Curious George is a Terrible Influence

I have read to my children since they were in utero. I was read to as a child, and so I read to my children. I understand how important it is in terms of childhood development, but my intent isn’t excellent educational outcomes for my children.

I like words, I like books, and I want my children to like words and books, too.

And I don’t mean to slay sacred cows, but my least favorite children’s character is Curious George. As a parent, I am appalled at the stuff he gets away with. The man with a yellow hat is terrible too. When is he going to learn that George is *always* going to get into trouble? He should stop leaving that little monkey alone.

The only “original” Curious George book we own is Curious George Rides a Bike, which has pretty serious racist undertones in my opinion. But we got a box set of “in the style of H.A. Rey” Curious George books: Curious George and the Puppies; Curious George Goes to the Movies; Curious George Goes Camping. I thought nothing of it at the time. George is a beloved children’s book character! The stories are simple! Isn’t that monkey silly?

But after reading all these books, over and over again for all three children, I’ve started having reservations about that silly monkey.

Every book starts the same: “This is George. George is a good little monkey, and always very curious.” Then he and his friend, the man in the yellow hat have an adventure.

The man almost always leaves George to his own devices right from the beginning. He’s got to buy tickets or get popcorn or go sign some paperwork. “Stay right here, George,” he cautions. “And don’t get into trouble.”

Dude in yellow hat! We’ve been here about 20 times now! George is going to wreak havoc on the next page, and we both know it!

George’s curiosity leads him to make bad decisions. That’s all there is to it. “What’s in here? What happens if I do this?” He knocks people over, lets puppies loose in an animal shelter, dumps a dump truck full of dirt into a pond, inadvertently steals a hot air balloon.

And then somehow, his havoc turns into a solution! He helps a skier win a race; he finds a missing puppy; he creates an island for ducks; he rescues a worker from Mt. Rushmore — which don’t get me started. That balloon would be dashed on George Washington’s nose before you could say “little blue car.”

In short, regardless of what trouble he gets into, there are never any consequences for George. He usually wins praise and ends up in the mayor’s car leading a parade, for goodness sake.

He invents snowboarding in this one. No kidding.
He invents snowboarding in this one. No kidding.

I know, I know: they are children’s books. They are about the adventure. But let’s face it: if a parent in the real world neglected his/her child the way the man in the yellow hat blithely wanders away from George, CPS would be all over that. At the very least, if Michael dumped a load of dirt into a pond, he’d be good and grounded.

My two favorite children’s authors are Kate DiCamillo and Mo Willems. Bink and Gollie and Elephant and Piggie are some characters I can relish. And reading Mo Willems aloud is the best.

Who’s your least favorite children’s book character and why?

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9 thoughts on “Curious George is a Terrible Influence

  1. My schoolteacher wife HATES Skippyjohn Jones. I kind of see her point. It’s a sort of stereotypical/racist character that seems to advocate being out of control. I agree with you on Curious George. I have a collection of the original books, there’s like 6 of them. One of them he smokes a pipe after dinner. Because that’s what you do. In another he gets into the ether and dopes himself up. All innocent fun, right? RIGHT!? And Mo Willems is awesome. Have you read the three Knuffle Bunny books? My personal favorite is Richard Scarry though. Busy Busy World is fantastic, if dated.

    • Oh, Skippyjohn Jones, I didn’t think of him. His name is so fun to say out loud! Although, I can see your wife’s point. There is a whiff of “boy will be boy” about those stories.

  2. My favorite is The Monster at the End of This Book. It’s about facing your fears, and not succumbing to peer pressure. It’s very easy for a child to listen to Grover, to not turn the page because he knows best. It might be a big, scary, Grover-eating monster… you don’t know! But kids learn to question authority, not let their imaginations run wild, and to give in to that curiosity by turning the next page.
    Can’t think of any I really, truly hate right now…

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