Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Like pickle juice on a cookie by Julie Sternberg, illustrated by Matthew Cordell

I’m not sure I can write about this beginning chapter book objectively, because I have some very strong opinions on what I think of as the American Daycare Culture and this book pinged off many of my ranting sensors. So, this is more of a rant than a review. Skip or read, as you prefer.

Ellie is going to tell us the story of her very bad August before third grade. One day, her parents sit her down and tell her the bad news: Bibi is leaving. Bibi has been her babysitter her whole life. Bibi, “makes me soup when I am sick…holds my feet when I do handstands…knows which of my teeth are loose…rubs my back when I am tired…”

In other words, Ellie’s parent is leaving. She’s the one who knows all Ellie’s routines, puts her to bed when her parents are late (which appears to be often) and picks her up from school. Ellie’s parents take a little time off work (punctuated with Very Important phone calls) to console Ellie, try to get her to be friends with the aggressive little girl downstairs, and finally find her another babysitter, Natalie, and Ellie learns to like her.

Can you feel the rant building? Yep. Why the heck did Ellie’s parents have a child? Bibi has apparently spent more time with her than her parents and witnessed all her childhood memories. Ellie’s parents are a little more caring than some neglectful parents, but not much, in my opinion. Ellie’s devastation when Bibi leaves verges on clinical depression but she’s quickly forced into accepting perky Natalie. In other words, her mother is gone and now she has a big sister. I see therapy ahead for Ellie, and some serious abandonment and relationship issues.

I’m feeling a bit ranty about this because of some of the problems we’ve been having with our library, as well as some work I’ve been doing with a why-the-heck-did-you-have-kids daycare, where parents can dump their kids off and the daycare dresses, feeds, and sends them to school, then picks them up after school, helps them with homework, feeds, and otherwise takes the place of their parents until the poor, busy people pick them up and take them home to bed. In a few years, many of those kids will be the 5th, 6th, and 7th graders – and younger siblings – who hang out at our library for two or more hours after school, often not going home or getting picked up by their parents until well five or even six.

When do these kids interact with caring adults, other than a harassed teacher who’s dealing with 20 or more kids at the same time. From what they’ve told me, they spend their weekends watching tv and playing video games. Who listens to them when they have a problem at school, when they’re scared or worried? Who shows them there’s a world of education and experience outside the four walls of their school? Who makes sure they’re not getting bullied and teaches them how to interact with groups other than their peers? Who encourages their interests and expands their minds beyond homework and tv?

Well, transient nannies if they’re fortunate enough to live in Ellie’s world. If they’re not, a few more years down the road and they’ll be back in the library, functionally illiterate, unemployed, stuck in bad marriages or relationships, and producing more kids for the cycle to start over.

*deep breath* I did mention I felt strongly about this didn’t I? I’m not saying every woman should be a stay at home mom – or every father either. There are many caring parents who don’t spend every minute of the day with their children, who work hard to have time with their kids and arrange for the best possible situations for them. Many kids turn out fine without much contact with their parents. But it still makes me mad.

Verdict: If you live in an area where there are a lot of kids with nannies, you might consider this book. It could also be comforting for a child who’s lost a beloved teacher (*cough* educational babysitter *cough*). The publisher recommends ages 8-10, but the language has the stilted and choppy style of an easy reader, so I wouldn’t hand this to anyone over nine at the most and would say it’s best for much younger kids.

ISBN: 9780810984240; Published March 2011 by Amulet; ARC provided by publisher at ALA Midwinter 2011

1 comment:

Ms. Yingling said...

Rants are okay when they make me feel better about staying home for nine years! And coming into work super early so I can be home after school. The only thing worse than a nanny who spends this much time with a child is a child with a stay at home mother AND a nanny who spends this much time with the child! (And my children are not allowed to go to the library unescorted after school because of all the unaccompanied children!)