sooner or latter, are we all doomed to a misanthropic existence? Do we all have to become. . . bitter?

No, not really. As the friend of The Misanthrope in the play explains, and I paraphrase his elegant rhyming verse: Yes. People can be real rat bastards, but that’s the way it is. Suck it up and enjoy yourself. It’s no fun being lonely.

Or, god forefend, bitter!

I was tempted to change the name of the blog, but somehow,
I Can’t Believe I’m Not Misanthropic
just doesn’t have the right ring to it. . . .


And Now, Boys And Girls
I’d like to hear about your favorite children’s books.
(Mine was a Little Golden Book called Tuffy The Tugboat.)

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