Fuse 8 n’ Kate: Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, ill. Lynn Munsinger
Happy New Year! It’s a new year, but the same old blog, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Today we kick off with a book that I describe on this episode as, “Handed to me in the good faith that we wouldn’t like it.” A friend alerted me to that old 1999 picture book Hooway for Wodney Wat. Published before bullying became the issue in our schools that it is today, my friend said that this title may not have aged particularly well in the intervening 23 years. Or, as we say at one point, “If your book makes fun of a speech impediment, maybe don’t write that book.” Today, we’re looking at our first Lester/Munsinger collaboration and its take on rhoticism.
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This is odd. A rat with rat-headed slippers. Do you, fellow humans, have slippers with human heads on them? You do? Can I . . . can I see them?
Capybaras in general had a good year in 2021. There was the picture book The Capybaras by Alfredo Soderguit. There was the capybara in the film Encanto. So I was perhaps more peeved that I usually would be when I realized that the “villain” of this book was a capybara.
So this is just fascinating. We’ve seen that laughing at someone is bad, but apparently laughing at someone that you define as different because they are a loud, large, female character that’s smarter than you, that is a-okay. This is SUCH a weird lesson to be teaching! Even if you think that Camilla deserves to be considered a bully, why would you encourage others to bully her? That this book is some kind of anti-bullying mentor text just floors me. This is How To Bully Someone 101.
And then you get this moment where the book clearly states, “And from that day on the pupils of P.S. 142 Elementary School for Rodents never teased Wodney again” and then, not TWO sentences later, they say “Hooway for Wodney Wat!” Book, what precisely do you think teasing constitutes?
If you’re looking for that particularly good book about stuttering that I mention in this episode, please check out I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith.
Kate points out that this book was similar to previous podcast episode Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when it comes to how bullying is discussed. Here too is the Berenstain Bears book that is similar to this book because it very much works in the same vein of we-will-bully-you-until-you-are-useful-to-us:
Betsy Recommends: Don’t Look Up, streaming on Netflix.
Kate Recommends: The Harry Potter Reunion Special streaming on HBO Max.
Filed under: Fuse 8 n' Kate
About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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