Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Confession: I Don't Even Know Who Jane Addams Is

Was I the only person who read ValueTales when I was a child? These were books about famous historical people going crazy and hearing animals and dolls and test tubes talking to them about morality. Some of the famous-historical-figure choices made sense, like Beethoven and Helen Keller; others, like Michael Landon, were more mysterious. (The Michael Landon ValueTale teaches us about the value of a Positive Attitude!) I thought they were out of print, but it turns out a man named Dr. Johnson is reprinting them, and he maintains a website where you can page through extensive samples. I recommend The Value of Respect: The Tale of Abraham Lincoln, in which a squirrel named Bushy tells Abe to free the slaves; The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Tale of Louis Pasteur, in which a bee teaches Louis about rabies; and The Value of Humor: The Tale of Will Rogers, in which an actual rope comes to life and tells Will that everybody hates a sad person, so make some jokes! Also of interest is The Value of Helping: The Tale of Harriet Tubman, which contains the immortal lines:

Harriet wasn't an ordinary little girl, you see.

She was a black slave.

Well then. Anyway, I happened to pick up a copy of the Jane Addams ValueTale at a used bookstore yesterday. I never read this one when I was little, so imagine my surprise when it turned out to be, in large part, about crap-eating:

Don't worry, though, it's not all crap-eating all the time. A doll also comes to life

and murders her teaches her that children shouldn't work in factories! Way to go out on a limb, there, ValueTales. I used to believe that, but after viewing numerous pictures of children using their God-given free time to devour filth, I no longer feel convinced.


Anonymous said...

Holy shit, you bet I remember the ValueTale incarnation of Louis Pasteur, though I'd forgotten about his apian friend.

What's still as vivid as the summer camp Rec Lodge bookshelf where I found the ValueTale sandwiched between a Wuzzles novelization and a few oddly sticky late eighties National Geographics is the author's decision to render the rabies vaccine as the operation of "invisible soldiers" - depicted as tall Hessians at parade rest in a syringe. "Don't worry," coos Pasteur as he slides the needle under Joseph Meister's skin. The illustrator paints the boy with clammy flesh and closed eyes. "Invisible soldiers, Joey."

Did the author know that Joey shot himself fifty years later when the Nazis took Paris? Christ, now I can see Meister chambering a round in his old trench pistol as the boots echo in the streets.

"Invisible soldiers..."

Valerie Loveland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Valerie Loveland said...

After these last two posts, now I am scared to look at your journal.

Anonymous said...

(Sorry, Tricia. I intended that comment to be somewhat ironic but the tone got away from me. I really didn't mean to scary up your post. Delete as you will!)

Patricia Lockwood said...

OH MAN, I had totally forgotten the part about the soldiers in the syringe! If ValueTales had been honest, the book would have depicted a syringe full of frothing skeletonized bunnies, seeing as "young Meister was inoculated under a fold of skin with half a syringeful of the spinal cord of a rabbit, which had died of rabies." Much more child-friendly, I think.

(Of course I won't delete your marvelous comment. This blog prides itself on being nothing but tones getting away from people all the time.)

If I kept a journal, Valerie, it probably would be terrifying. Instead I have sheafs of New Yorker subscription cards scribbled over with phrases like "HARLEQUIN MEAT???"

Radish King said...

God I am so thankful I was either abused or ignored as a child. I didn't have to read any of this crap. I went directly from the Bible to Valley of the Dolls.

Anonymous said...

This is really creepy and, may I add, poorly illustrated stuff. I missed out on the ValueTales. What I remember were the "We Were There" novels which told the stories of young people, supposedly the age of the young reader, at historically importent venues. The one that sticks in my mind was "We Were There on the Oregon Trail" which tells the tale of a young brother and sister taking a really long wagon ride from St. Louis, Missouri to the Oregon Territory. I knew it was fiction, however, by the fact that not once did the kids spend all day asking their pioneer parents "When are we gonna get there?" or demanding that the entire wagon train stop so they could go to the bathroom. Ah, how I remember those long automobile trips across the arid Texas plains with my parents and my sister, my father insisting that we kids urinate into wax paper cups because we were making such good time that stopping would spoil the whole trip. In a ValueTale the cup would magically come to life and teach us young'uns the value of self-discipline in all things urinary as well as the importancd of shaving five minutes off vacation travel time even if it means arriving at your destination with pee-soaked trousers.

Patricia Lockwood said...

Poor Rebecca, you will weep when I tell you that not only was I made to read ValueTales, I was ALSO made to read all of the Berenstain Bears books, which you mentioned as a nemesis a while back.

Admiral, if you liked the "We Were There" books, you'd love Anthony and the Magic Picture Frame, in which the author inserted pictures of his kid into photographs of famous historical events. The moon landing is cute and all, but I prefer the one where he's been Photoshopped into the Holocaust.


yay! awesome. i totally read the whole series. i specifically remember the Value of Humor with Will Rogers.


Patricia Lockwood said...

The Imaginative Action Regime! It has been so LONG.