When choosing a children’s book to read, I looked up popular picture books of 2013 to get a better idea of what children’s books are like right NOW. I found the book Cookie The Walker by Chris Monroe. Cookie the dog begins walking on her hind legs so that she may reach the T.V. and unattended food, and eventually this strange way of walking wins her fame. Cookie “climbs the corporate latter” and lands her own T.V. show in Hollywood. In exchange for treats Cookie must perform difficult tasks, of which she grows tired. Cookie’s friend Kevin assures her that it is ok to go back to being a normal dog, even though the pressure for Cookie to remain in the limelight is high. Cookie gets fired for walking on all fours, but goes home a happy dog.
The design of this book is part full-page picture, part comic with speech bubbles. I think this form of picture book speaks to smaller children more interactively than picture books with just lines of text at the bottom of each page. The speech bubbles make it easier for children to get an idea of what’s going on in the book without having to “analyze” much text. Profound themes such as sacrificing self for success, and loyal friendship, are displayed in a way that children can understand. The material is not dumbed down, but explained in a way that is appropriate for children. I personally like the way this book is written, and feel that is not sexist, egocentric or pornographic. I think the book speaks against thinking too highly of oneself and exploiting oneself for fame, taking the stance that it is better to be true to oneself.
In relation to the ideas of childhood during the enlightenment, I feel that this book retains some of those ideas but embraces more modern themes. The fact that book documents a character’s struggle with fame and the media immediately sets some of the book’s themes out of the enlightenment period and into modern day. The subject of children and television, or children and media in general was not a hot topic during the enlightenment, but as proven by Victor Strasburger in “Children, Adolescents, and Media,” in modern day is of utmost concern. Strasburger writes that “the average U.S. child between the ages of 8 and 18 spends 6½ hours a day using media,” which means that the enormous amount of time children spend on media was spent elsewhere for children in the enlightenment (Victor Strasburger). In relation to the ideas of Locke, the book in question shares Locke’s opinion that “virtue” is more important than gaining the approval of peers. Locke writes, “It is preposterous therefore to sacrifice his innocency to the attaining of confidence and some little skill of bustling for himself among others.” Though Locke goes on to further argue against the importance of children over-socializing with other children, I think the intent of the children’s story and Locke’s words is to caution against creating a psyche built more on peer-affirmation and less on self-thought. I would argue that, in the case of the poem “Ode Upon a Distant Prospect of Eton College” in comparison with the book, that both writers speak against over-institutionalizing instead of letting a child be free to be a child. Gray writes,
“Yet ah! why should they know their fate?
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies.
Thought would destroy their paradise.
No more; where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”
Though the children’s book in question does not specify that Cookie the dog is in fact a child, since the book is written for children I feel safe in saying that because Cookie is in the end persuaded to leave the institution that is tying her down, (a Hollywood T.V. show), to instead live a happier/more free life, that the ideas of the author and Thomas Gray relate. Though external circumstances have changed since the enlightenment, children are faced with similar struggles spoken about by many enlightenment era writers.
Victor Strasburger, “Children, Adolescents, and Media”
John Locke, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education, Part IV”
Thomas Gray, “Ode Upon a Distant Prospect of Eton College”