In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A (somewhat unsettling) visit to the hospital

Dear Aunt Debbie,

Your post made me think immediately of an extremely odd little story which has captivated Eleanor for going on two years now.  It's one of the chapters in Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?

There are things I really like about Richard Scarry: his jam-packed drawings, full of quirky animals on the verge of disaster; his emphasis on how things work, coupled with a sense of humor.  There are things I don't like, too: in this large-format book which purports to be about all the different careers people can have, women (or, rather, female pigs, goats, cats, rabbits, etc.) appear only as wives, mothers, grandmothers, and the occasional nurse.  And yes, Things Were Different Once, but he wrote the book in 1968. 

There are lovely and somewhat informative stories about how bread is made, and how to build a new road, and how to build a house, and how a letter gets to its destination, but are they what Eleanor wants to read?  No.  Eleanor wants to read "A Visit to the Hospital."

Mommy took Abby to visit Doctor Lion.  He looked at her tonsils.  "Hmmmm.  Very bad tonsils," he said.  I shall have to take them out.  Meet me at the hospital tomorrow."

Okay, so this is already a little weird: everyone is smiling, and the little rabbit Abby doesn't seem to be in any pain.  What does it mean to have "very bad tonsils," anyway?  Doctor Lion strikes me as arbitrary and untrustworthy.  Daddy drives Mommy and Abby to the hospital and takes off (um, where is he going?).  Then Mommy "had to go home," so she leaves Abby with Nurse Nelly.  No one seems to think this is odd.  Abby goes up to the children's ward, and meets Roger Dog, who has just had his tonsils out.  Then: 

Nurse Nelly put Abby on the bed.  She pulled the curtain around them.  No one could see what was going on.

Um, what?

Why, she was helping Abby put on a nightgown!

Oh, phew.  For a second there, Richard Scarry, I thought this was going to be a story of child sexual abuse!  Haha.  Guess I was wrong.
Doctor Lion peeked into the room.  He told Nurse Nelly he was going to put on his operating clothes.  He told Nurse Nelly to bring Abby to the operating room.

Or was I?

No, no, Abby just gets her tonsils out.  And then she has some ice cream.  And then she sees her Mommy arrive in an ambulance, and thinks Mommy is coming to see her:

She waited and waited -- but Mommy didn't come.  At last Doctor Lion came.  "Your mother has brought you a present," he said.  He took Abby for a ride in a wheelchair.  

I do NOT trust Doctor Lion at this point.

"There is your present," he said.  "It is your new baby brother! Your mother just gave birth to him here in the hospital."

Well.  That was a surprise.  

So here's this little girl, and she has to have an operation, and her parents abandon her to a disturbingly friendly lion, and clearly haven't told her she's going to have a younger sibling, and neither parent visits her in recovery, and all these animals are just smiling to beat the band -- and what's the takeaway message, Mr. Scarry?

What a lucky girl she was!  She left her tonsils at the hospital, but she brought home a cute baby brother.  But remember!  Very few children receive such a nice present when they have their tonsils out!

Okay, then.  I'll keep it in mind.

On a somewhat-related note, do you have any suggestions for a book that goes through what happens when you have a cavity and need to get it filled?  Eleanor seems to have inherited my ridge-filled teeth, and has developed a small cavity that her dentist wants to nip in the bud.  Maybe not Richard Scarry for this one?

Love, Annie


  1. Caleb likes the fact that Richard Scarry has anthropomorphized pigs working as pig butchers and eating bacon. Take that, scary Dr. Lion!

  2. That was pretty much what happened to my Dad when he got his tonsils out, minus the new sibling. He still is mad at the nurse who told him the ice cream would "taste good". "She lied, it hurt, a lot!"