I think I'll move to Australia.
If you've ever read this childhood classic by Judith Viorst with expressive black and white line illustrations by Ray Cruz (Atheneum, 1972,), I'm sure you get my literary allusion. And if not, here's the first page as a teaser - you have got to read this book, which is still completely relevant and delightful 37 years after it was published. It's just as appealing to adults as it is to kids.
Copyright 1972, Judith Viorst and Ray CruzSo here's why it was a THNGVB day. The CPSC put up some new "helpful" powerpoint slides for their staff today (you can read them all here).
Here's the line that's got me ready to move to Australia. Or, better yet, ready to make Congress move to Australia and let the country start fresh. Page 6 has the guidance on children's books (ordinary books safe if published after 1985, limited staff analysis has shown some lead in older books, blah, blah). And then this line:
(approx 20 years)
What planet do these people live on? Have they never heard of Winnie the Pooh? The Wizard of Oz? Peter Pan? Alice in Wonderland? Peter Rabbit? Charlotte and Wilbur? Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann? I could go on for quite a while.
Well, maybe, said my Devil's Advocate, they were referring to library copies which can get some pretty tough wear and tear. True - but libraries are still sweating bullets about having to purge the pre-1985 books from their collections, which makes me think those old books are surviving at a pretty high rate. Doesn't surprise me, when you consider the industrial strength of some of those bindings and the fact that past the age of 2 or 3 kids start to treat their books with a little more respect.
No, the CPSC's completely ignorant statement is the equivalent of saying that we have no need of Rembrandt, Matisse, or da Vinci paintings since some perfectly nice ones have been made in the last 20 years. No need of Shakespeare, Jane Austen or Dickens when you can read John Grisham or Janet Evanovich (not that I have anything against those latter authors - fine beach reading. In fact, Grisham could write a pretty good thriller featuring an evil congressman in cahoots with the consumer lobbyists and aided by a nefarious CPSC enforcer as they pursue a beautiful crafter fleeing with his movie-star beautiful fiancee, the vintage bookseller.)
I had started a completely different post about the impact of CPSIA on literacy programs (I've been collecting info from several prominent ones), the economics of binding, and the research on the link between lead poisoning and exposure to books and educational toys (which I have a feeling will surprise Congress). But I'll save it for tomorrow.
Let this sink in meanwhile: Mary Poppins: irrelevant. Pippi Longstocking: useless. Babar, Ferdinand, Curious George, Frances, Corduroy, Harriet the Spy, the Very Hungry Caterpillar, Madeline, the Borrowers, Little Tim, the Runaway Bunny, Max in his wolf suit, Horton and the Whos, the Grinch, Sam-I-Am, Amelia Bedelia: who needs them?
Now this book above you might argue is an example of why a children's book is "useless" after 20, well, more like 40-some years. As you can see from the cover, this volume has had a long, rough life. The Trolley Car Family by Eleanor Clymer (David McKay, 1947 - my copy is from the late 50s or early 60s) was one of the many books in my family's collection of "bathtub books." The house we moved into when I was 10 had a huge claw-footed bathtub on the third floor, and my sisters and I spent substantial chunks of our moody teens in it reading and re-reading our favorite childhood books. But even though this book's cover is rather the worse for the wear and it's a bit wrinkled from too much hot water and Calgon, it still has all its pages. Twenty years after its bathtub duty, my own kids enjoyed sharing the old-fashioned adventures of the family who was forced to move into the trolley car their dad drove until the trolleys were replaced by more modern buses, Pa lost his job, and the family was forced out of their home.
Come to think of it, a story about job loss, home foreclosure and useful things deemed obsolete doesn't sound so old-fashioned these days, does it?