Thursday, June 1, 2006

Strangest kids book ever

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.


  1. This is the strangest kids book EVER. We keep getting emails about it over at Chicagoist. It's Just a Plant: A Children's Story on Marijuana. And they're completely serious.

  2. Rick, I generally have that reaction to any Babar book.