lit crit: in the night kitchen

26 03 2009

A freelance writer takes a look at the children’s book In the Night Kitchen, by Maurice Sendak. Apparently the book stirred up a bit of controversy for showing a nude child:

As I mentioned, Mickey falls out of his pajamas and spends a good half of the book completely naked with clearly visible genitals on a few pages (oh my!). As the enduring Puritanism still informs how and what we read, the idea of a naked child was hardly wholesome for many, and instead was seen as straight up indecent. Many libraries and schools banned the book soon after its publication in 1970, and a few people have said that there are still a few places in the United States where you would be hard pressed to find a copy of this fine example of children’s literature.

Now, I love this book for personal reasons heavily steeped in nostalgia, but I also love it because my toddler son loves it. When I read it to him, he almost always acknowledges Mickey’s lack of dress, but not in a way that is silly, condemning, or with the slightest bit of discomfort. I would like to think that he, along with countless other children, see Mickey’s nudity as a way to convey both vulnerability and freedom of the character.

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5 responses

26 03 2009
Rick

Maurice Sendak is a truly wonderful writer of children’s books. I love his books.

People these days never look at the context, they take everything out of context. There’s a dangerous and pervasive attitude in Englsh-speakign countries that has somehow come up with the belief that “under 18 plus nude equals porn.” Sadly, it’s the children that will suffer the consequences of this social conditioning. What is repressed usually manifests itself in the worst way.

You and your son have a healthy attitude about it.

26 03 2009
h

National Geographic even in the 1930s always had pictures of african or south american naked kids showin weener or vag or teen boobs but they were not white. Every library back then had National Geographic. Are just pictures of nude white christian kids offensive LOL?

27 03 2009
local nudist

HA! That’s a good point. Maybe it IS just naked white kids that are offensive. Maybe seeing the nude “savages” is okay, because it proves how much better the white christians are? Good call.

27 03 2009
local nudist

I should clarify. This isn’t about me and my son (I have no children). This is another writer talking about the book.

27 03 2009
All Nudist

Yes, naked natives (not white girls) have always been ok. That’s how boys learn about girls, duh!

And this porn book you’re talking about! Ah, published in 1970 and this is, what, 1990 or something now (bad memory) and people are STILL freaked about it? At this rate, they’ll still be upset in, say, 2009!

Nah, couldn’t happen.

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