characters — [are] detrimental to thenhealthy development of young readersnof both sexes.”nUnspoken, of course, is just whatn”healthy development” might mean.nPerhaps a hint may be gleaned fromnthe frontispiece of this guide. It showsnLittle Miss Muffet, with curds andnwhey on her lap, her rosy cheeks andncherubic smile rendered macabre bynthe spoon raised in her hand, set tonsmash the hapless spider dangling innfront of her.nSuch a picture is far different fromnthe traditional one feminists so loathe;nthe “traditional” picture in whichnwomen do “nothing” (this categorynincludes, of course, being a housewife)nor are portrayed as evil. The onlyn”independent” female characters inntraditional children’s literature, accordingnto another guide to “good” booksncalled Girls Are People Too!, are thenstepmothers and witches of fairy talesn— whom patriarchialists have paintednas evil for asserting themselves.nThe good news is that childrennchoose, in droves, to read books such asnC.S. Lewis’s Narnia series in whichnthey may partake of a great adventurenwhile learning the importance of combatingnevil through virtuous deeds.nThe bad news is that the. “professionals”nwho consider it their duty to passnjudgment on the tastes of our childrennare not happy about this situation. Andnthey intend to do something about it.nAs one librarian informed me, whilenchildren prefer books with traditionalnthemes, “we try to direct them tonbetter reading.”nThe library system of Portiand, Oregonn(where I live), is doing its best tonguide parents toward “healthy” books.nPortland’s guide is entitled “Role Free:nNon-sexist Readings for Children.”n”Role Free” is a veritable goldmine fornthe seeker of androgyny. The cover,ndrawn in that exaggerated style (roundnfaces, huge eyes, and puffy lips) mostnof us thought died with flower power,npictures four “children,” two boys andntwo girls, one of each in shorts andnlong pants, all looking like they havenjust gotten off the bus from Woodstockn— their knapsacks slung across theirnshoulders casually, the boys’ hair asnlong as many giris’. One girl apparentlynis about to knee one boy in the groin,nwhile the other giri holds his friend atnbay, wrestling his arm out of the way.nInside is a listing of “good” books thatnemphasize nontraditional roles alongnwith a listing of other bibliographiesnsuch as Little Miss Muffet Fights Backnand, of course. Girls Are People, Too!nAs to the goals of these guides,nnothing that I might say could add tonthe annotation given in Little MissnMuffet for a rather clever, if excessivelynironic little story entitled Petronella: “Ansmart and plucky princess rescues anprince from an enchanter by passingnthree dangerous tests with wit andnbravery. Unfortunately, the prince is anfool and the princess goes off with thenenchanter instead — a wise choice,nthough so clever a princess might havenquestioned marriage itself.” We shouldnall be that clever. And Little MissnMuffet would make our children so bynrecommending books that, for instance,ndepict female bullies. After all,nkids “might as well know early” thatnbullying knows no gender. Praise be.nOne of the claims made by feministsnis that books should “reflect reality” —nthat is, feminist reality — and in a waynthat promotes new (feminist-approved)ncircumstances such as the breakdownnof the traditional family, while denigratingnthe “leftovers” of yesteryear.nJudging from books such as My MomnTravels a Lot, The Case of the ScaredynCats, Mitch and Amy, and AnastasianKrupnik, there has been some successnin this endeavor. Father “caringly”nplays with his daughter while Mother isnaway on business; young girls oustngirl-hating boys from their fort throughnphysical violence because they are insultednby the boys’ bigotry in notnletting them join their club; a youngngiri learns from her friend’s hippienmother (complete with Volkswagennbus, knapsack, and a filthy house) thatnthere are more important things in lifenthan cleanliness, an ordered family life,nand personal responsibility; a ten-yearoldngirl discusses poetry with her academicnfather and sexual encountersnwith her artist mother while planningnto name her soon-to-be-born brothernsomething I cannot bring myself to citenin a family journal, but which othernten-year-olds are invited to read andnlaugh at, along with other less anatomicalnfour-letter words which “childrennhear all the time.” Reality may bensomething we have to deal with, but donwe really want this reality reflected innour childrens’ books in these ways?nnnIt remains true, however, that mostnbooks for children do not meet then”stringent standards” set by feministnauthorities. And it is somewhat ironicn(and, no doubt, a cause of frustrationnfor feminists) that so pedestrian andnrelatively tame a book as BeverlynCleary’s Mitch and Amy should benpublished as a “Yearling Book” — onenof a series of books that are chosen by anprofessor emeritus of children’s literaturenfrom NYU and “designed especiallynto entertain and enlighten youngnpeople.”nEnlighten in what way? Perhaps wencan get a clue from the book’s advertisement:n”Even though they’re twins,n9-year-old Mitch and Amy Huff arenvery different from each other. Amy isnin the top reading group, while Mitchnis still stumbling along. Yet when itncomes to math, Mitch is a whiz. Amyndoesn’t have to be told to practice herncello; Mitch would rather be outsidenriding his skateboard. In fact, it oftennseems that the only thing the twinsnhave in common is a talent for teasingneach other . . . and for showing off thenthings they happen to do best.n”But in the face of a commonnenemy named Alan Hibber, the twinsnstop bickering. They stick up for eachnother. They stick together. And that’snwhen being a twin is really the best.”nNow, the things actually describednhere are not shocking or even unusual.nIndeed the book’s major flaw is that,nother than the episode with the hippie,nit is stunningly pedestrian and boring,nconsisting of a series of unconnectednstories about baking cookies, cleaningnfloors, and bickering. But the book’snblurb is clearly intended to give thenimpression that it will teach childrennthe “wholesome” lessons that talentsn(math and reading) are unearned andngiven by chance, that we are “reallynequal” (perhaps even “twins”) regardlessnof whether or not we apply ourselvesn(practice), that the point is tonstick together since being the same isnreally being the best.nAll this seems silly. But BeveriynCleary sells a lot of books. And some ofnthe most overfly propagandizing, notnonly androgynous but overtly manhatingnnontraditional books for childrennalso sell well. Take, for example.nThe Berenstain Bears, a series of booksnthat have become so popularnMcDonald’s has included BerenstainnNOVEMBER 1989/51n