Friday, September 19, 2008

Hurty Feelings and The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing by Helen Lester, Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

I've been reading some of Helen Lester's picture books....and I just don't get it.

These two selections feature sensitive hippos and fashion-challenged sheep

In Hurty Feelings, Fragility, a large and sensitive hippo, cries over everything...until she unintentionally insults a bullying elephant. The elephant promptly bursts into tears and Fragility knows just what to do to comfort him. Which... mysteriously... cures her?

The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing is the story of Ewetopia, who "isn't comfortable in her own wool." She is constantly looking for the perfect outfit. But her choice of a wolf suit for a costume party turns out to be a mistake when a hungry wolf mistakes her for his mother. Ewetopia goes along with the mistake and manages to scare him away. Everyone is happy and thinks she is cool, and she feels "entirely comfortable in her own wool." But....wearing a wolf skin was still an incredibly stupid/crass thing to do - as the sheep originally pointed out to her. Is Ewetopia feeling comfortable more important than the feelings of the other sheep, many of whom probably had family members eaten by wolves? Apparently so.

I can't decide if there's some subtle message to these books that I'm missing, or if they're misguided attempts at didacticism.

Verdict: Parents will occasionally ask for Hurty Feelings - apparently under the impression that it will cure their children of excessive sensitivity. Lester and Munsinger have many other titles that are more popular than these two, especially the Tacky the Penguin series. Thankfully, their works aren't so popular that I feel it necessary to purchase them. Purchase if you have a lot of parents looking for the issues Lester and Munsinger tackle - I personally don't really believe in bibliotherapy, but these books will at least make the parents feel like they're doing something.

Hurty Feelings
ISBN: 978-0618410828; Published September 2004 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library (not by me)

The Sheep in Wolf's Clothing
ISBN: 0618868445; Published September 2007 by Houghton Mifflin; Borrowed from the library

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