On Linguistic Diversity:
I love the diversity of voices in children’s literature. But when educators utter the D word, they don’t generally mean rural white southerners from the 50s. For this blog, I’m going to include any marginalized voice that strikes my fancy. (So, they’re in too.)
Cue Maynard Jenkins, who narrates this tall tale with a slew of folk language: “Whippersnapper”, “Don’t be all-fired anxious”, “warm as Grandma’s gravy” and “slipperier than a weasel in a grease pit” to mention a few. Maynard’s southern seems authentic to my ears (eyes?). Since Helen Ketteman spent her formative years in Georgia; I’ll call it legit.
In mass media a there’s long standing tradition of intellectually challenged rural southern characters: Mater from Pixar/Disney Cars for example. So Ketteman’s choice of a witty main character sporting Southern lingo seems like a good counterpoint.
About the Book:
This story is more than another voice in Bakhtin’s heteroglossia. It’s a wonderfully wild tale of Santa moving the North Pole operations to southern Indiana, a creepy backwoods witch, wind tossing cows four miles across the countryside, and a snow storm that had Maynard scrambling out of a chimney to escape his own house.
Outside of the traditional favorites I’ve already highlighted, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and The Night Before Christmas, this is my favorite Christmas story to read aloud because it captivates the little ears within my circle of influence.
There are more illustrated versions of Clement C. Moore’s beloved The Night Before Christmas than dishonest politicians in Washington; but Bruce Whatley‘s is my favorite.
Whatley obviously did his research when he placed this masterpiece back in Moore’s 1820s context. His attention to historic detail, from the house’s weathered wood board siding to the simplicity of the toys, paired to this classic poem transports the reader to a long lost (and often romanticized) era.
This could be the launching point to talk about how life was radically different 200ish years ago (among a myriad of other curricular objectives). But I prefer not to dissect every piece of literature in my class. So, on the afternoon before Christmas break, I’m going to read aloud for the love of literature.
If you have only seen the Jim Carrey movie, I’m sorry. The book is infinitely better (as is often the case).
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the definitive Christmas classic of its era; and Dr. Suess’s message – that Christmas is more than presents – still seems relevant. If fact, it might be more relevant now: when so many people spend the holiday season plunging into an ocean of debt.
I have to admit that the book’s classic status strikes me as peculiar: given the general cultural consensus of unbridled consumerism. We seem to know that we could be finding meaning outside of big box stores. But the allure of the latest over-hyped products must be easier to swallow than the alternative.
I was thinking of writing a spin-off picture book, How Shameless Consumerism Stole Christmas. But until some publisher risks their reputation on my whim, the Grinch will be there to remind a willingly distracted culture that there’s more to the season than piling up stuff.