Monday, January 21, 2008

By George!!! (warning: nitpickiness alert)

I've not had much reading time of my own lately, because my son is obsessed (OBSESSED!) with Curious George, and I've spent all my time reading this book instead of, say, catching up on the award books...

And while I loved George myself as a kid, I have to say that I HATE THIS BOOK! In particular I hate the opening lines of each of the stories in the treasury. Each begins like so:

This is George.
He was a good little monkey, and always very curious.
This morning George and the man with the yellow hat were at the...

Now, maybe I'm being really really nitpicky, but why switch your tense around like that? First George is present. Then he's past, like far far past. And then he's recent past, like this morning...

Why would you say, "He was a monkey" and not "He is a monkey" unless he is no longer a monkey?

Of course, none of these books were actually penned by the Reys. Anymore than the forthcoming titles, "George Talks on an iPhone" and "George Tries Out the New Spicy Chicken Sandwich at Wendy's". So I blamed that fact for the awful writing.

Then I went looking for the original (despite the politically incorrect illegal animal trade stuff) and found this:

This is George.
He lived in Africa.
He was a good monkey and always very curious.

So I guess the Reys were halfway there (in mixed-up-tense land) to begin with. BUT it should be said that the "IS" refers to the picture, and the "WAS" is used throught the story. And they don't then proceed with a "Four seconds ago" line... so that George doesn't seem dead in the original the way he does in "George Visits a Toystore" and "George Buys Chinese-made Clothes at American Apparel but then Drinks Free Trade Coffee After."

In any case, this will continue to bug me, and I will continue to read the dumb book to my son, almost always beginning on page 97 with "George Goes Camping."

At least twice each night.



Jen Bradbury said...

I know your pain. My almost two-year-old is obsessed with George. In fact, her third word (after mama and dada) was George, in honor of the stuffed version my mom got her. Right now, she's obsessed with "Curious George Saves Christmas," but we're also looping "Curious George Goes to the Ballet," an awful paperback based on an episode of a TV version I've never seen.

And regarding the tenses--I think its actually a pretty clever plot on the part of the Rey's to impress upon us the curious little monkey's timelessness.

Or maybe copyediting has changed.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

We just pulled that book out last night after a (thankfully) long hiatus. The dump truck story is our, um, favorite? What I love is that some of the original George books start with something like, "George was a good little monkey, BUT he was always very curious" (emphasis mine). At least it's not bad to be curious anymore. Sigh.