One of our purchases from the most excellent
Park Slope Methodist Church Book Sale (this weekend!) is a book that I
have no idea how they picked it out, what drew them, etc. etc.
a very multicultural, open-minded, gay-accepting book, working
earnestly to smash stereotypes, open people's minds, and so on. My
thought when I saw it, read the back, got the gist was: snooze. I tend to
shy away from overt-message books. The message so often tends to
crush the story, and the characters, with its heavy, earnest weight.
we brought it home, lo these many moons ago (two years?), a reading of
the title story was quickly requested. And yes, there was a lot of
heavy-handed (to a grown-up's eye) "The Duke thinks that only families with one mother and one father are OK, he's going to ruin the rest!" sort of thing, but whatever resistance I may have had was quickly overshadowed by children responses: they loved it. Or perhaps I mean LOVED IT. It
had a certain very agreeable silliness, and it moved quickly enough,
and for quite some time it was honored with Most-Requested-at-Bedtime
status. There are other stories in there, about girls who want to be
Hawk-Riders even though it's not allowed for girls, only boys (guess what happens?) and
lots of two-dad or two-mom or other underrepresented types of families,
but the Duke has always remained a favorite.
This book got relegated to the Discard Pile by Diana, who is on to more
complex pastures, but it was lovingly rescued by Chestnut, who plucked
it out, looked at me, and said, "Are you crazy? We can't give away this
one. That's a great story."
They've really loved this book, without any real awareness that it had a lesson to teach, an axe
to grind, or an ulterior motive, just with a pure appreciation of the
havoc a bunch of kids who talk funny can create, just because it's a
great story. Because maybe people are getting more tolerant. Maybe
books like this are showing kids that there is a wider world out there than the one that was represented in the books I read growing up. It's enough to give someone hope.