Reading Babar and the Succotash Bird to my kids tonight, I ran across the following paragraph. You may not agree, but it strikes me as among the oddest ever committed to the English language:
“Remember, Alexander, don’t jump to conclusions. There’s more than one bird who can call ‘Succotash!’ That’s how life is – right mixed with wrong. Like succotash: lima beans cooked up with corn.”
Let’s leave aside for the moment the incredible collection of non-sequiturs that lead up to this moment in the book. Re-read that sentence. I defy you to make sense of it. Is this really a kids book attempting to moralize by equating lima beans with all that’s wrong in the world?
I used to live in France, and I can genuinely say my year living there was a highlight of my youth. And I sneered at the knee-jerk anti-French sentiment around the time of the Iraq invasion, thinking it to be much ado about nothing. I may have been premature in my defense of all things French.
For purists among us, this isn’t actually an original Babar story. It’s the author’s son “reviving” (and I use the term oh-so-loosely) the Babar franchise in “the spirit” of Babar. If by “the spirit” of Babar he means “I dropped a tab of acid and then dreamed of electric birds who can shrink elephants”, then yes, Laurent de Brunhoff, I commend you. Mission accomplished. My wife reminds me that the original Babar stories were not exactly bastions of logic and reason, but still.