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Monday News: Pinkingwashing books for your kids; 3D printed organs; Bad...

Even if I’m not pink washing books for the tot, I do censor what she reads. I hated Junie B Jones books because of the non stop inaccurate grammar and Junie B’s poor attitude so after the first one, I refused to buy them. After the second Diary book, I told my tot she could read them but I wasn’t going to buy them anymore because I thought the narrator was a lying, selfish, horrible friend. She’s moved on.

Is that pink washing?




Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Julia Gabriel
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 06:59:57

    I used to edit certain kids’ books as I read to correct the grammar. But yeah, if you’re editing the plot then choose a different book. (My son never did find the Harry Potter books uniquely compelling.)

  2. CG
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 07:33:00

    Sorry, pink washing is taken.

    Breast Cancer Action coined the term pinkwashing as part of our Think Before You Pink® campaign. Pinkwasher: (pink’-wah-sher) noun. A company or organization that claims to care about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time produces, manufactures and/or sells products that are linked to the disease.

    How about kid-proofing? Get it? Har

  3. Marianne McA
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 07:45:57

    I don’t think it merits a term of it’s own. I don’t think it merits an article either. She just did some sensible, but bog standard parenting, and could sell it as an Issue piece because it had Harry Potter in the title.
    Next week: green sharding – how she gets him to eat vegetables he thinks he doesn’t like by cutting them up really small and hiding them in his food. Is this Terrible Parenting?

  4. Renda
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 08:03:00

    I dumped Junie B and substituted Ramona and Beezus.
    I told my daughter I would read the Junie B, but they would be delivered with grammar and compartment lectures.
    She embraced Ramona.

  5. Amanda
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 08:51:45

    I think it should be up to a parent what a child reads, especially when they are that young. Though 5 seems rather young for reading Harry Potter.

  6. marjorie
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 08:52:54

    I did as you did with Junie B. — “Kid, you can read these at school but I’m not buying ’em and I’m not taking ’em out of the library for you.” I was as turned off by how CLEEEEVER the author seemed to think she was as by Junie’s horrid grammar and brattiness. These are the most self-satisfied, complacent, I’M-ADORABLE books in the kidlitosphere.

    But deciding what books to buy/borrow is not the same as changing plot points and characters’ actions on the fly, which is what this mom in KJ’s column did. First thing fine, other thing not fine. This lady made Harry’s parents NOT DIE. She had Harry write an essay about why his flying-when-told-not-t0-fly behavior was bad. (The point was that he disobeyed authority to save someone else — he wasn’t being Junie B about it! And a theme throughout these books is that adults don’t always do what’s best for kids, both in being overprotective and in believing too much in bureaucracy.) When characters in the book dislike veggies, she changes the text because her kid likes veggies and she doesn’t want him to be negatively influenced by peers on the page. And FINALLY (I’m a little worked up) literature provides catharsis when there’s something at stake, when there’s loss, conflict, terrible decisions to be made. The mom stole those things from her kid. (And kid’s FIVE. Maybe wait on the Potter!)

    Read a book or don’t read a book. But if you’re frantically revising on the fly, you’re reading the wrong book. We can only hope someone else — a librarian or teacher — shows the kid that storytelling can be powerful and delicious and dangerous. Later.

  7. Moriah Jovan
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 09:38:33

    Honestly, I don’t care if the book-kids are bratty and functionally illiterate. They don’t influence my kid’s behavior. It’s her bratty friends whose parents want to be their friend and give them everything they ask for or suffer through a tantrum I have to go to war over.

    They aren’t getting it from the books.

    My kid didn’t know what to do/say/think the first time I said, “I am not your friend.”

  8. Melisse Aires
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 12:49:44

    Having taught many many years of preschool, prek and kindergarten–there are THOUSANDS of wonderful books to read out loud to a five year old! No pinkwashing involved, plus super illustrations.

  9. SAO
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 13:16:46

    I never read Junie B. Jones, but could it possibly be worse than My Secret Unicorn? Interesting that Captain Underpants gets a pass. Maybe because they appeal to boys and are often the first book a boy will actually volunteer to read?

  10. kate Pearce
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 13:29:07

    Having had 4 kids I embraced my parents philosophy that it didn’t matter what we read as long as we read because getting into the habit of being a reader helps you make your own choices as to what you like and what you don’t.
    One of my boys learned to read with Captain Underpants, and my dd self=edited out the Junie B Jones ones herself.

  11. Nicole M
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 13:36:37

    We don’t censor kids books at all. I actually like Junie B. She is hilarious because she gets so much wrong. It’s not like the books I read are filled with sweet, kind, never do anything wrong characters because that would be boring. My kids can decide which imperfect, unreliable, or anti-here characters they like reading about.

  12. cleo
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 13:51:32

    A few years ago I found a children’s book at my parents home with a final sentence penciled in. It was a Richard Scary Christmas story – Lowly Worm falls into a candy making vat, is made into a candy cane and at the end of the story pops out of Little Sister’s candy cane. In my mother’s handwriting is a sentence stating that Little Sister got a new candy cane. My mom said she added it because I was really upset by the ending – it wasn’t fair that LS lost her candy to a worm.

    So yeah, I get the parental urge to edit children’s books, but in this case, I think that even if the kid is ready for HP, it seems pretty obvious that the mom isn’t.

  13. Sirius
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 14:14:48

    A child in my family (very close relative) is eight, I buy books for her on a very regular basis and she is a pretty advanced reader for her age. I had been dying for her to start reading Harry Potter for some time now, so I can discuss the books with her, but at least when she was seven I gave her my copy of Harry Potter first book and asked her to read a few pages and decide whether she wants to read the rest. She read and returned the book to me saying – when I am older :). Five year old for the first book? I have trouble seeing that.

  14. Cate
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 15:15:19

    It isn’t “pink washing” it’s Bowdlerising, it was bad enough in the 19th century, but in the 21st century ….really, I thought we’d gone beyond this sort of behaviour :(

  15. Lila
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 15:40:53

    Our cottage is full of Disney princess books from when I was a kid, and of course my daughter makes me read them. So I whatever-wash non-stop: the prince loves the princess for her intelligence, asks her to dance because he wants to discuss universal healthcare with her, yadda yadda. Otherwise I just can’t handle them.

  16. Fiona McGier
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 15:44:58

    My parents never censored what I could read. I never censored books for my 4 kids either. Husband and I read to them every night, taking turns, for years. He did the entire Redwall series by Brian Jacques, along with the LOTR trilogy and The Hobbit, all twice! I read all of the Harry Potter books, which the kids eventually lost interest in as they aged. I read them all of the Artemis Fowl books by Eoin Colfer, and we all laughed at the funny parts–my kids liked them better than the HP books because they were humorous and exciting. I read the Bartimaeous Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, which was very advanced in language, but still a great story. For boys: Goosebumps, The Plant That Ate Dirty Socks, The Crestomanci Chronicles, and The Animorphs. For girls: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia Wrede, and the female-centric fantasy warrior books by Tamara Pierce.

    But changing the story while you read? Bah…distasteful in the extreme.

  17. marjorie
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 15:45:03

    Ahahaha, Lila, I love it. (“Why Aurora,” the handsome prince murmured, “Your unnerving GIANT EYES are limpid pools of ideas about healthcare reform…”)

    I think with Disney Princess and Barbie books, all bets are off. You go on and rewrite with your bad self.

  18. Marianne McA
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:02:11

    Maybe instead of seeing it as bowdlerising, you could argue that it’s a really early exposure to fanfic.

  19. leftcoaster
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:42:47

    My precocious 4 year old boy (who is pretty sensitive and still in that very dreamy innocent kid space) wants chapter books read to him at night, not pictures books (we read tons of picture books too…tons). I TOTALLY skipped some parts of “Farmer Boy”. There is no way I’m reading him the chapter where the bully kids killed teachers or where the new teacher finally fights back and whips them with a bullwhip. I’m also skipping parts of the rest of the Little House series but we are reading them. I don’t change it, just skip parts. Why? Because I can’t find another age appropriate book that lasts more than one or two nights. And I’ve spent some serious time looking and trying things out with him.

  20. cleo
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:49:43

    @Lila: My SIL does something similar with movie quotes. Her sons love to quote movies and act out favorite scenes – her version of the “where’s my super suit?” bit in The Incredibles is awesome – Frozone / Lucius’s wife joins him in saving the public, instead of just sniping at him (

  21. Cate
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 16:50:27

    @leftcoaster: Have you tried The Wind in the Willows or any of the Church Mice books by Graham Oakley ? All brilliant for a bright little lad.

  22. cleo
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:04:24

    @leftcoaster: I can’t resist more recommendations. Have you tried Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel? I think my precocious niece had those read to her when she was 4 or 5. Or Winnie the Pooh? (the original A A Milne books, not the Disney stuff).

    I totally get skipping the scary stuff in Farm Boy (doesn’t seem any different than my SIL fast-forwarding through the scary parts in Finding Nemo when my nephews were young – eventually they did watch the scary parts, once they were old enough)

  23. Nicole M
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:10:38

    @leftcoaster: Dick King-Smith wrote a number of good books that work for younger children.

  24. Carolyne
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:12:17

    There are so many hundreds, thousands, of books at higher reading levels but with “safer” levels of content–and the reverse, for older, struggling readers–I’m a little taken aback by impetus to read something age-inappropriate and then fret about the choice the adult made to read that particular book. I’d encourage going into an independent children’s book store (assuming there’s one within reach) and asking for recommendations. Or, if there isn’t a store within reach, phoning one and asking for a little help (and then ordering the book from them, of course! :) ). There’s so much more out there than the bestselling blockbusters. So many possibilities, both old and new, fiction and nonfiction.

    I’ve always traced my love of writing back to my distress over Hans Christian Andersen stories (my mother let ME tell HER how I wished the Little Mermaid had ended). Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass lasted many nights, and although that bit with the baby turning into a pig was a little alarming and WEIRD, it was also fascinating and the art was inspiring.

    On the website with the original “pink-wash” article, one of the commenters figured no child would remember what was read to her or him at the age of 4. Those are very vivid memories for me. My nephew always remembered the first line of the Hobbit, a book I’d started reading to him just for us both to enjoy the sounds of the words when he was about 3 (so I must have been 13 or 14). He didn’t understand the story, and thanks to his miniature attention span we never got very far into the book, but he made up his own stories.

    tl;dr – Maybe a bookstore that specifically sells kids’ books–new and old–can help match the right books with the right child (and parent).

    ETA: Yes to all the recommendations posted while I was typing. Winnie the Pooh (the original) FTW.

  25. marjorie
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 17:18:25

    Great post, @Carolyne.

    I agree — there are MANY wonderful read-aloud chapter books appropriate for a bright 4-year-old. If you have to edit as you go, you’re not reading the right books. Maybe you don’t live near a kickass indie bookseller who knows the field? If that’s the case, talk to a children’s librarian, or take a spin through the Horn Book online, which reviews children’s literature. I’ve also seen online threads with people asking for read-aloud recs for precocious kids and getting great answers.

  26. Christine
    Nov 11, 2013 @ 18:11:37

    We used to mentally switch one word for another when reading the Rainbow Fairy books to our kids. I can’t remember which word, now, or how it worked, but it made them read like lesbian porn with almost no effort at all. Which was the only way my husband and I survived that phase. A friend recently observed that Rachel and Kirsty “pant” all the time in those books, which may have played a role in helping our substitution game succeed.

  27. Laila Blake
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 05:10:33

    My Dad used to pink-wash all the time — not on purpose though. He’s severely dyslexic and when he read, he’d read different words than were on the page a lot and not notice. ;)
    Generally, though, if you think a book is too advanced for your kid, wait a few years? I mean kids aren’t stupid – I noticed every time he read a different word, and sure, often that was because it made less sense but I’m pretty sure it won’t make sense if you try to hide the scary parts of harry potter by exchanging three-headed-dog with puppy, right?

  28. Nicole M
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 07:56:56

    For finding appropriate children’s literature, I highly recommend talking to a youth services librarian. They are an awesome resource.

  29. leftcoaster
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 20:48:40

    Thanks for the recs peeps! I have tried many of them, all of EB Stuart, Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, etc. none of them stuck, but we keep trying. Some are “too scary” and some are “not very exciting”. The joys of being four. We love Frog and Toad (And Little Bear! Swoon) books but those get read in one sitting, they’re not books that you can read for 15 or 20 min every night for a month. And yes, I have been to our library and asked for recommendations and didn’t get very far. And yes, whenever I’m in another place with better bookstores, I patronize them, but resources are pretty limited here and most kids we know don’t have the attention span for the long books that he has so we can’t even get recs from friends. I’ll definitely search out some of the other suggestions, and I’m intrigued by mention of a website that reviews children’s books.

    I can totally understand the reaction that I must not be trying hard enough if I’d stoop so low as censorship… I’m not totally crazy about it either, but my options are pretty limited and I mean it when I say I’ve tried to find alternatives.

  30. Nicole M
    Nov 13, 2013 @ 15:40:43

    @leftcoaster: I’m sorry you do not have great resources where you are. If I can make a few suggestion:

    The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron is good. There are more in the series.

    Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren. We really loved everything she wrote.

    Rats on the Roof by James Marshall was a hoot. I think there was a story collection that had similar stories. Marshall wrote quite a few books for the early reader/beginning chapter book crowd.

    Catwings by Ursula LeGuinn. Once again it is a series.

    Jenny and the Cat Club by Ester Averill was an often read book.

    James How has two series that my kids loved:
    Pinky and Rex, which would be a one book per sitting read, but there are a lot of books.
    Bunnicula series, which are longer and both silly and spooky, though nothing bad actually happens. Chester just has a very vivid imagination.

    Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat are a read in one sitting book, but once again there are a lot of them.

    Judy Blume had some good ones for the pre-K to early elementary crowd:
    The One in the Middle Is a Green Kangaroo
    Freckle Juice
    Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Sheila the Great, and all the Fudge books.

    Roald Dahl has a some good ones, but they can be a little weird/scary depending on the kid.

    My kid with the freakish attention span like the odder, creepier stories so The Oz books and Alice In Wonderland were her favorites during the preschool years. But they can be a little intense.

  31. leftcoaster
    Nov 13, 2013 @ 16:12:16

    @Nicole M thanks!

    Before I saw this I spent lunch hour figuring out some new ones to try. I ended up up with A Bear Called Paddington, Jenny and the Cat Club, Catwings (how did I miss that one of my fave sci fi authors wrote children’s books), Poppy Longstocking, Poppy- Tails from Dimwood Forest, The Cricket in Times Square (as a mixed race family some of the race stuff brought up in reviews bothered me in this one but I’ll check it out and see for myself), Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, James Herriot’s Treasury, Arabel’s Raven and The Bat-Poet (Animal Family has been a flop so far). I’ll keep your list in mind. I hesitated on the Ann Cameron book…makes me feel weird to buy a book from a black perspective written by a white lady…when he’s older we will check out Mildred d. Taylor for sure.

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