>PW has announced its (casually) bookseller-chosen Cuffie Awards, with Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury’s Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes as the picture book pick. It is a big favorite here, too, getting a starred review and a spot on our Fanfare 2009 list. Every parent I know loves it, and the text and design beg for story hour sharing.
But I have a nagging problem with it. The whole point of the book is that everyone has ten fingers and ten toes, and that while we celebrate each baby’s uniqueness, isn’t it great that they (and, by extension, we) have this particular array of anatomy in common? “And both of these babies, / as everyone knows, / had ten little fingers / and ten little toes.”
Except, of course, when babies don’t. Not everybody does–some are born with fewer (or lose them due to disease or accident), some come with an extra one or two, some people don’t even have two hands, for God’s sake. I know that these people are relatively rare, but there is something that bothers me when a book so determinedly inclusive manages to be so clueless about what it’s actually saying. If this book had a mouth, it would be cramming all ten toes into it right now. You would never (knowingly) read this book to a child who didn‘t have ten fingers and toes, would you? And shouldn’t that give us pause about sharing it with the ones who do?
I don’t usually have much patience for debates about “sensitivity” and have no idea why this book bugs me as much as it does.