03 May 2007
Do You Want Be My Friend?
Author/Illustrator: Eric Carle
Hmmm... Carle might want to take this one back. In this story, a little mouse goes around asking various animals "Do you want to be my friend?" To which all the animals answer: "No." The mouse suffers one rejection after another until he finally comes across a fellow mouse. This time, when he asks "Do you want to be my friend?", the mouse answers "Yes!" and the two little mice go running off to play.
You might just think its a cute little story at first, but think again. Imagine the same exact story, but this time instead of animals, the story features little kids. Not so cute anymore, is it? The story carries an underlying message of self-segregation that is a little unsettling. Hopefully, this politically-incorrect theme was unintentional. Given his stellar track record, I am willing to give Carle the benefit of the doubt--for now. But I'm keeping my eye on you, Eric.
Silver Lining Note: On the bright side, with a little controversy, comes... THE TEACHABLE MOMENT!!! This is the perfect opportunity to engage your child in a frank discussion about race relations in modern day America. You can start by asking, How come none of the other animals wanted to be the mouse's friend? or Why did the two mice end up being friends? or Why was the elephant such a big jerk?
Then, have your child read Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race, and write a 12 page paper analyzing playground dynamics to create a theoretical framework that outlines the challenges of identity formation in the multicultural climate of today's American society. 11 point font, single spaced, and with full citations (APA format). And make sure they take it seriously, because this assignment counts for 50% of their childhood.