silverback gorilla (jcruelty) wrote,
silverback gorilla
jcruelty

Notes on Top 100 Kids Books List that I probably won't write unless someone starts a Kickstarter

Cube Farm by jcruelty
Cube Farm, a photo by jcruelty on Flickr.

One of the many half-baked projects that's always stewing around in my head is a guide to children's books. "Top 100 Books You Should Read To Your Kid," something like that.

I want to have icons next to each book in my list similar to the icons in The World's Flags Given Letter Grades (tremendous page by the way, you should definitely check it out.) For the most part the flags would be negative, so for instance if a book has talking pigs that would be -10 points. I don't know what icon would represent anthropomorphism, I guess a talking pig maybe. But is that too detailed? Icons have to be schematic. Maybe I can get Alice Chau to help.

(why is it that 99% of all kids books feature heavy use of anthropomorphism? inevitably there are pigs and cows and whatnot dressed in clothes, in place of humans. WHY? It seems like the obvious answer is "it's less intimidating/threatening to kids" but I don't get why this is such a universal trope.)

Other negative icons:

NIGHTMARE INDUCING - canonical example would be this book I picked up at SF Public Library Big Book Sale about this giant trapped in a well... there's this one page where you look directly into the well and see the giant's huge unblinking eye staring back at you... I shudder to think of it

WTF - here the canonical example is this Richard Scarry book we were reading, one of his standard "here's how the world works with handy labels" type deals. And we're looking at a farm... and the farmers are of course anthropomorphised... so it's Farmer Pig raising cows... and I guess pigs... WTF? Even Izzy saw what was wrong with this picture. I guess WTF at a lower level becomes "illogic / dissonance" like why is Little Bear friends with all these animals but he eats fish... why isn't he friends with fish? Every book would probably get that icon though so not very useful.

ON THE NOSE / OVERLY MORALISTIC

RHYME WITHOUT METER - UGH I hate when people do this. Look at Dr. Seuss and learn from his example people!!

CAPITALIST DOGMA - This is for any book that has "Worker Bee" and "Postman Dog" and so forth... you know the kind of books I mean. If you don't, this guide will show you (if it ever comes out)

PERPETUATES OUTDATED GENDER STEREOTYPES - Mommies belong in the kitchen and so forth.

There would be some positive icons too

EXCEPTIONAL ART - let's face it, kids books live or die by art. A book with great art and terrible writing will do just fine, the other way around forget it. Most good kids books have exceptional art though so perhaps we'd have to break it down further into art style...
-MUTED COLOR PALETTE
-NEOREALIST (or just, REALIST)
-WHIMSICAL YET FRIGHTENING (Maurice Sendak is the exemplar)
-STRAIGHT UP ADORABLE
-ABSTRACT

PAGES WITHOUT WORDS - not enough books make use of this technique. Have a break in the action and for several pages it's just a wordless sequence

ABOUT SOMETHING OTHER THAN FAMILIES OR ANIMALS OR SHIT - for instance, "How big is a million" - thank you

INTERESTING USE OF FORM - notable pop ups would go in here, and those McSweeneys books that expand into posters

BREAKS THE FOURTH WALL - Harold and the Purple Crayon, Monster at the End of This Book

LEADS NICELY INTO BEDTIME -- you know like "Goodnight Moon" or "Harold and the Purple Crayon" where the book ends with the kid getting into bed

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