Thursday, September 23, 2010

V is for Vegetable! (Sometimes): The Deconstruction of a Children's Alphabet Book

People often ask me whether or not I read to Timmy. I always inform them that I do and then proceed to qualify my assertion by saying that, though I read him the standard infant fare of Dr. Seuss and other "Baby's First" books, I also try to balance that with a healthy amount of classical literature. I explain that I am currently reading him Dante's Divine Comedy aloud (we have already traversed the cantos of the Inferno and Purgatorio and are a third of the way through Paradiso at the writing of this entry) and, when said inquisitors hear this, they almost universally raise an eyebrow with a confused, half-hearted and unintentionally awkward smile. I am sure that both reactions are a result of their trying to determine whether or not I am serious (I am) as they attempt to process whether such an activity is ridiculous or not (it's not).  If I am in an amiable mood, I will explain that the purpose of reading to children is to expose them to a variety of vocabulary and to help them to hear spoken language.  I then posit that there is nothing better to use than classical verse poetry to achieve those ends.  There is a vast lexicon that is used throughout the pages of Dante (or any other worthy poet) and the lines of verse have a musicality to them that I believe helps the listener to pick up on the nuances of the oral language; it is the same reason that I expose Timmy to a variety of musical forms instead of the typical crap you see on television programs aimed at children.  I believe that he will develop a sophisticated ear for music and to aid him in this I offer him a differentiated curriculum, if you will, of bands and genres.

The bottom line is that reading him Dante, Mann, Joyce, Keats, or Yeats, at the worst, will have no impact on him whatsoever; it's not doing him any harm and the possible reward far outweighs the non-existent risk.

Still, though, one needs to build a foundation before one can go waxing poetic on the literary classics.  What better way to do this than to read Timmy a book about the alphabet?  One letter per page...with pictures!!! 

Now, for legal reasons (and because I'm essentially just bullshitting, as with most of my posts), I will NOT be identifying the book that I will be discussing.  You see, the problem is that, on the surface, it is a lovely read.  It has twenty-six pages (the Lord is a beneficent Lord!), each of which features an oversized and colorful picture that is meant to be the focus of the page.  There is also a word that identifies the picture, starting with the letter that corresponds to that page's placement, and that begins a sentence that describes some sort of characteristic or action that is relevant to said object.  The sentence even rhymes with another one on another page!  When one delves deeper, though, (as I am often wont to do), the validity of the images and words associated therein begins to break down; the centre cannot hold...widening gyre...blah blah blah you get the picture. 

Now I understand that this might seem similar to a popular piece that Maddox, the world renowned Internet satirist did where he judged children's artwork but there are a few fundamental differences between his work and mine.  First, I DON'T think that I can draw better than children (though I am MUCH faster and stronger than them and, from the looks of it, Maddox as well).  Second, I am not judging children's artwork but rather a book that containers artwork for children.  Lastly, it is not the artwork, in isolation, that is in question but rather the complete package of each page that I am calling into question.

Ultimately, the book begins to seem detrimental to the development of any youngster unfortunate enough to be brainwashed by its blatantly erroneous subject matter.  Don't believe me?  Just look at the title of this entry, take a deep breath, and come with me on this journey of deconstruction.


Way to go with a Granny Smith. What kind of clusterfuck is this? When kids draw apples in kindergarten and first grade they wind up looking like blobs or contorted circles. But what COLOR are those blobs and circles usually? RED, moron! Let's look at the variety of common apple-types and their colors and see which one--red or green--would have been the better choice, based PURELY upon statistical recurrence:

RED Delicious:  Red.
Fuji:  Red.
Granny Smith:  Green.
Gala:  Red.
Red Rome:  Red.
Winesap:  Red.
Mcintosh:  Red.
Jonathan:  Red.
Ambrosia:  Red.
Braeburn:  Red.

That's nine for Red and one for Green.  Assholes.

I wish that were the only issue but it's not. "A is for apple"--indeed.   "...that I like to bite"--oh is it now? Really? Then why are we looking at a whole apple? Hmm? Why not a before and after diagram? I'm beginning to wonder just how much you REALLY like biting that apple. Way to lie to an infant.



C IS for car that drives around town...but not this piece of shit.  Not only is it a crappy rendition of a half-assed Volkswagen Beetle--it's not even a replica of "a car that drives around town." How can we tell? The headlights are painted on! Are headlights painted onto car that drives around town [sic]? NO! They are painted onto stock cars that drive around race track and are not allowed on streets and highways. Plus not only are there no door handles, there are no doors at all--this abortion of a vehicle is one solid piece! It's a manufacturer's nightmare. Plus the windshield resembles that of a plane more so than that of a car that drives around town.

I bet there aren't even any seats in there. You probably have to stand up just to see out of that terribly placed windshield and over that enormous caboose of a front-end. I'm guessing that there isn't even an engine in there. It's probably a leper on a treadmill.

Car that drives around town indeed.


The elephant is the largest living land mammal, the most massive of which weighed in at almost 24,000 pounds and stood over thirteen feet in height; needless to say, it is an ENORMOUS animal known for its phenomenal girth, its gigantic trunk, its often impressive tusks...but its feet? Its FEET? First of all, this is CLEARLY an Asian Elephant as noted by its smaller ears and more Snuffleupagusesque shape. ALREADY we're focusing on the smallness aspect. Nonetheless, it is a large animal. Just look at it! Its head is huge, its trunk is long...hell, even its TAIL is a good three or four feet long! But look at its feet--they're smaller than the friggin' thing's EARS! Can you imagine having smaller feet than ears?! (We're not looking at you Michael Phelps--it's amazing that you don't flap those suckers and fly away). It's ridiculous even to fathom. I mean, look at those hind legs! They're wider than the feet beneath them. It's amazing this poor misshapen creature isn't wobbling and hobbling its way across the Asian plains (just kidding!!!  We both know this sucker came from a zoo and is destined to wind up in some Thai meat market). I mean, outside of its eyes, the smallest feature ON it is its feet! And no, they AREN'T very big! I mean, just about everything on this sucker is huge...except its feet. When you put it in relative comparison to the rest of its body, it's not even close. Looks like someone failed anatomy 101. 



This one is either attempting to be ironically humorous or is just blatantly failing to pull through on what it promises; my money is on the latter. First of all, these goldfish must possess superpowers or exist in some alternate dimension where water does not exist because, if you look closely, they are obviously NOT floating in water but rather in air. This spits in the face of everything we know about the biology of the goldfish. The next point that I take contention with is the fact that goldfish blow "bubbles of air"--a fallacy that is purported and perpetuated by this page of the book. Way to spread your propaganda G-page! First of all, fish don't inhale air--they breathe by opening their mouths and pulling in water. They then force the water through their gills, which have special structures that remove oxygen from the water and then release carbon dioxide back into the water. Do you know what that means? IT IS PHYSICALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOLDFISH TO BLOW BUBBLES OF AIR! Air is a mixture with very specific components, namely nitrogen, oxygen, argon, carbon dioxide, and water vapor. Does that sound like something a goldfish would make? NO! Because if it was then the oceans, seas, rivers, and lakes would consist of a higher proportion of oxygen, which would thereby preclude certain species of animals from existing because they cannot survive in a super-oxygen enriched body of water.



Way to use blue in an extremely loose sense. It is obvious to anyone who isn't colorblind that the ink made her hands teal blue. Don't believe me? Follow this link:   and look at Teal Blue and this picture side-by-side. 54, 117, 136! (It's the RGB value pervert--can you even imagine those values as a man or woman's measurements? Good Lord!) It's undeniable. Plus, what's up with her ridiculous inward smile? You're supposed to show your teeth when you smile, goofball, not try to turn your mouth inside out. Plus she looks like she has a bowl haircut with two enormous pigtails. I bet she even has hairy underarms.



K is for kitten? Is that a fact? Then why is the feely part of this page a BALL OF YARN THAT STARTS WITH THE LETTER Y (OR B IF YOU'RE GOING BY MY SENTENCE STRUCTURE AND NOT MY OVERARCHING ARGUMENT ON THIS ONE)!? Why is the color on BOTH the font AND the yarn a bright, Commie red? Hmm? HMM!? EXACTLY! Another anarchist agenda. That kitten CLEARLY fades into the background and the focus of the page is UNDENIABLY on the RED ball of yarn.
The cat isn't even looking at the yarn! It's probably watching a snuff film.

Yeah, that's right--it's an 8mm reference. God was Nick Cage AMAZING in that movie...

Isn't it weird that the first six pages I'm taking to task are all on the left side and are odd-numbered? You guessed it: another libertarian conspiracy. AEGIK--it's probably some sort of code word meant to undermine the success of our capitalistic society. Don't believe me? Isn't it also odd that we are going through a "recession" and I'm critiquing this "book" on my "blog"? Hmm? HMM!?


"S is for Strawberry to eat as a snack." Oh really?  O RLY? This is undeniably part of a yuppie vegan agenda. I'm surprised they didn't specify further with "organic, pesticide-free, locally grown strawberry to eat as a snack."

I'm also surprised that R wasn't for Rice Cake.

I bet you let your kid have a no foam, non-fat, no whip, extra light iced Caramel Machiatto after nap-time, isn't that right?

Pretentious douche.


What is with this book and its blatant contradictions? It's as if it's standing there with a smug look on its face going, "Yeah, I KNOW it's wrong. Whaddya gonna DO aboud it?" (Evidently, the book has a Brooklyn accent for some reason, which, as anyone from Brooklyn knows, requires the replacement of all T's with D's. It's never "think about it" but rather "dink aboud id.")

Now I can't argue that T is for train because, undeniably, it is BUT...driving down the track?

Seriously? Are you fucking kidding me? First of all, this train has wheels that are more similar in design to an automobile's tires (CAR THAT DRIVE THROUGH TOWN!) than a standard rail train's. Second of all...THERE ARE NO FUCKING TRACKS! I'm ignoring the fact that, even if there WERE tracks, that this piece of shit couldn't POSSIBLY drive down them (though it's interesting that the caption DOES say "drive" down the track (I KNOW it says "driv-ing" but I didn't want to use another [sic]--one was enough, even for me) even if it is grammatically incorrect (train tracks (plural) are what trains generally traverse) unless it is ACTUALLY referring to a racing track, in which case it would likely find that fake-ass Volkswagen knock-off from the letter C, which, if we were lucky, it would crash into and thus eradicate both of them). I hate this train and its shitty block design. WAY TO FAIL TO LEAVE ROOM FOR A CONDUCTOR NAZI TRAIN!

(Again, lots of red on this one. Coincidence? Doubtful.)


Umbrellas DO keep you dry...but apparently not dry enough for this little perfectionista. The fact that they are fake shiny raindrops is ignored by her. How do I know this? If U really WAS for umbrella for keeping you dry (yeah...) then why in God's name would she ALSO be wearing a matching rainslicker? She's obviously not that concerned with getting soaked and catching a chill because she's rocking what appears to be a Hanes white cotton undershirt (Men's Size Small) beneath that fashion-nightmare of a slicker. The real question is whether miss-I-need-to-be-in-control-at-all-times is wearing matching green galoshes with ankle socks below the page's cut-off.

Look at that smile and hair. It makes me want to think, "That's SO Raven" but in actuality I am forced to conclude that "That's SO Middle Management." That's right baby--you're not destined for the executive suite with such poor cooperative skills! I hope you enjoy eye-fucking the corner office from your 6x6 cubicle set out in the common area with all the rest of the worker bees. Don't worry, I'm sure that you'll succumb to the hypertension and clogged arteries from your steady diet of late nights and Chipotle for lunch before the Carpal Tunnel transforms your hands cruelly into unusable claws that will FINALLY match your exterior to the cold, vapid, ugly disfigured interior that you call a soul.

Oh wait--that IS soOoOOoOoOOoo Raven.  


Oh. Fucking. Nelly. So here we are: not at the end but at the climax of our adventure through this book. V is for vegetables. What a great opportunity for a little edification--a teachable moment, if you will. V is for vegetables. An opportunity to expose children to the world of leafy greens and hearty root vegetables...but take a closer look. V is for vegetables...sometimes? Which ones should I buy, indeed! Let's take a look into the basket and see what we have to select from:

Red Bell Peppers
Sweet Potatoes/Yams
Red Cabbage
Green Cabbage
Yellow Bell Pepper

Red Onion
Radish OR Cherry Tomato
Red Potatoes
Which ones should I buy? How about...THE ONES THAT ARE ACTUALLY FUCKING VEGETABLES!?

Let's put the items to the test!

Scallion? NOPE! (see red onion below)

Red Bell Peppers? FRUIT. Fail.

Sweet Potatoes/Yams? Check.

Red Cabbage? Check.

Green Cabbage? Check.

Cauliflower? Check.

Shallots? NOT a vegetable. (See red onion below)

Carrots? Check.


Garlic? Condiment or seasoning element, not vegetable. FAIL! (See below)

Red Onion? Onions are often considered to be vegetables but this is just blatantly wrong. It is a relative of scallions, garlic, and shallots, all of which are used as condiments or seasoners and thus are not vegetably. Aside from that, onions steal moisture from other vegetables that they are stored with. If onions WERE vegetables this very trait would make them vegetable vampires. You want your kid eating vampires? Didn't think so.


Radish? Check...unless those are cherry tomatoes...then FRUIT FAIL again.

Red Potatoes? Check.

Squash? FRUIT. AGAIN. Chalk up another fail.

The Tally
Vegetables: 7 (I think it's a radish--benefit of the doubt)

Non-Vegetables: 7

It's a friggin' wash! Which ones should you buy? How about the ones that are fucking vegetables! Or is ANYTHING healthy a vegetable to you, Mr. Wendy McDonald, the Burger King of KFC? I'd almost rather the yuppie health freak shoving strawberries down her kid's throats to this ineptitude.

Just kidding--fast food tastes great! French Fries = Vegetable.


Unless you're wearing teflon or some other non-stick material, the odds are that you DO get wet when you're splashing around and, to the untrained eye, that seems to be precisely what is going on in THIS picture. But take a closer look. IS this young man wet? Do you SEE a single drop of water on him? Can I POSSIBLY continue to place the EMPHASIS wherever I WANT? (Quick aside: seriously--the next time that you're having a conversation with someone, do your best to end your sentence with a higher pitch than the rest of what you have said (make sure that it is a declarative statement or an imperative, at the very least). It will make it sound like a question and will drive people CRAZY! "So I went to the STORE THIS WEEKEND" (pitch getting higher at store and rising until weekend). Guaranteed--there will be a few beats of silence before your conversant will say something like, "Oh yeah? And?" It helps if you don't look at them when you do this. Trust me--A LOT of fun.)

Anyway, it is obvious, upon closer inspection, that this boy is merely covered with bubbles and is in no way shape or form "wet." Nor is he "splashing around." Do you "see" him sitting in "water"? HARDLY! Will I "keep" utilizing "air quotation marks" for random "words"? Nope. I've gotten it out of my system. By the way--if this kid really WERE wet, he'd be able to rock a better bubble beard than that creepy ass racing stripe dribbling down his chest.



"Z is for zebra at the end of the book!" I could really go in on this page purely for the fact that there is no rhyme but that would be disingenuous of me--it rhymes with the last word of the previous page. My gripe with this one is the fact that it ends with Zebra. Seriously? Zebra?! Way to take the easy way out! Another blown opportunity to help transform our youngsters into erudite abecedarians. Why not go for ziggurat? Zeitgeist? Zho? Zoarium? Zugzwang? Zyzzyva? No--we're going with zebra. Not even a cool picture of zebra like this one that I took at the Honolulu Zoo on Oahu:

but a regular picture of an ordinary zebra. Is the zebra's head always smaller than its ass? Theirs is.

Seriously--why not end with a bang? Something with pizzazz? Who the fuck hasn't seen a zebra anyway? (I mean aside from these Palestinians: )

All in all, nearly half of this book fails on such a basic, fundamental level, it doesn't deserve to have an ISBN identity or UPC value. I COULD give this book a grade of F (for failure) but, who knows, maybe I can give it an A (for Abhorrent), B (for Bad), C (for catastrophe), or D (for dearth of literary value). I think I'll pull a Prince and give it a grade of:


(Tilde, for the uninitiated--"Squigur," for those in the know. And those in the know know that that man was and is shaped like an ')

Who knew that an alphabet book could be so deep?

UPDATE: Apparently, "Squigur" source was Captain Ah-Vah-Tah and NOT "He-Who-Shall-Pull-The-Wool-Over-Their-Eyes, So-To-Speak."  I apologize for the mix-up.