Sunday, 16 February 2014

Reference frames

For no reason at all I remembered two children's books today, or rather, I remembered a book and then another book. The Giant Jam Sandwich is a lovely picturebook written in verse about a little town invaded by wasps. The local baker comes up with a solution: make a giant jam sandwich and lure the wasps inside. The pictures show the whole process of baking and jam-making, tons of flour, thousands of eggs, buckets of strawberries, barrels of sugar. The plan is successful, the wasps are killed, and the crows take care of the remnants.

Already when I first read the book, many many years ago, I was in two minds. I am sure it is an ingenious and ecological method of insecticide, and it's a funny, nonsensical story, but what about all this food wasted – they only use two slices of the loaf – that could have fed the poor and hungry? Yes, yes, I know it's just a funny story, but what do young readers get of it, will their respect for food be shattered a tiny bit, or maybe they never had it to begin with?

A verse by the great Italian children's writer and educator Gianni Rodari also features a giant loaf. The speaker says that if he were a wizard baker, he would bake a loaf so big that all people in the world would have a share, and the birds would get the crumbs. And after that, the day will for even be remembered as “The Day When Nobody Was Hungry”.

I could now go on with an extensive moral, but I think I have made my point.

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