Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bad Children’s Book Review: Seven Diving Ducks

If there is a meaner, more harmful book for children than Margaret Friskey’s Seven Diving Ducks, I don’t want to know about it.  Sure, there are lots of books out there with outdated morality or philosophies, but this one took me so completely aback, that I had to check the date it was published in Wikipedia (1940) to see if there was any unusual planetary alignment that would explain it.  Best I can guess is that it was part of a secret Nazi plot to undermine the Allies by tricking them into killing their own children.
"Here's my plan.  First, we take over The Children's Press in Chicago..."
Seven Diving Ducks is about a family of (surprise!) ducks.  Six of them are brave and take to swimming quickly, but the third is afraid and dubbed a “chicken” by his father.  What chickens call their timid children is never addressed, but I’m going to go with “turkey.” 

After watching his pitiful swimming attempts, the seventh duck’s father makes him stay up all night on a wooden stump practicing.  Why?  Because we all know children swim better after a sleepless night of painful exercise. 
"I don't care if  your butt is sore!  Real men have sore butts!"
Later the seventh duck is too scared to dive underwater and try to catch fish.  The father banishes the child because he won’t have a sissy in his family.  I’m not making that up.  The father’s exact words are: “I won’t have any sissies in my family.” 

As the seventh duck is swimming away, he’s hit by an apple, is knocked underwater, and catches a fish.  They welcome him back to the family and his father tells him he had just been afraid to try.
Because, as we all know, concussions just make you swim better.
Here’s what I learned from this book:

1.      Fathers should be cruel to scared children and call them names.
After all, fear is always diminished by cruelty.  That’s why so many children master their fears after their parents punch one or two of their teeth out.  If your kids are out of teeth, call them names like sissy; that’s bound to increase their self-esteem.
"Maybe next time we should try drowning them first!"

2.      Fathers should ignore their wives’ wishes.
When the father duck banishes the seventh duckling, the mother is shown crying, obviously distraught.  However, she’s probably just upset at her own failing as a parent.  After all, if she’d been a good mother, none of this would have happened!

"That's right, cry.  If I'd married someone better, this wouldn't have happened."
3.      Fathers should throw children out into the cold.
If you’ve tried beating and name-calling and none of it has worked, you have to throw your children out into the cold.  That’s really better for them in the long run, especially if your other choice is stoning them to death.

I wonder what Margaret Friskey’s father was like.  I imagine he was a bit like this:
Or maybe this:
Or maybe...  You know, never mind.  Just do a web search on "world's worst dad" yourself.

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