And to think the Bobbsey family is fiction

So I’m reading The Bobbsey Twins to Harrison right now. Even though it’s slower than molasses and completely outdated, he’s way into it.

Now you would think that by choosing an old standard, we’d be totally safe. But I might as well go straight to¬†Captain Underpants because there are moments when I actually have to censor this book.

Take their cook, Dinah. Every stinking time she talks, the author reminds us that she’s black and/or colored. I, of course, leave that part out because it seems so totally inappropriate and irrelevant. And when it talks about her husband, Sam, I get the distinct impression that the author is highly, highly racist. In fact, I do quite a bit of improvising where Sam is concerned because the book is hell bent on making him sound like an idiot. (Don’t worry, I’ve made Sam sound impressive enough to be the next president.)

And the more I read, the less credible this book becomes. To hear them talk, you’d think there was nothing in the world more wonderful than having two sets of twins, because obviously, they’re all best chums. I mean, Nan and Bert do practically everything together, and Freddie and Flossie (Flossie? Really?) couldn’t be more perfectly matched in coloring or temperment.

I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that THIS BOOK IS A LOAD OF CRAP. It’s such a good thing I’ve got Ramona Quimby and Super Fudge around, or I’d be feeling really bad about my parenting skills right about now. (By the way, Super Fudge is way funnier now that I’m a mother.)


  1. Hey!!! I had a Great Aunt Flossie!!!! (May she rest in peace!) Beverly Cleary isn’t completely clean either from my remembrance. My mom hated it when I brought home those books. I couldn’t figure out why. . . .

  2. Annie – I’ve been thinking about it (for all of 2 minutes) and wondering how I deal with stuff like this (because I’m SUCH a pro at this parenting gig). I realized that when things like this come up in life I rarely, if ever, sugar coat things for M. Perhaps because I’m a “minority” (really?) I want her to be painfully aware that people really do think this way. We’ve had some great discussions where I see her brain working as she makes her own decisions about how she feels about certain issues. We compare it to what she’s taught in the Gospel and we have some GREAT spiritual moments.

    There you have it. My 25 cents about it all. Just sayin.

  3. I’ve been surprised many times when a book or movie that I remember from my childhood has turned out to be much less impressive than my memory allowed for. I believe parents have a right to censor as much as they want and an obligation to censor as much as they should. While it’s important to have good discussions about things, children will have plenty of chances –unfortunately– to witness society’s flaws in person and hopefully the *good* models they’ve been exposed to will help them to discern and recognize the wrongs they see.

  4. Super Fudge! Yes! I read all the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown books. How did I not become a world famous detective?

  5. I’ve had to censor a Dora the Explorer book recently. Swiper had taken something, then lost it, and the book ended with Dora and Boots laughing at him.

    Wish we could’ve chatted more on Saturday!

  6. I recently obtained Superfudge for my 1st grader. But I haven’t read it. (Well, I haven’t since I was 8.) I should do that.

    Have you ever noticed how violent fairy tales are? We found a book of fairy tales at my mom’s house and I had to do some serious summarizing. I didn’t want to terrorize my children with farmers who regularly drown their cats. Or whip their children. You get the picture.

  7. My kids just play with play-doh.

  8. I don’t Anne, I’ve been reading Brody a ton of books from our childhood, Bobbsey Twins included and although those books can really paint the picture pretty rosy-what’s wrong with that? Why in the world should my 6 year old think that brothers and sisters are less than loving and kind to each other and that families talk nicely to each other and that good wins out in the end?

    I don’t I think I have much of a problem reading the Bobbsey Twins to my kids. He likes them (although he likes Encyclopedia Brown better-I really recommend those and he LOVED the Ramona books-oh and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle).

    Can’t comment too much on the Dinah/Sam thing…different generation and it doesn’t bug me too much when I put it in that context in my mind-you know, try not to judge and all.

  9. It’s amazing to me, what we see with mommy eyes. My oldest read To Kill a Mockingbird about a year ago, and even though that was such a wonderful, amazing book, it was still drawing such a line between Atticus’ family and Calpurnia’s – enough that my kid noticed (and felt) it. But for my kids, who know so few “people of color” (besides our friends from Mexico, and they just envy their cooking abilities) it’s important to see these sorts of things in books – both done well, and done badly, to recognize that people can handle race relations well or badly, too.

  10. One of my great-grandma’s name was Floss. The woman was mischief and curiosity from the start, her life history is one hilarious story after another. And I have an aunt Flossie. The name was pretty popular around the turn of the century. I think the introduction of dental floss changed all that. I love the name because of my great-grandma.
    Speaking of books to read to kids, I was recently told I need to read The Great Brain to my son. I never read that series, but was given a pretty convincing argument to pick them up now.

  11. Just be careful…one of the Judy Blume “fudge” books gives up the man in red. I can’t remember which one-but that is how my niece found out. So I am keeping them away from my girls for at least one more year.
    One I have enjoyed reading with my girls is the Boxcar kids. Oh the memories.
    I give you props for parental editing as you read. It is a talent. I don’t know if I would be that quick on my feet.

  12. My son has read the Hardy Boys and I think the biggest problem with that one was that he didn’t understand the technology. So I explained a HAM radio and told him I didn’t know why they didn’t use a phone like normal people. Turns out, he’d rather read Fablehaven and Goosebumps. I loved Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, so I was sad, but whatever. If he wants scary books, whatever. As long as he can sleep at night.

  13. I totally understand where you are coming from here! First off, I HATE the Junie B Jones books for a similar reason. She is such a NAUGHTY kid, and this book (though well written to sound like a 5 year old) makes it seem like it’s okay to say and do the things she does! I don’t want my daughter to get that impression, so I found myself having to stop and explain every couple pages why Junie was naughty and how we shouldn’t act like her…

    Also, have you let your kids watch Pinocchio lately?! Jiminey Cricket actually curses TWICE in it! Blew my mind. Yeah- not so great when your 5 year old starts calling her little sister a Jack @$$…

    If your son is big into being read to I would HIGHLY suggest looking up some Bruce Coville books. More specifically “The Ghost in the 3rd Row,” “The Ghost Wore Gray,” and “The Ghost in the Big Brass Bed” set as well as the Magic Shop series books (The Monster Ring, The Skull of Truth, Jeremy Thatcher Dragon Hatcher, Jennifer Merdley’s Toad, and Juliet Dove Queen of Love) I LOVE Bruce Coville, and he is SUCH a fantastic writer… Good books for young and old! He also wrote a TON of Alien books (Space Brat series, My Teacher is an Alien Series etc.)

    Have fun!

    • annie valentine says:

      Ooh, Pam, such good suggestions. I’m jumping on Amazon to get some of his, I know Harrison would love them.

  14. For a lot of giggling and boy humor, read “How to Train a Dragon” before it comes out in theaters. I’ve only just started it, but it’s got real potential! It is a series with at least 6 books so far. My 8 year old is devouring them and he has to keep close tabs on them b/c his older sibs want to borrow them.

    For older readers, Redwall is wonderful. It’s a great read-aloud too, if you like to do voices. And the author, Brian Jacques, is an incredible human being.

    This may not be helpful, but I found out today that if you fan Einstein’s in Facebook, you get a 25% off coupon. I wish we had one close by!

  15. That is so funny, Kel and I were just talking yesterday about the Bobbsy Twin books and I was telling her I read 4 of them to my kids over the summer. We all loved reading them together, such entertaining stories. It’s never bothered me when they talk about Dinah’s color, or her and Sam’s accents, or hint at Sam’s lack of education through his speech because that’s how it truly was back then. If all our classic and historical novels had to be politically correct, our children might not ever understand the difference between then and now. To me, books like The Bobbsy Twins and Adventures of Tom Sawyer illustrate a feeling of love for the “colored” people that probably wasn’t always shown at that time. The Bobbseys never treat Dinah or Sam with anything but love and respect, and maybe in reminding us of their color the author is trying to demonstrate an example of how we can all treat each other kindly, no matter our social or scholastic positions.

    OK, I’ll jump off my soap box here and also suggest reading Thornton W. Burgess’s books on Old Mother West Wind, Adventures of Peter Cottontail, Adventures of Reddy Fox, Adventures of Johnny Chuck, and any other Adventure books of the various animals that live in the forest. Mom has a whole bunch of these that were your dad’s when he was a kid and they are marvelous. My kids adore them.

    • annie valentine says:

      Oh you Seaberg girls, it was just a fun post to write, I didn’t mean to get you both so worked up.

  16. I have one set of twins. And that is more than enough for me. But yeah, I’ve gone back many times to read a book I LOVED. And then….notsomuch.

  17. You ought to bust out the Great Brain—there’s some good old school stuff. I could be wrong (seeing as it was nearly two decades ago that I was reading it) but I don’t recall anything offensive like what you’re reading with those Bobbsey kids.

    PS-if it makes you feel any better I got lots of personal emails from people about the recent ranting I did on my blog where they felt they could tell me how I could be a better person. I think you’re doing fine and sometimes it’s irritating when your personal blog, that you should feel free to post opinions on, becomes a place where people feel more free to judge you when you really just need support.

  18. I haven’t read Super Fudge OR the Bobbsey Twins. #mommyfail.

  19. Funny you should mention, because just last night KJ got Ramona Quimby and Tales of a 4th grade nothing at the Library.

    She’s excited to read them!

  20. Kudos to you for editing. I know it may not seem like a big deal to some people who live in Utah and think that race isn’t an issue, but as a white woman raising a black child, I hope that every mother out there has the sensitivity to teach their children that the world shouldn’t be like that any more. I know it won’t happen, but I can hope, can’t I? Belittling people and making them seem inferior because of how they look is wrong no matter what the current or past norms.