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>Teddy bear, teddy bear, do a trick–

>Teddy bear, teddy bear–oops, better not. Someone from Maine might be reading. If the staff and supporters of the Read With ME organization were less interested in covering their, um, bottoms and more invested in actually defending Schoolyard Rhymes, they might attend to the subtitle: Kids’ Own Rhymes for Rope Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun. They could also learn from Susan Dove Lempke’s Horn Book review of the book, from our September/October 2005 issue: “Those who know childhood humor will not be shocked that many of the poems do feature underwear and insults.” “There are words in there I don’t allow in my house” says outraged Maine mother Erica Smith. Yes, and this is why we fucking make you send your kids to school.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >kids don’t even need a book – those rhymes have been recited in New England at least since the 1930s

  2. Kelly Fineman says:

    >Well said.

    Besides, everyone knows that “Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider.”

    I wonder if it has my favorite version of the Cinderella dressed in Yella rhyme:

    Cinderella, dressed in yella,
    Went downstairs to meet her fella,
    On her way her girdle busted
    How many people were disgusted?

    (From the shortlived comic featuring Siegfried and Roy)

  3. >I always think back on a parent, an economics Ph.D. who had put aside an academic career for full-time child raising, whom I spoke with at a dinner party. She was saying that she had told her daughter to stop reading Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. What was interesting was she didn’t mind the menstruation, bras, etc–but she minded a scene where Margaret sees her mother taking cookies out of the oven and wonders why her mother doesn’t work outside of the home, like some others do.

    My point? You give 18,000 copies of a book away, there will always be a few people who find a problem with something in the book. We once had a sales rep at Viking who had an issue with a book buyer who didn’t like that Mr. Mallard leaves his family for a period of time in Make Way for Duckings. And I once game the same book to a little girl I knew, but her mother didn’t like it because she was a single parent and the father played too big a part. AND I gave a copy of Madeline to a friend who was recovering from surgery and she opened the book and said “Eek! Nuns!” and slammed it shut. So, what can you do?

  4. >Oh, my God, your last line made me laugh so hard I wet my pants.

  5. >Kelly – loved the Cinderella rhyme! Thanks for the laugh.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. It is just a shame that instead of a parent simply choosing to not let their child look at said book, as is their right and parental obligation, they choose this option instead.

    As Elizabeth aptly noted, you can not please everyone. I wonder how many of those 18,000 books were well received? How much media time would the story be given if those parents had something good to say?

  6. Roger Sutton says:

    >I LOVE “Eek! Nuns!”

    And it reminds me:

    (to the tune of the caissons song)

    We are strong, we are brave
    From the liquor that we hold
    In the cellars of St. Mary’s school.

    Run, run, run
    I think I see a nun,
    Pick up your liquor and run!
    If a nun should appear,
    just say “Sister, have a beer
    from the cellars of St. Mary’s School”

  7. >Yes, what Ellen said! I started cackling gleefully.

  8. >In 1959, when Peter and Iona Opie’s classic collection The Lore and Language of School Children was published, one reviewer called it “The book that will horrify the nation.” Looks like not much has changed — kids are still seeing the teacher’s underpants, aren’t they? The Opies had this to say about playground rhymes: “Try to analyze the sound of children at play: the thin screaming noise can be heard from several streets away. Vitality? Yes. But come close and step into the playground: a kind of defiant light-heartedness envelops you. The children are clowning. They are making fun of life, and if an enquiring adult becomes too serious about words and rules, they say, ‘It’s only a game, isn’t it? It’s just for fun. I don’t know what it means. It doesn’t matter.’ ”

  9. >”Yes, and this is why we fucking make you send your kids to school.”

    Too funny! That and the line about the nuns.

    I love the presence of irreverence
    In the world of children’s books.
    It keeps at bay,
    The fuming fray,
    And all the dirty looks.


  10. >yeah, the kids have to do this and adults too but let’s have some compassion for the parents too. No matter how uptight and boring they are being about fuck and any words that they trip over, they do it from a frantic attempt to keep their children safe and this too stems from love. I think it is annoying and wrongheaded but I don’t doubt it is well-intentioned. The world is a scary place and the moment you have to give your child over to it without controls is a scary moment. I always thought this was the genesis of HOLES. Sachar wrote it when his daughter was going into grade four which any parent will tell you is when you realize that you can’t walk hand in hand through life with your child. Terrible things can happen. You hope you can prepare them but you really can’t possibly. Check out the lullaby at the end. This is not a book for children. This is a book for parents. It’s a book that came from his passionate love for his daughter. And that’s all these Maine people are doing in their own, possibly, sad way. so cut them some slack.

  11. >We all hate fusspots and censors and the Maine woman they quote sounds like both. But it’s worth noting that many of our old chestnuts regarding the sanctity of the library don’t apply here. The children aren’t choosing the books freely but being sent home with them; there’s no possible argument that they’re old enough to “judge for themselves”; I don’t think this text in particular passes the “you can’t please everybody” test, in that I doubt most kindergarten teachers would allow it into their classroom discourse.

    Obviously I have no problem with making it available to children, but I’m not sure my first choice is that my kid comes home singing BOYS GO TO JUPITER TO GET MORE STUPIDER. What’s so horrible about telling the program, hey, you guys are awesome, but different book next time, okay?

  12. >These books went out to every kindergartner in the state. That’s a huge responsibility for those who choose which title will go out. I think the choice should be conservative when selecting a single title for that many children. People have such diverse backgrounds and value systems. Perhaps the program could offer 2 titles for each child and let the child and/or family make the final choice. I’m not sure I want the state sending my child books anyway–kind of a loaded and creepy concept when you think about it.

  13. Fran Hodgkins says:

    >So Erica Smith doesn’t let her kids use the word “underwear”?

    Seriously, though. I remember there were books my parents disapproved of, but they didn’t stop me from reading them (TV was another story — censorship ruled). I could talk to my mother about anything I read, and that is what I try to do with my own daughter. Perhaps if Ms. Smith talked about the rhymes with her child and expressed her feelings, rather than trying to take the book out of everyone hands, she would be more effective as a parent. It’s a great chance to teach; too bad she chose the easier path.

  14. >I’m guessing that if the committee had gone with the safe choice of some insipid, guess-how-much-i-love-you-forever-and-then-some, empty calorie, 32 page “hug,” there would be just as much outrage. But it would come from folks with enough perspective to recognize the overriding value of the program, irrespective of the title chosen, and the good sense to refrain from ruckus-raking.

  15. >If parents don’t like the book their child brings home, why don’t they donate it to their local library or a homeless shelter? That way those who would welcome a free book don’t lose out.

  16. >

    Just curious to read your comments on this one…

  17. rindambyers says:

    >I was not exposed to a lot of English language play rhymes as a child in another culture, but my preacher daddy used to sing a song for us for fun that included the lyrics below–which could be REALLY offensive to some, I suppose…

    “Young folks, old folks,
    everybody come;
    Join the Baptist Sunday School; have a lot of fun;
    Please park your chewing gum and razors at the door…and hear a lot of stories that you never heard before…

    Daniel, he got sassy;
    Wouldn’t obey the King;
    The King, he ‘lowed he wouldn’t
    stand for sech a thing;
    Chucked him down the lion hole,
    with the lions underneath…
    But Daniel was a dentist and pulled out the lions’ teeth….” Not very religiously respectful, I know, I know…but now y’all know I got my big mouth….We got called worse things by other children than any of the insults in the rhymes in that book as minority children in another country…

  18. >I heard that Baptist sunday school song years ago in NHampshire – except it went “LADIES check your chewing gum” which I suppose is even more offensive to some.

  19. rindambyers says:

    >Particularly if you aren’t a Baptist! Which we weren’t. There are endless other verses which I have forgotten.

  20. >ah yes, like the mom who didn’t want her daughter to see Titanic – not because the ship sinking was terrifying and tragic or that there were dead people in the water but because the young teen daughter might see Kate Winslet’s breasts.

  21. >”Did you ever hear anyone say, ‘That work had better be banned because I might read it and it might be very damaging to me’?”

    – jules

  22. >Oops. I meant to attribute that quote to Joseph Henry Jackson.


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  30. >Another verse of the Sunday School rhyme:
    Adam was a young man
    And Eve she was his wife.
    They lived in the garden of Eden
    And they led a merry life
    ‘Til Eve ate the apple
    And Adam did the same.
    Then they moved to the suburbs
    And started raising Cain.

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