Tag Archives: amazon one-star reviews

The Taste of Others, part 10: McCarthy, Hemingway, Fitzgerald.

26 Jan

In which I continue to explore and respond to one-star reviews on Amazon, and suffer the tyranny of other people’s tastes, so you don’t have to.


I’m continuing with my one-star reviews reviews. I left the children’s books behind, and now I’m onto books that I love. I started with All the Pretty Horses, one of the finest novels written in the last 30 years. There were 28 one-star reviews. Ye gods.

First, some context.

McCarthy lived a nomadic life for thirty years, writing in stone huts and rotting cabins while living off of grants and foundations. He was an unknown writer well into the 1980s. His early novels are set in Tennessee, and they traffic in grotesques, peopled by drunks, murderers, rapists. The language is prolix, complex and reads like some black-hearted crime novelist, with a penchant for cruelty, writing in a half-Faulkner, half-mythic patois. Child of God, the best of the early novels, follows a murderous necrophiliac who drags his victims into limestone caves. Great writing, but dark, dark, dark.

Then he published Suttree. It’s a giant, staggering character study of a hard-living dude in Tennessee, and the whores, roughnecks, drunks and hardcases he spends time with. It’s a very fine novel, with dense, if extremely beautiful, language.

He left Tennessee for Texas. Here he wandered through the sage, the creosote, the cactus and the bramble, researching his violent parable based on a true life scalp-hunting expedition into Mexico. The characters are misfits, killers, thugs and thieves. The language is rhapsodic, stunningly violent. The body count is immense. He titled the novel Blood Meridian. I try to read it once a year. It isn’t for everyone, but goddamn, it’s amazing. It’s reads like some lost chapter of the Iliad. The one where they kill an entire tribe with stones and bullets and knives.

He stayed with Texas, wrote his border trilogy. They follow two cowboys through three decades on the border. All the Pretty Horses is the best of the bunch—the writing is absolutely electric—but The Crossing is very fine, too and Cities on the Plain broke my goddamn heart. They’re the best cowboy stories you’ll ever read[1]. Horses won him notoriety and cash; he no longer had to live like some homeless hermit. He was 59 years old.

He moved on to a crime novel, No Country for Old Men. It’s very good. And then he published The Road, in some sense his bleakest and vilest book, a man and his young son wandering through a dying world, populated by cannibals and murderers and dead animals and unspeakable cruelty. Somehow this one resonated, became a bestseller.

He’s one of my favorite authors, and one of the most important American authors of the last fifty years. He eschews most punctuation and he doesn’t translate any Spanish into English. He isn’t difficult to read so much as idiosyncratic.


Now for an exercise in futility. I’m going to respond to the one-star reviews. Hold on to your butts.

The criticism seems to focus overwhelmingly on the preponderance of “ands.” Forget that this is a style that often works; I challenge anyone to read two sentences, one chockfull of commas and the other instead with its clauses delineating through various conjunctions, and tell me that the comma-infested sentence is better. It isn’t. The other major beef is McCarthy’s lack of quotation marks. Other writers who do this often bother me, but with McCarthy it’s always clear who’s speaking and when it’s dialogue.

One reviewer said that McCarthy had slapped off a first-draft. This is the height of ignorance. McCarthy is a very careful writer, famously so. He spent nine years writing and rewriting Suttree. Nine years! Ditto for Blood Meridian. He writes and rewrites and is a very careful editor of his own work. Why would anyone accuse him of being lazy?

Here’s one reviewer: “This guy is no Hemingway. He just tries too hard to be the great Hemingway and he uses a lot more ‘and’ than he should. Anyone who reads and loves this guy, I’m sorry to say, is just not willing to admit that, deep down, this guy is untalented, unoriginal, and a hack of Hemingway at best.”

This makes my blood boil. Others say that McCarthy is trying to be like Faulkner, trying and failing.

McCarthy isn’t a Hemingway or Faulkner knockoff; he’s a better writer than both. He’s more consistent—he’s not without his weaker books; The Orchard Keeper and Outer Dark aren’t the greatest reads in the history of fiction—but he marries Faulkner’s complex and often beautiful diction with Hemingway’s lucidity and sparse style. McCarthy bridges the two major modernist American writers. Sometimes he’s the worst of both writers, but more often than not he’s the apotheosis of the two stylistic extremes. Hemingway wrote some weak books, and so did Faulkner. A weak book does not a bad author make.

The snarky tone is especially strange for a writer like McCarthy, who doesn’t employ irony or sarcasm, instead operating (mostly) on a mythic plain. One reviewer says that, “most fifth graders can write better, more enthralling narratives.” God, to quote Woody Allen, what I wouldn’t give for a sock full of horse manure.

He’s influential. Other writers steal from his style, to varying success. William Gay’s Provinces of Night, inspired by McCarthy, is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last nine months. (Coal Black Horse, by Robert Olmstead, on the other hand, is a miserly McCarthy knock-off.)

He isn’t for everyone. Neither is Don DeLillo, Faulkner, Joyce, Hemingway, Cather, Wolfe, or for that matter Chekhov, Dostoevsky or Flaubert. He belongs in this rarified company. He belongs with Updike and Dos Passos and Roth and Proulx.

One of the great authors, described by one reviewer as, "No Hemingway."

One of the great authors, described by one reviewer as, “No Hemingway.”

He cannot be dismissed. Not easily.

And this is the lesson these one-star reviews teach us. You cannot bloviate and opine with any type of dignity if you ignore balance, context and history. You can dislike or even be offended by something but acknowledge its skill.

You can be offended by a great writer and find the point of their work execrable. (Writers who employ misanthropy, such as Celine or Hamsen or Dennis Cooper, for example, or writers exploring the intersection of sex and cruelty, like Nin or DeSade or Bataille.) But there’s more to literature than what you like. I have no real enthusiasm for Philip Roth—although I think So I Married a Communist is a very fine novel—but he’s a very fine novelist who has had an unprecedented career. His books leave me cold, but that doesn’t mean they are bad.


I didn’t stop with McCarthy. Hemingway and Fitzgerald don’t escape unscathed either. One reviewer said he wished Hemingway had killed himself thirty years earlier, so that the Nick Adams stories hadn’t been published[2]. Another reviewer called The Sun Also Rises “boring, overrated, impoverished!”

Hemingway is misunderstood; his life has overshadowed his work. He doesn’t hate women, far from it, and his stories aren’t macho or violent. There’s plenty of drinking going on, and there are a few stories about outlaws and criminals. But many of his stories deal with hurting people coping with their emotional baggage. He loved hunting and there are hunters, he loved fishing and there are fishermen, but the bulk of his stories are about surviving, even transcending, our unseen psychic wounds.

Papa Hemingway, at the mercy of teenage critics in the digital age, condemned as both violent and boring.

Papa Hemingway, at the mercy of teenage critics in the digital age, condemned as both violent and boring.

I’m not a huge fan of Hemingway—although I absolutely love love love some of his short stories and I think the Nick Adams collection is superb, essential reading. But Hemingway is a meteor on the literary landscape, a titan who changed fiction forever. His approach, to pare down the bullshit and bore into the characters by what they do and say, as opposed to the trend of psychological novels a la Henry James that meander through a character’s thoughts and feelings, is still the dominant strand of American fiction. His inimitable prose style has been copied, parodied, and worshiped for eighty years. A Moveable Feast, his charming anecdotes of being poor in Paris during the 1920s, is one of the best books on American expatriates.

He can’t be dismissed either.


Fitzgerald is another matter, a more problematic presence in American letters. It’s not that he lacked talent. He just misused, misrepresented and abused it. He floated through a life of privilege with the piercing knowledge that he could never live someone else’s life.

The Great Gatsby is called “mediocre prose”; “the characters are not interesting” (this same reviewer gave Tarzan, a bloated piece of dated, purple prose, five stars); “shallow”; “agonizingly elementary”; “an excellent substitute for valium” (this is kind of funny, actually); “a really bad book”; “sentences are basic and blunt”; “painful to read”; “you find yourself in a dreary funk”; “so vanilla”; and “swill.”

I think Fitzgerald is overrated, especially near the end of his career. (The Pat Hobby stories are amusing but crepe thin.) He drank too much, and the drink didn’t provide grist to his writing but rather turned him moribund and self-pitying. Some of his stories are dynamite, others are silly contrivances that say little and go nowhere. He’s light and airy, not a very careful writer and he hasn’t dated well. He lacks the sophistication and subtlety of some of his peers. And because everyone reads him in high school he has had an out-sized impact on our culture, inflicting his stormy self-entitlement to every new generation.

The author of Gatbsy, before booze and self-pity destroyed him.

The author of Gatbsy, before booze and self-pity destroyed him.


He is important, too, and cannot be judged without some context.

Gatsby is an enormously important novel, lean and taut at 185 pages. It’s arguably one of the first (or early) “American” novels in its themes and approach. The characters are haunted, lonely, and rich. The pursuit of wealth and status has left them hollowed out and unhappy. They are the embodiment of Tocqueville’s insightful comment on Americans, that the freer we are, the more aware we are of the inequality that separates us. So that the more freedom we have, the unhappier we become. And if Gatsby has at its core a bright shining lie—of course it’s better to have money than not to have it—it also has the hard wisdom best captured by Biggie Smalls: mo money, mo problems.

Roaming through the labyrinthine corridors of Internet opinion is enervating, frustrating, addicting. The endeavor is such a collapsing cascade of, well, nothingness. It’s a strange, self-perpetuating activity. I want to stop, but then I think of another great book to see what buffoons hate it and why.

Sadly, I’m sure they’ll be more to come.

[1] Excepting perhaps Butcher’s Crossing, by John Williams. And Warlock by Oakley Hall is good, too. Little Big Man belongs on the list.

[2] It’s hard to believe the vileness of these anonymous reviews. The vicious evil in this sentiment exposes an odd urge in certain types of readers to attack the author of a work they dislike.

The Taste of Others, part 9: That low down, dirty rotten Seuss.

5 Dec


In the history of children’s picture books, Dr. Seuss looms large. He’s the most famous author in the picture book canon, and arguably the most important. His body of work is equal parts zany, earnest, allegorical and political. His middle books—including The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, Fox in Socks and If I Ran the Circus—are silly, funny, interesting, verbose and slight. They’re anarchic, confident, fluid and a great entry into literacy for children.

His early books, including The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins and Bartholomew and the Oobleck are more intricate, light-hearted illustrated fantasies that have dated well. These, too, are good children’s books, although the smudgy pencil drawings lack the clean elegance of his later books, and the pacing and plotting are for older readers.

Dr. Seuss is an amiable companion, big-hearted, talented and palatable, a kind old gentleman with a penchant for cornball jokes.

But before he was Seuss, he was Geisel. And Geisel was a serious student at Dartmouth, a doctoral candidate at Oxford, and a political cartoonist of the first order[1]. He dabbled in erotic art, too, before hitting his stride with children’s books. His early manuscripts were received with scorn, and he was rejected some 30 times before he finally saw one of his children’s books in print.

Behind Seuss’s silly imagination was Geisel’s keen political mind. He wrote some very fine political children’s books. His best are The Lorax, The Butter Battle Book and The Sneetches (a short story in a collection).

So I was curious, how does Seuss, the great children’s book author, fare against the hordes of angry amazon reviewers?


Not well.

The Butter Battle Book is his most allegorical, and therefore most political, book. Seuss creates two societies that are very similar, only one butters their bread on the top, the other on the bottom. This cultural difference erupts into a never-ending war that escalates when two ambitious border guards begin a game of one-upmanship. They build bigger and bigger weapons, until they have an ultimate nullifier, a tiny egg that, when dropped, will destroy everything. It ends with the two old guards each threatening the other with the ultimate weapon. It’s funny, insightful and absolutely devastating, and it encompasses the madness of the Cold War as well as anything I’ve read.

Let’s see how people respond. Again, I stopped editing these to my house style. Grammatical and spelling errors abound.

The arms race is the thing that won us the Cold War! Ask anybody!

The arms race is the thing that won us the Cold War! Ask anybody! It was the only sane policy.

Title: Like most celebrities, Dr. Seuss is a little too simple-minded

As a writer and a creator of children’s stories, Dr. Seuss was absolutely brilliant; there is no doubt about that. But his childish view of the Cold War, at his age, is unforgivable. Likening the difference between freedom and Communism to the difference between the location of butter on bread is frustrating, and demonstrates once again how our American celebrities are unbelievably idealistic and out of touch with the realities of the world.

(This next one is great, but again I can’t tell if it’s a joke. Probably not.)


This book does nothing but mock the all mighty military machine that made this country great. Nothing in this country has done in the past 200 plus years beats the resounding victory we scored against those cold and calculating communists during the Cold War. We beat those commies at their own game. How dare anyone mock the greatest accomplishment of the greatest president we have ever had. This book is nothing but Marxist Philosophy.

(This reviewer has many axes to grind and a skewered view of history, a combination that makes for enjoyable reading.)

Title: Trivializes a serious matter.

While I love Dr. Seuss, I cannot believe that he trivializes the Cold War in the way that he does with this book. The much hated “arms race” was a race to protect ourselves and was a race that we not only won, but a race that also brought down the Soviet Union. Ironically, we won it because we outspent the Soviets. We outspent the Soviets because capitalism creates wealth. The fight between capitalism, which allows freedom, and the crushing weight of communism, which ideology has systematically killed more humans than any other in the last century, is not boiled down to something as simple as butter on bread. Buy one of his other books-the non-political type.


The Lorax is Seuss’s masterpiece. The art is superb, the message simple. The Lorax’s face, when he flees the environmental disaster left behind by the Once-ler, is sad and moving. Like Butter, The Lorax is a direct attack on the impact of unchecked capitalism. The Once-ler’s enterprise is unsustainable, destructive, and amoral. He pursues his profits with reckless abandon. He justifies and rationalizes every terrible thing he does, and any argument to the contrary he squashes with circular reasoning of jobs, money, profits, demand, and markets. And the disastrous world the Once-ler is creating unfolds before the reader’s eyes. It’s a tough little book, haunting and elegant.

There’s the environmental component—and the book’s ecological message is more relevant than ever—as well as the situationist belief that capitalism takes our desires, repackages them, and sells them back to us. You see this when the Once-ler sells a thneed to a faceless consumer.

The criticism of this book is, in some sense, legitimate. It is a cautionary tale. But who thinks it’s a good idea to starve the brown barbaloots? Or fill the streams with foul-smelling goo? Or choke the Swomee Swans with smog?

The mustachioed protector and speaker for the trees.

The mustachioed protector and speaker for the trees.

Title: hypocritical

Dr. Seuss, turned holier-than-thou by his elevated status in society, decides to preach to us about the evils of industrialization. Does he realize that the many millions of copies of “The Lorax” were all made in factories, using paper that came from trees? (Um, he’s dead.)

(This reviewer is annoyed that the book isn’t funny. He/she doesn’t agree with any of it either, but that’s besides the point.)

Title: Seuss had a bad week

Dr Seuss is supposed to be funny. Even books that tackle serious issues like Sneetches, are still hilarious. Even Butter Battle was still cute (for adults). But something went terribly wrong with the Lorax. The Lorax is heavy handed, preachy, and depressing.

For a man who successfully satired racism and nuclear war, pollution ought to be a cake walk. To be fair, perhaps the Lorax reads differently to someone left-of-center politically. We’re not, so we tend to disagree with much of the modern environmentalist agenda. However, good comedy transcends politics. You don’t have to agree with it to laugh at it. Unfortunately, we weren’t laughing, and we never even tried it on our kids.

(This next reviewer sneaks a pro-Lorax review in by pretending to write one-star review. Just trolling the one-star reviews has proven complex; when I first saw this, I missed the satire as I skipped over the end.)

Title: Crazy Environmentalist HOGWASH!

Right on, all of you people who have given this book a negative review! What a terrible book to give to a child! Who does Dr. Seuss think he is, anyway? – Trying to teach young people about our moral obligations to future generations, and environmental stewardship… it’s appalling. Doesn’t anyone care about the struggling, rich, conservative business owners (Like the proud, pro-capitalist, two star reviewer Jeffrey Gray); desperately strip mining our mountains, clear-cutting our forests, polluting our streams, for their own personal wealth and gain? What about THEM? Never mind the fact that the current rate of extinction on this planet is estimated at one species every 20 minutes! Who cares that if everyone on earth were to live like the average North American, it would require 4-5 more planets to keep up with the drain on natural resources! I mean, the Bush administration has been trying so hard to keep facts and figures like these from the public that they’ve even gone to the extent of changing and editing scientific reports on climate change for our own well being… and positive reviews of “The Lorax” are the thanks they get?

If more children were to read this tripe, they might actually begin to understand our inter-connectedness to all living beings, and accidentally inherit a world with a sustainable future. Is that really what we want for our kids?!

Maybe the Bar-ba-loots, Swomee-Swans, and Humming-Fish should think twice before settling in to a perfectly viable habitat with such vast economic potential. (Wink.)



And now, just for kicks, here’s a bonus review of Horton Hears a Who, one of Seuss’s best and most innocent stories. Horton is so innocent, there’s only one, one-star review, and it’s priceless. It reveals how people often see what they want to when peering too closely.

Title: Anti-Abortion?

This isn’t a kids book at all. The message behind it is one of choice, making reference to a woman’s right to choose through horton and the planet. I don’t care what your views on abortion are (anti or pro), you shouldn’t let young children read and decyfer the hidden meaning. Dr. Seuss was a nut job and a child corrupter, don’t support his work.

[1] You can see his political cartoons in the book, Dr. Seuss Goes to War. They’re great, when they aren’t blatantly racist.

The Taste of Others, part 8: Goodnight quality, goodnight decency, goodnight future.

3 Dec

(I’ve written three more of these, and then I’m moving on.)

This genuinely surprised me. The amount of vitriol aimed at Goodnight, Moon, a sweet, soft, lullaby of a poem feels disconnected to reality. There’s an undercurrent—more prevalent with canonized novels but present with children’s books, too—to try and puncture a classic because it’s a classic. I don’t think anyone would criticize this tiny little music box of a book otherwise. Still, Goodnight Moon seemed to irritate a number of reviewers. These got my hackles up, as Simone loved this book when she was a baby. There’s something comforting about it. There’s an undercurrent of decency. Why anyone would say mean, dismissive things about it is mystifying. Some of these are hysterical, especially the last two, and they all reveal all types of things about the reviewers’ values. I’ve put my comments, which I’ve kept to a minimum, in bold-face type.

I haven’t edited these to my house style; it seemed like a waste of time, although I despise some of the mistakes. I can only take solace in the fact that the mistakes aren’t mine. Anyway, read on.


Title: Not sure why this is a classic

I’ve heard people rave about this book, but after reading it to my infant, I’m left a little stumped at why it’s so popular. The story isn’t exceptionally good or well written. The illustrations aren’t particularly good. Some parts of the book rhyme, and some don’t, which is a bit inconsistent. Some parts don’t even make sense (i.e. “Goodnight nothing.” ?????). The only good thing about this book is that it is a board book and a good size for smaller hands. One other good thing is my infant likes to chew on it. 🙂 This book was included in a baby wash and lotion set that was gifted to us. I would not buy this book for myself, and I would not recommend this book to a friend. However, it’s just okay if you can find it for 10 cents at a yard sale or thrift store.

(The book is supposed to be calming, soothing. Yet this next reviewer seems to think a book with the title Goodnight, Moon should read like The Hunger Games.)

Title: Where’s the story? Where’s the HOOK?

Man, those other 1-star reviews were right: this book sucks! I tried to read it to my son when I first got it, and he was like “Dad, I’m playing Halo! Get out of my apartment!” Oh well, one down. Maybe my other kids’ll like it, or so I thought…

After that, I went and tried to read it to my youngest daughter and guess what? She fell asleep halfway through! It’s so boring that it put a 6 month old to sleep. What a ripoff!

Finally, I read it to my 3 year old daughter, and she was more impressed by my The Mountain Three Wolf Moon Short Sleeve Tee! In a moment of genius, I replaced the word “Goodnight” with “Three Wolf” in the story, and it was like a flock of angels came down and ripped an awesome power chord- rocking my daughter to sleep.

(This is a very strange review. The reviewer wants you to think he/she is calm and rational, but then says some very bizarre things. The key is that this person took the time to write a lengthy review about a book with little real criticism, other than it was boring. He/she traffics in generalizations, instead of pinpointing the flaws.)

Title: I fell asleep in Target!

Well, almost! What an absolutely over-rated book. I wanted so badly to like this book. My son is only 18-months-old and we own over 125 books—a mixture of newer books and vintage classics. I went to Target to specifically get THIS book, and you wouldn’t have believed the look of shock on my face as I finished the last page.

I nearly fell asleep standing there reading it. I guess it serves its purpose then, huh? So, yeah, if you are merely trying to get your kid to fall asleep, then PLEASE DO get this book because it’s guaranteed that your child will Bore N’ Snore within about 2 pages.

Just a simple book (simplicity is great in most cases, sadly not this time) about a bunny saying goodnight to the objects in his room. Every other page is done in black and white illustrations. Can’t believe this actually got published with all the competition out there.

It really is a shame…good childrens’ books are getting harder to come by these days as far as newly written ones go. As far as older classics–I would never classify this book as one of them.

Oh, and by the way…negatively rate me as much as you want…I find it funny that people give negative ratings when people give plenty of information on the product, but simply because they disagree they have to say it wasn’t helpful. Whatever…have fun 🙂

(Here’s another weirdo. This reviewer wants to do a close reading of the book, which is really a kind of sweet nonsense poem in the spirit, but not the style, of Lewis Carroll. A reader this literal shouldn’t read poetry at all, or fiction either. I love that the reviewer’s child is so advanced, yet the reviewer’s basic grasp of grammar and writing is so weak.)

Title: Huh?!?!

I have a 26-month-old who is on par with 5-year-olds for his vocabulary. He loves books, and mostly longer books that tell a story. I saw this at the library and decided to see what the hype was about. I was so confused as to why this is rated so high. My son asked me “Mama, what’s mush?” Um…..I didn’t know what to say. What is mush? Is that even a noun? I know mushy is adjective of course. Then the “old lady” aka a rabbit – so confusing! My son again asked “what’s an old lady?” Well an old lady ISN’T a knitting rabbit. He clearly knows what a rabbit/bunny is. He knows what a noise is, since he always asks “What’s that noise?” when he hears something. At the end when the author writes “Goodnight noises everywhere” makes no sense.

All in all, I think this book is confusing and detrimental to a toddler’s vocabulary. So glad I didn’t pay for this one and I recommend you don’t either! There are books out there that are so much better and valuable!

(This is review is almost sweet, but also bizarre. Of all the books to find scary!)

Title: Pictures are scary

I got this book because of the rave reviews. When I read this to my 1st child and I think he was about 18 months old at the time, he was scared looking at the pictures. The sleepy ‘rabbit’ looked so small in the huge room and there where shadows everywhere.

My child could be very sensitive because he was scared when I read ‘Cat in the Hat’ because the story is about a stranger in the house with the kids! I think at that time, he was between 1 to 2 years old.

(An absolute gem of a review.)

Title: Teaches children flawed natural order

This book, though highly regarded, sets the stage for something awful in childhood development. It teaches children to anthropomorphise (and on top of that show respect to!) all sorts of random aspects of creation. I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to have my child concern himself with pleasantries to objects. The room serves us, not the other way around! It should thank us for building it and giving it a purpose, not expect us to wish it well at night. It’s this type of nonsense that will have my child on the dole after dropping out of high school.

The Taste of Others, part 7: Everywhere gays!

2 Dec

Everywhere Babies is a simple little book showing babies doing simple things with their families. Marla Frazee—a wonderful illustrator, and my second favorite behind Demi; All the World is a standout in the picture book world—does the artwork. The book shows different kinds of families, including same-sex couples. The babies are cuddled, sung to and rocked to sleep. The book’s tone isn’t political; it’s sweet. Of course, just including same-sex couples enrages some readers. The context doesn’t matter, only the concept. For people who weren’t raised in a religious household, the anger over the gay thing can seem so strange—really, why does someone in central Florida care what two men do up in Maine? They key is the sense of cultural decline. Southern Baptists in particular feel they are waging a war against relativism in the popular culture, and that any slippage in any arena is a setback for the Lord’s cause. They’re uptight, self-serious and easily angered, and therefore the perfect readers for this series of entries on the taste of others.

Most of these one-star reviews say they want a warning on the cover. What that warning would look like isn’t at all clear. Warning: this book has depictions of sinning gays! Or, Beware: This book might, maybe, perhaps, one day turn your baby into a gay!

I haven’t altered or edited these at all. These get increasingly hilarious.


Title: not for my conservative family

The pictures are cute, the text is sweet, but the book pictures several same-sex couples, which I don’t think is appropriate for such young children, at least not for mine. There needs to be some note to the book that informs that the book has pictures of the alternative families.

Title: Illustrations with Same Sex Couples

While the illustrations of the babies are adorable, I found the pictures with same sex couples to be inappropriate for my young children. I am glad I got the book from the library; it will be very easy to return!

Title: Everywhere Homosexuals

It’s gross that people are trying to introduce this sexual lifestyle to children at such a young age. There should be a warning on the cover.

Title: “concerned mom”

On the surface, this book is charming—the illustrations are masterful and the simply rhyme is captivating and heartwarming. However, there are at least four depictions of same-sex couples. Only three of these couples are pictured with babies. So, the ‘families-are-diverse and we need to reflect that’ argument doesn’t even work here. These pictures are not even subtle. We’re not talking two men walking together—there are two men with their arms around each other. And two women lying on a bed while one rocks a cradle. As the illustrator herself notes on her website, ‘Children read pictures. They really do.’ I don’t wish eternal damnation on the authors as another reviewer suggested (although I think that review is a publicity stunt). I simply want them to keep their agenda to themselves and not try to force it on my preschoolers (the target audience, by the way).

Title: Not so innocent

I agree with the prior reviewer. Although subtle and easily overlooked, the homosexual undertones of the few sketches surprised and disappointed me. Although this may be “politically correct” it is NOT biblically correct and not something I would want my children to think is OK. If you are trying to instill Christian values in your children, be very discerning as to what they are exposed. The things we may overlook…our children may not.

Title: Watch Out!

This seemingly innocent book about the beautiful things that babies do and what a joy they are to be around includes lesbian and gay parents in its illustrations. My daughter LOVES babies, so I thought this would be great! In fact, the words of the text are fabulously cute rhymes, BUT I do not need her to be exposed to these alternative “families” at such a young age. Thus, I do not recommend this book for anyone wanting to celebrate the innocence of babies. 

The Taste of Others, part 6: Overrated?

30 Nov

Where the Wild Things Are is, to me, a genuine classic, one of the few children’s picture books that is lean and powerful with just enough ambiguity to make it intriguing. (I’ve written multiple entries on it. Read the first part here.) Yet, even Where the Wild Things Are isn’t immune to these mean-spirited one-star reviews. Some people seem offended when a book doesn’t live up to their expectations. Here’s a particularly frustrated reader who decides to take it out on everyone else. Note the strange excursion into the Swayze vehicle Ghost, and the oddball grammar, which I didn’t fix.

Title: Where the hyped stories rule

This is a fine example of how following the crowd will get you nowhere. Especially if the leader of that crowd has no idea where he is going. Many years ago it was decided that this was an exceptional book. It received a very prestigious award. And like the Emperor’s new clothes many gather around to praise it. But was it truly deserved or could it be that the author, whom had been nominated various times before was thrown a bone. Like Whoopi Goldberg performance in “The Color Purple” but winning for “Ghost” Who’s to say. When I read this story all I thought was “nice drawings,”  Yes those drawings stand out more than a single line in this story. Can anyone quote a verse from this story. If I read it to you would you recall it. Yet flash a picture and the memories flood back of library cards and book reports. If your looking for a classic story to read your children or grandkids. Keep searching because this tale doesn’t qualify.

The Taste of Others, part 5: Some cows are more equal than others.

29 Nov

Click, Clack, Moo is the most popular left-leaning children’s book I can think of. It tells of a group of overworked cows who decide to strike due to bad working conditions. They won’t give milk until they get electric blankets. Their weapon is a typewriter and, later, their own labor. It’s a very fine introduction to the concept of unions, as well as how collective bargaining works. How people respond to the book reveals oodles about their own beliefs. The book is sweet though, and pretty funny. There are no Molotov cocktails or Pinkertons blasting away at strikers with their six shooters; it’s just cows and ducks and an angry farmer.

Those cows are upsetting the natural order!

When Beth found these, she knew she had hit a goldmine. These are wonderful. My comments—I don’t know why I bother, really—are in boldface.

(This is the meanest and most predictable of the responses, blaming collective bargaining for many of the social ills of our country. The reviewer gives him/herself away with two key words, “pampered” and “uncompetitive.” I’ll paraphrase beforehand: outsourcing is the fault of the unions.)

Title: Union Propaganda.

OK, the book is cute, but the reason that it has received such acclaim and honor is because it celebrates and encourages Union activity. Certainly the media would not have fallen in love with this book if farmer brown turned the ungrateful, inefficient and pampered cows into hamburger and drumsticks and replaced them with more appreciative, hard working, and efficient cows and chickens. Or would it have received the same media and literary praise if it showed that farmer brown had to move his farm to Mexico or lay off farm hands because the increased electrical costs caused by the cows and chickens made his farm uncompetitive?

(Oh, God, this next review is hysterical, and indicative of the mindset of the anti-union folks. You should be grateful you have a job at all!)

Title: Cute way to subtly teach children how to act like spoiled brats

This story definitely has an agenda. It is very cute, I must admit, but I would never read this to my child because it promotes values that I do not want to instill in my children. The cows (and chickens) in the story become discontent with living like every other cow lives. It is not enough that the cows are fed, live in a barn, and are well provided for…they want more! So they appeal to the farmer, refusing to do their part to contribute, until the farmer meets their “demands.” In my opinion, this story teaches children that making unrealistic demands is okay and, even worse, that you can act like a spoiled brat and get your way! Too bad the cows aren’t being grateful for what they have and trying to help less fortunate cows by welcoming them into their barn at night instead…then I might read this story to my children.

(This reviewer lays it out in brass tacks: unions are misguided and wrong.)

Title: WRONG Message for Children

Perhaps the book is amusing and filled with laughter but teaching our children how to strike and how to organize and create a Union is WRONG! We are a capitalist society. (You are buying this book from a company that is making $$$ right???) Let’s teach children how to be responsible, do the best they can and how to succeed such as the Little Engine that Could!! I DO NOT Recommend this Book!

(This next review is elegant and straightforward. And nuts.)

Title: Leftwing Propaganda

The book focuses on promoting strikes, fair labor practices and is really not appropriate for kids. I hope the author stops writing about leftist ideals and focuses on letting the children think for themselves.

(This is the best of the bunch, and overly literal reading of a children’s book that seems so agitated by talking animals. This also seems like a joke, but perhaps not.)


I thought this would be a wonderful book to read to my children. I can’t believe how wrong I was. First of all, Ms. Cronin seems to take her readers for fools, thinking that we’ll just nod and look away as she spoon-feeds us… TALKING COWS. I kid you not. And these aren’t just any talking cows. They have typing skills and even stage a strike. You can’t even be gullible to buy this, you’ve got to be downright stupid, and even that’s a stretch. I would most definitely not recommend this book to any parent, unless for some reason you want your children to grow up believing in talking cows and cow strikes that result in milk shortages and whatnot. Utterly terrible – pun intended.