Lift the Flap and WTF: Some thoughts on Where’s Spot? and Dear Zoo

Many picture books require a willing suspension of disbelief; to begin with, a staggering number of them feature talking animals. (“Talking animals,” incidentally, is one of the reasons books have been challenged. Sigh.)

Cover image of Dear ZooYesterday we read the classic Dear Zoo, which we’ve read before, and which I always feel the need to preface (or conclude) by clarifying that “that’s not how zoos work.” You don’t write to the zoo and have them send you animals in the mail for free. The postal service would probably not deliver a lion, anyway, not even with correct postage.

Cover image of Where's Spot?Then this morning we read Where’s Spot? In case you’ve forgotten, I’ll refresh your memory: in this “original lift-the-flap book,” a mama dog goes searching through the house for her pup. Is he in the grandfather clock? No, but a python is. Stop right there: if you found a giant snake in your grandfather clock, would you not be thrown for a loop? Spot’s mom is unfazed by this, however – she does not react at all – nor does she bat an eye at the alligator under the bed or a veritable menagerie of large, dangerous animals hidden in unlikely places throughout the house. Kid, if you find a hippo in the piano, come find me and we will leave the house and call Animal Control. Don’t just shrug and go on to check the lump under the rug.

Cover image of Tigger's BreakfastWe read one more book this morning, Tigger’s Breakfast. (You want talking animals? Try Hundred-Acre Wood. And exercise that suspension of disbelief some more, because here, a bear and a piglet are best friends, and for some reason a kangaroo and her joey are hanging out in a British forest. Sorry, Kanga, wrong hemisphere.) In Tigger’s Breakfast, Tigger – which, what kind of animal is he? Unclear. Definitely not a tiger – is hungry because he hasn’t had breakfast. Okay, sure, we’ve all been there. It seems like this is a new and surprising problem for him, though. Anyway, he visits all his friends to see if he likes what they’re having for breakfast. He does not like honey, haycorns, or thistles, but he does like extract of malt (what is that?) so he decides to live with Kanga and Roo and eat all their food. Problem solved! Only, you can’t just wander in and out of people’s houses up and down the block until you find one where there’s a breakfast food you like and then decide to live there.

Fortunately, children understand the nature of fiction; otherwise they would be developing some real misconceptions about the way the world works right out of the gate.

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4 Comments

Filed under animals, books

4 responses to “Lift the Flap and WTF: Some thoughts on Where’s Spot? and Dear Zoo

  1. How is Tigger not a tiger? He is definitely a tiger!

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    • I can’t find it to cite it right now but I’m pretty sure in one of the books it’s stated that he’s a unique creature. But maybe he says that about himself, in which case, is he a reliable narrator? (“The wonderful thing about Tiggers is Tiggers are wonderful things…”)

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  2. Linda Donaldson

    My all-time favorite library discovery at 8 years old was the Dr. Seuss classic “And to Think that I Saw it on Mulberry Street.” I still remember showing it to my parents and us reading it aloud night after night.

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  3. Pingback: What we’ve read so far, 16 months | It's Okay, I Have A Book

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