Sunday, 8 December 2013

Welcome back to my life, Fairy Tales!


My son (who has PWS) has always loved books - slightly embarrassingly, his first intelligible word was "bookie".  So it's probably not surprising that there are a lot of children's books in our house.  Part of this abundance is due to the fact that grandparents and other family members were "trained" not to give food treats to my son and so typically arrived with a book in hand instead.  And, unlike the food treats that they may have given to others, these items have lasted.

This is lucky for my daughter who is now making good use of her big brother's library.  But I recently noticed that we have very few traditional fairy tales or fables.  I wasn't quite sure why this was initially.  And then I remembered ...

The traditional tales of the type that I grew up with simply had too many unhelpful messages about food in them.  And, being super cautious new parents of a baby with PWS, we had decided to take no chances.  So, we banned any books that contained references to eating on impulse, eating to celebrate, or eating as a reward.  Given that most references to food in children's books seemed to fall into one of these categories, to simplify matters I told my family and friends not to buy any books that contained any references to eating or food whatsoever.  That included a lot of fairy tales and fables!  On reflection it's amazing that we managed to fill a bookshelf for our son at all.  It's also amazing that our family members persevered with bringing him books given that they had to carefully scrutinise every page of every book in advance of purchase to comply with our exacting requirements.

Now that my son is older and accustomed to a strict food regime I no longer try to shelter him from messages about food in books.    In fact, he and I have recently finished a book with the (very appropriate!) title "Ratburger".   And I have recently started to buy my daughter all the fairy tales and fables that I read as a child.  But, for my own amusement, I have also gone through them to find out what I found objectionable in the first place, which has reminded me (even if I didn't need another reminder) that in my culture unhelpful references to food really are everywhere!
So, here it is, my top 10 popular books to avoid if you don't want your child to exposed to unhelpful references to food or eating:

1. Little Red Riding Hood
2. Hansel and Gretel
3. The Magic Porridge Pot
4. The Gingerbread Man
5. Goldilocks and the Three Bears
6. Chicken Licken
7. Rapunzel
8. The Three Billy Goats Gruff
9. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
10. The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse

Incidentally, I've just been Googling to see if I could locate a list of children's books that contain no references to food.  I've found none.  Is it possible that I've just conceived of a topic for a list that someone hasn't already created?!  In case anyone is interested, there are, however, lots of academic articles on representations of food in children's literature and lists of food-inspired children's books!

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