A Chicago dad’s lament: Lies my kid’s books told

This week’s blog post is by WDP co-host Matt Rocco, who lives in the Edgewater Glen neighborhood of Chicago with Professor Foster (his non-white, non-dad wife), their daughter Viva, and her collection of misinformation and foolishness known as Children’s Books.

Judy can feel Daddy’s scratchy face. Brown Bear sees a red bird looking at him. The tree was happy. Some “truths” are presented to us at an early age, and follow them from then on. But is everything fed to us by the Newbery and Caldecott winners of years past really true?

As I revisit books of my youth, from The Pokey Little Puppy to Little Bear, and discover new ones I’m forced to read ad nauseum, (Sandra Boynton, I’m putting you and your damned hippos and penguins on notice!) the gimlet-eye of the protective parent is causing me to see many children’s books in a new light. Their content seems to be misleading, at best, and, at worst, mischievous illusions meant to confuse us forever.

So let’s give the lie to our children’s libraries, shall we? Below are seven concepts, images, or items I’ve found in my child’s books that are completely erroneous.


Kites are the go-to representative of the shape known as “diamond,” one of the most absurdly overrated of the basic shapes. A diamond is pretty much just a square sitting in its corner, and yet it lives in books on the same level as the majestic circle, triangle, rectangle, and square. That in itself is offensive, but the ubiquity of kites in kids’ book? You’d think every summer day is spent with every person on earth flying a kite in the park, a kite with little symmetrical bows hanging down on that extra string that doesn’t lead to your hands.

And there’s the Ben Franklin thing, too. I don’t recall the details, but he allegedly invented electric keys or something with a kite? That doesn’t pass the sniff test. And we probably first read it in a children’s book.

A paper diamond on two sticks with a control string? That doesn’t even seem like a concept aerodynamic enough to try to build – like those oldey-timey gliders attached to bicycles and driven off of cliffs. Kites would never work.

In real life, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a kite, let alone flown one. You’ve never flown one either – you might THINK you have because your cousin’s buddy says he flew one once, but that clown also says he can bench press 600 pounds and that he once picked up a hitchhiker that disappeared when he got to her house … on the anniversary of her death!

Kites were just put into everyone’s books by the diamond-shapes lobby, and I, for one, am tired of their meddling.

There are no such thing as kites. It’s all baloney.

Mouse Holes

As soon as you read those two words, a ubiquitous image of came to mind – a perfect arch nibbled into base molding and drywall. It’s the kind of hole Jerry runs into, and when Tom tries to follow, his head explodes like a piñata of bone and viscera. If a book has a mouse, or a cat, or any kind of house, you’ll find a mouse hole along the wall – a pure compression form somehow designed and executed by vermin.

Have you ever seen one of these in the real world? Ever had to spackle one shut? Ever see one of your Swiss cheese wedges disappear into one?

You have not. Because Mouse Holes are malarkey

Dog Houses

I don’t think it’s even legal to have your dog live in a tiny shack with no HVAC in the backyard while you turn up the air and drink Hard Lemonade until the pain of living goes away. In kids’ books, though, every yard has a perfect little canine bungalow.

To build that tiny shack with a slant roof and a perfect arch door (see #2) is just absurd. I’ve never seen a dog house in a yard. I’ve never seen one for sale at Menard’s or Home Depot, and, frankly, Snoopy and Woodstock would just fall off of the thing! YOUR house is your dog’s house.

Dog houses?! Hogwash.


Little round houses made of ice? Wouldn’t that automatically crush you and freeze you to death? And yet every children’s book implies that smiling Eskimos live in these things, happily waving at us with their beige mittens.


Top Hats on Snowmen

No one owns a top hat unless they drive a horse and carriage in the park.

If anyone did own a top hat, they’d put it on a wrought iron coat and hat stand in the hallway, not on a ball of frozen water in the yard. Snowmen, on the odd occasion they are built, wear whatever hat you can find: a mesh baseball cap for a seed corn company or a hat for a TV show you don’t watch anymore that came packaged in the DVD box set (This Snow Man enjoys NCIS: Los Angeles!) – not rare Victorian haberdashery.


Animal Babies: the Most Important Thing in the World

Your child’s books would have you believe that 70 percent of your brainspace before age 5 should be used to store the nomenclature of juvenile animals.

A baby cow is a calf.

A baby horse is a foal.

A baby kangaroo is a joey.

A baby kangaroo?! Why do I even know that? Because I am brainwashed!

There is no reason any baby animal needs to be called anything other than a “baby <insert animal here>”. Never will you be forced to specifically shout, “Don’t touch that bear cub or the mama Grizzly will tear you in half!” Simply shouting, “Get away from the baby bear,” is much more effective.

Stop spending time teaching your kid what a “gosling” and a “piglet” are, and save some brain space for all the Civil War battles they will be memorizing in Social Studies soon.

Hokum! Bunkum! Flammery!

Frog and Toad are friends

Many varieties of frogs EAT toads, as evidenced in this clip. [Warning: graphic toad chomping video!]

Some toads are poisonous, and often poison the frogs that are out to make a snack of them.

Most animals are good at something, and frogs and toads are good at killing each other and getting run over by cars. What frogs and toads do NOT do is make cookies together or mail letters using snails. Nor do they go sledding, or read each other bedtime stories.

Bosh, I say, and humbug!

Viva Rocco (Age 2), Frog Hiding in Grass, 2013, Chalk on Blackboard

So, let the reader beware. Don’t take your cues from worms in Tyrolean hats riding in apple cars or rumpus-ing wild things. Don’t believe in cats in hats or cows that type. Just because a book is thick enough to be chewed on and features adorable ducks stomping around in rain boots doesn’t mean it is an accurate assessment of how the world works.

And no way the tree was happy.

If you enjoyed this essay, subscribe to the WDP podcast for free on iTunes! You can also listen at whitedadproblems.com. (Do note that the show has a potty mouth and is definitely for Over 17 Only.)

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