Sunday, January 24, 2010
A Lesson You Can Digest
The kids had a snow day on Friday. Well, actually it was a Sleet Day and while Nev was working from home, I needed to keep the kids occupied, preferably on the second level of our house. They endured the grocery store and a slew of other errands and then after lunch, we all hopped in the Big Bed (that's code for mom and dad's king) and watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Well, I was working on the PTO newsletter but I watched as well.
Now, I'm embarrased to say I've never read Judith Barrett's tale. I'm not sure how i've missed it but I have. So, I am unsure how it is similar or different from the movie. But, have you guys? Have you seen the movie?
While I love any story that is creative, original and fun, I also enjoy kids' stories that have a lesson. This one is not to subtle and yet it works without being preachy.
It reflects our glutinous society, particularly American society with our believe that we deserve everything exactly when we want it. Without reference to whether we can afford it or should have it. One of the biggest problems in America which has led us to all kinds of bad behavior and is now affecting our economy as well as the environment.
The main character accidently invents a way to create food from rain for his small island town who has always had only sardines to eat. The townspeople are at first thrilled, then demanding, then before you know it, the Mayor has become a rotund, corrupt eating machine. It seems he's walked into McDonalds and decided he is unable to eat anything that's not super sized.
While watching, I'm wondering how the writer keeps that balance between fun and theme. To an adult, the lesson is obvious but then I realize to a kid, it is subtle. The demands for specific foods starts off small, escalates until the townspeople are beating down the inventor's door. The mayor's girth continues to grow as does his thirst for power.
The reason it works, is because it makes sense. The story is not interrupted by these points. Instead it intensifies the conflict and pushes to the resolution. That's the key. It simply fits. As I've read in countless articles on children's lit, if a lesson comes from the story then it will work. If it is pushed, it will not.
I pointed out to my kids (afterwards of course) how the movie is similar to our own society and what that means. But, simply put, the movie was fun to watch with the kids. They enjoyed it as entertainment. I enjoyed it as research as well as entertainment. And, I felt like the school day was a waste.