One of my self-imposed rules for stay-at-home fathering is to avoid daytime TV whenever possible. I get around this rule by recording The Daily Show and The Colbert Report at night and then watching them the next day.
The Champ seems pretty interested in what Stephen Colbert has to say. It could be Colbert’s confidence, his in-your-face delivery, the bold colors of his studio or maybe just his eyebrows. So naturally, I ordered Champ a copy of Clobert’s children’s book the day it came out. What follows is my Amazon review of I Am a Pole (And So Can You!):
Flashes of heart, but too many flashes of pole
With its positive message about patriotism and finding your role in life, this could have been a great book for kids. Instead, Colbert crosses the line into adults-only humor a few too many times. There’s an insensitive jab at Native Americans, a couple of thinly veiled drug references and, worst of all, a full-page illustration of the main character as a stripper pole. The “Show Us Your Pole” activity page doesn’t help, either.
It’s disappointing because the book’s funniest moments aren’t crass. This story shows flashes of heart, but Colbert wants to remind his TV-14 audience that he’s more interested in flashing his pole.
Whoa! I guess it’s impossible to write on this subject without whipping out a few lazy pole jokes for grown-ups. Touché, Colbert. Now I can only recommend this review to high-school and college grads as a silly alternative to “Oh, the Places You’ll Go” reviews.
Members of the Colbert Nation responded by calling me “distracted or stressed or lazy” and saying “you’re the one that needs to re-assess things.”
Here’s the thing: my wife and I read Champ a book every night at bedtime. He’s paying more attention to the words and illustrations every day. Now he even expresses book preference, sometimes demanding that we read a book over again.
My standards for babies’ books are pretty simple: A good sense of inventory, persistent characters and an easy cadence. I don’t know what Champy looks for in these books, but the sad thing is, he likes I Am a Pole (And So Can You!).
While I have to draw the line at a pole-dancing stripper in pasties, I don’t think children’s books should shy away from mature themes. For example, Champ’s all-time favorite is Sandra Boynton’s Belly Button Book, a whimsical romp about hippos who like to show off their silly midsections at the beach.
That book’s last line is, “Never in cold wintertime, when belly buttons hide.” This message clearly echoes more mature themes found in the grown-up novels Dad reads.