Books Are Pretty

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Honest-To-Goodness Truth.

The last time I was in the city, an independent bookseller was having a sidewalk sale, so I picked up a couple of books for the kids, this being one of them. As I was reading it to Alex later on that evening, I got very excited by the possibility of uncovering a children's book scandal! The illustrations in The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, you see, are almost identical to the illustrations in another children's book, Toni Morrison's The Big Box. But the artist credit on the Truth book is Giselle Potter, while the Morrison book is illustrated by Morrison's son Slade Morrison.

Look how similar the artwork is. Here's the Truth book:

and here's the Morrison book:

As you can see, my career as an investigative journalist came screeching to an abrupt halt when I doublechecked the cover and saw that Slade Morrison was credited as a co-writer with his Nobel Prize-winning mom, and Giselle Potter was the illustrator on both.

Imagine my disappointment that I have to write a totally scandal-free review.

Sigh. Okay. The Honest-to-Goodness Truth actually deals with one of my favorite pet peeves - those assholes who hurt your feelings and then, when you protest, hold up their hands and shrug and say, "Hey, I'm just being honest."

I hate those people. One of Steve's friends from high school came to stay with us for a weekend a few years ago, and he was big into this, especially when the subject was my cooking, ha ha. His wife tried to smooth things over by loudly talking about how good dinners were, an effort that I appreciate but have to say didn't help any. Finally we gave up and took them out to dinner at R.J. Grunt's in Lincoln Park, and damned if he didn't bitch about that, too. Like Steve's friend, most people who insult in the name of honesty usually have another agenda in mind. In this case, it was the fear that Steve and I, the city mice, were looking down on the friend and his wife, the country mice. Even though this wasn't even remotely true, each effort at hospitality on our part, from buying their child a gift at F.A.O. Schwartz, ("My mother-in-law already bought her a teddy bear backpack that's a lot nicer than this one") to my "unappetizing" food, was seen as trying to make him feel lesser rather than as an effort to show appreciation for their friendship by making them feel welcome. Steve never spoke to him again after that weekend, and I'm sorry about that, but the friend just acted like a big turd and ruined a 10 year friendship.

In The Honest-to-Goodness Truth, the "just being honest" protagonist is a little girl named Libby, who has no hidden agenda, she just doesn't understand that the unvarnished truth is often unwanted.

Caught in a lie by her mother, Libby swears to tell "from now on, only the truth." The next week she puts her resolution into practice, telling her best friend that she has a hole in her stocking in front of all the other children at church, ratting out a fellow student to the teacher for not completing his geography homework, and insulting a sweet neighbor lady by telling her her garden looked like a jungle.

Finally, her mother explains to her that "sometimes the truth is told at the wrong time or in the wrong way, or for the wrong reasons. And that can be hurtful. But the honest-to-goodness truth is never wrong." With, I assume, the emphasis on "goodness."

Although I liked the message very much and found the book interesting to read aloud, Alex had a difficult time with the concept. He's been tapped with a little bit of the Asperger's stick, so the fine shading of grey when it comes to truth-telling may be more difficult for him than for most children. Or perhaps it's a book better suited for 7-8 year olds. I'll have to wait until Christopher is 5 to know for sure.

And the illustrations were good.

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