I’ve never been in a book club but I understand that one of the problems is that no-one has ever read the book except for Melanie the English Literature teacher who has produced 17 pages of notes. We all live busy lives and reading a whole novel is not always possible when the cat gets sick. I have a solution to this problem I’ve never experienced. Get your book club to read something more achievable.
There are a myriad of other things to reflect on within the pages of a chewable children’s book. As someone who has incorporated a critique of terra nullius into my telling of the Three Little Pigs I know how to add a healthy, and perhaps appropriate, dollop of middle-class guilt to a toddler’s bedtime. A room full of adults with a plate of cheese, biscuits and mini muffins could certainly bring all their guilt and anxieties to the table to create a very stimulating discussion without needing to read more than a few hundred words.
My first suggestion for the Achievable Book Club is the Usborne That’s Not My series. This should allow for no excuses as there are only 54 words per book. Even if a book club member has had a mad week with the annual report due and the upstairs shower flooding into the kitchen they should still be able read the entire series in ten minutes before the discussion kicks off.
Here are my thoughts merely as a jumping off point. Please bring your diversity of experiences and intersectionality to your group!
In the That’s Not My series a little mouse tries to find his misplaced stuff and has limited success for five pages until finding the item on the final page. For example ‘That’s not my train its funnel is too rusty’ and ending on ‘That’s my train its engine is so glossy’. The books are touch and feel with various textures included throughout.
For the most part the series depict a careless and over privileged mouse who shouldn’t be allowed to have planes, frogs or robots if he can’t keep track of them. He is also basically terrible at looking for things and is like someone who announces ‘I can’t find the cream cheese’ 0.7 seconds after opening the fridge door. We should all just ignore him or at most instruct him to ‘bend your knees’ like my mother would.
So far the mouse is simply annoying. Then it gets problematic. He starts looking for things with a literal human face – for example That’s not my Princess or That’s not My Mermaid.
Firstly there is the worrisome idea of owning a human (or half human half fish). Is it okay because the protagonist is a mouse and is therefore subverting the usual dominance of humans over animals? (Hint: This is a talking point!)
Secondly, the mouse continues to identify the women (or mythical female creatures) purely on their physical characteristics and often on their accessories. For example, ‘That’s not my princess her tiara is too bumpy’. At which point I say LOOK AT HER FACE YOU ARSEHOLE.
Other possible talking points include:
- Should we encourage the keeping of endangered animals as pets? Can a mouse provide appropriate care for a tiger? Is extinction simply inevitable since pandas can’t be bothered to have sex?
- Should touch and feel books ever include ‘sticky’? Answer: No. (Anyone who tries to argue for the inclusion of ‘sticky’ should be shouted down and shamed from the group.)
- Why is the mouse so acquisitive? Does it reflect a spiritual void in his life?
- Why has everyone assumed the mouse is male? Ha! Have a red hot look at yourselves. Like what you see? Didn’t think so.
- Are we at the end of history? (This is probably irrelevant but try to raise it anyway.)
You can easily talk about this all night. Or perhaps just for fifteen minutes until someone mentions their upcoming trip to Bali.