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Curious George Gets High

Curious George Takes a JobI try to read quality new picture books to my Pre-K students, often using Horn Book recommendations as a guide (shameless plug). That being said, classic stories and characters are still highly popular among the children and thus get read frequently as well. Often we find things in classic literature that we don’t come across in modern books, such as the overt racism in Dr. Seuss’s illustrations for If I Ran The Zoo. Other times the inappropriate aspect of an older book is pretty comical.

My favorite example of this is found in Curious George Takes a Job by H. A. Rey and Margaret Rey. The book begins with a standard Curious George plot line, but then on page 37 something hilarious happens. George finds a bottle of ether, smells it, feels his head spinning, feels like he is flying, sees stars and rings, and finally passes out. When I first came across that page while reading the book years ago, I considered skipping it. But like George, I am curious, so I took the risk and read it to see if it got any reaction. In that instance the children seemed to take it in stride and did not ask questions. However, reading that scene in subsequent years has garnered reaction.

One year when a girl’s hand shot up to ask what happened to George, I explained that George has smelled something that caused him to become sick and that some things that we smell or drink can make us really sick. This ended up sparking a lengthy discussion where children talked about their own experiences. One girl talked about her mom telling her not to smell the nail polish remover and a boy brought up the fact that his parents told him that beer and coffee were grown up drinks that children should never have. That discussion is an example of one of the possible benefits of occasionally exposing children to slightly risqué material; you never know where it may lead but as a teacher you have to be prepared to anticipate how you might guide the discussion.

I’d like to end this post with two questions for readers of this blog:

  1. How do you handle potentially inappropriate material in children’s books?
  2. Which current popular children’s book character would you like to see get high in a story? (I’d have to go with Mo Willems’s elephant Gerald because he seems kinda high strung.)

Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Teddy Kokoros About Teddy Kokoros

Teddy Kokoros works as a Pre-K teacher and adjunct early childhood education professor in Boston, MA.



  1. I think high Gerald might be a drag. He’d probably be paranoid and annoying. Piggie, on the other hand, would be hilarious. Oh, wait. This isn’t “who would you like to get high with” is it?

  2. It’s easy to give children too little credit and forget the terrifying things they may have seen already. I read Babar to a few today and we talked about poachers killing elephants for their tusks and the need for laws. I’ve taught kids that have been through abuse, neglect, and fathers in prison. We need books that deal with the tough stuff so we can teach them that they’re not alone and they can handle it.
    I’m pretty sure Christopher Robin is high on something already, so I’ll say the mouse from “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” He’s way too hyper for his own good. On the other hand, he might eat all the cookies.

  3. I would read the whole story but paraphrase and simplify the inappropriate part. If the children ask questions, I would give them facts that they could understand.

    As far as the character getting high, I think that Clifford, the big red dog, would be funny.

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