Easter is on its way!
Betty Bunny Loves Easter
By Michael B. Kaplan; illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
The picture book reflects, in a certain sense, the culture and attitudes of the time in which it was written. Its art and narrative are born of an age that speaks to that generation of readers – and many times, thank goodness, beyond. You have only to look back on the Caldecott Award winners and Honor Books that began in 1938 to the present day to see proof of that reality.
If you have the time, it’s pretty interesting to see the evolution of childhood reflected in these charming books. And sometimes, it’s even a bit unsettling to see the culture of today reflected in, and through the eyes of a child in the current crop of picture books.
Enter Betty Bunny. There is no doubt that she is an independent, challenging handful who has a mind of her own. No problem there. It’s a good thing to be independent, curious and push the limits of the status quo – at times. Betty is all of those things. A bit on the high energy, overactive range of normal, Betty is consumed with whatever new experience comes her way, whether it be shopping, chocolate cake, playing soccer, admitting mistakes, or here, in her latest adventure, taking on the tradition of egg gathering at Easter – as a competition.
Betty may typify the average young person today who is on a learning curve when it comes to adjusting expectations with reality.
Betty is determined to BE the Easter Bunny when she grows up. Sweet.
Betty sees endless days of coloring eggs, consuming chocolate and carrying chock full baskets! She is gently reminded by her mom that the specialness of anything is BECAUSE it is not the everyday. No convincing this hare, via mom’s hint.
A determined Betty avers that “I always find the most eggs..” But this year, she is quick on the uptake as she notices the help she is receiving from her family members, nudging undiscovered eggs her way. Hey, Betty! You really are beginning to notice things and an awareness of the larger reality is important. You are growing up; as she instantly insists on solo egg gathering.
But there’s the rub. For Betty, left to her own devices comes up empty and declares in high dudgeon that “Easter is yucky.” “I hate Easter.” Whoa, Nellie er Betty!
Her parents come to the rescue, reminding Betty that they are proud of her independence in wanting to find her OWN eggs and therefore will mean so much more – even if it’s only a trio of eggs. Praise from parents is good – for really important things that mean something.
Okay. Did our bunny heroine really learn anything? Maybe. But what did she learn? When her mom finds her rifling through her purse toward the close of the book in order to find funds for a BIGGER basket next year, she is told that she has to ask permission first. So Betty, the feisty finagler, replies with a smirk, “If I ask, you’ll just give it to me. It means so much more if I find it myself.” Cute.
Turning the logic table on her mom, I am fairly itching to see the imaginary page AFTER this picture book denouement. Does Betty’s behavior have any consequences? And, what will she learn from this episode, if it does not? That, to me, is the bigger question.
Redirecting children’s behavior to better choices is part of the value learning curve of childhood.
The ending of this book put me in mind of a children’s TV host long gone, named Soupy Sales. On his January 1st 1965, Channel 5 morning children’s show, he jokingly told his young listeners to go into mom’s purse and dad’s wallet. “Take those little green pieces of paper with the pictures of men in beards, and mail them to me.” Many moms and dads were sleeping in from night before New Year’s Eve parties. Soupy asked the kids to send those “pieces of paper” to him. Result? Complaints flooded in, and some to the FCC about teaching kids to steal. And a 2-week suspension was the result. And when he returned, his popularity was bigger than ever!
Now, let me be very clear on this point, I am in no way suggesting this picture book is in any way akin to Soupy’s request, but its ending is not cute by half.
Young readers see themselves in picture books many times – the good and the not so good; and that’s great. Life is for children, after all, learning about the journey through their mistakes and successes.
But just perhaps, we may want to at least have our parent/child tete a tetes in picture books, end on a note that doesn’t allow the child to have the final say as to what THEY feel is acceptable behavior – when it’s not. Not in a picture book or in real life.
I love you, Betty; truly I do. And that is why we’re going to have a little chat, sweetie, about you and mom’s purse. I’ll talk and you listen – for a minute.