Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Little Engine That Could: A Scathing Indictment

Oh, Watty Piper, how you have scarred me...

This is how I feel about TLETC.
It also deserves the backwards treatment.
My son, the one who is capable of talking, is obsessed with The Little Engine That Could (henceforth to be referred to as TLETC or That Book). He asks to read it at least three times a week. I don't get it. I have bought him some great books, but whoever gave us That Book owes me big time. I will be honest and say I'm pretty sure it was one of the sweet old ladies from our church in D.C. but somehow that doesn't make it any better. I imagine her snickering to herself and saying, "Teehee, teehee, I really pulled one over on that young filly." All old ladies should refer to me as a filly.

Anyway, I dislike this book because my mother once made an off the cuff remark about how TLETC's message is not really based on good theology, and now that's all I can think about when I read it. Okay, to be honest, that's not the only reason. The reasons I dislike That Book are Legion. And that's what this blog is all about. TLETC, how have I been scarred by you? Let me count the ways.

One, clowns scare me. And "the funniest little toy clown you ever saw" is just absolutely terrifying to me. Seriously creeptastic. I can't look at it without getting little cold chills running down to my belly button. And my child asks me to read this book how many times a week? Is this punishment for all the times I've put him in time out? IS IT?

Two, what child wants fresh spinach for their dinners? And peppermint drops for dessert? This is propaganda, I tell you! Besides, the plight of the sad little train with no working engine would be that much more convincing if there was ice cream on board threatening to melt at any minute if they are not pulled over the mountain to the boys and girls on the other side. Also, why do the apples and oranges have faces on them and the milk bottles weird little stick legs and the lollypops ghoul eyes? I need to know!

Third, I am severely annoyed that while the train stays broken down and unable to pull itself over the mountain, the scenery in the background changes. I realize this shouldn't bother me when food has been personified and given feet (see above), but it does. It really, really does.

Fourth, it also bothers me that all the mean engines that won't help the train out are male and the Little Blue Engine is female. I realize that as a strong woman with feminist leanings this shouldn't bother me, but as a mother of boys it really, REALLY does. What kind of message does this teach my sons? That they will either be snooty and mean or too tired and old to be helpful whereas their female counterparts will be little angels in contrast? At least mix it up a little. Why couldn't the strong engine have been female (that too would've made my feminist tendencies happy)? I'm not against a female protagonist by any means, but casting all the villains as male is just unnecessary. Is this nit-picky? Maybe. But I'm always looking for more things to dislike about That Book.

At any rate, I diligently read this book to my child when he asks (because he's cute and I love him) and try to keep myself entertained by doing different voices for all the engines (which he sadly does not appreciate) and by reading as quickly as humanly possible (which for some reason doesn't bother him at all), but my favourite version of the story is the one that my middle sister told before Little Man was old enough to know she wasn't really reading him the book and really just wanted to look at the pictures of the trains. I am doing my best to find it since I put it in a very awesome status on facebook, but I'm not having any luck. So I just want you to know that it included nuclear explosions and purple sheep, I think, and was way more entertaining than what's actually included in the real book. And now I'm going to go eat my unhappiness over losing that masterpiece of hilarity by consuming a bag of chocolate chips, all because I facebooked about it instead of blogging!


  1. You make me laugh...the way I figured out about this book (prior to A.B.F.) was from the movie major payne which makes me feel better some how.

    I'll burn the book tomorrow and you will never have to read it again. How is that for saving the day?

  2. Found it on my weirdo-timeline thingy: Listening to Amanda read The Little Engine That Could to Alex. Lines now include: "Look at the Poached Egg Dancing! What the what?" and "I am too famous. I have my own TV show." and "Check him climbing on like a hitchhiking bimbo." and "Hijacked it like a hobo clown!" and "Chuggety chuggety faster like a fireball against the nuclear explosion of the purple town." The End.

    You're welcome--for that and for the word 'creeptastic' which I actually prefer with a 'k' at the end.

  3. Now I love TLETC. . . just because of your blog! :-) And Amanda's rewrite! AND how Josh is ready to save the day by burning the book tomorrow! Love you!

  4. "And my child asks me to read this book how many times a week? Is this punishment for all the times I've put him in time out? IS IT?"

    Oh my gosh. Laughed out loud.