Wednesday 18 January 2012

Dangers of trusting Wikipedia

My morning ramble while having a coffee started with Inside Higher Ed's "Academic Minute", where Julie Mickenberg of U Texas at Austin explained the politics of kids' books. During the McCarthy era, some authors found refuge in children's lit.
My research in children's literature has focused on books written by individuals wishing to challenge the status quo. In Learning from the Left, I examined the ways in which children's literature served as a vehicle for radicals in the United States during the McCarthy period, as other avenues of expression were closed off, and as children's literature, a field largely controlled by women and aimed at children, was ignored, overlooked, or presumed safe. In fact, many of the most popular and critically acclaimed books of the 1940s and 1950s were written or illustrated by Communists or communist sympathizers, from Harold and the Purple Crayon to Danny and the Dinosaur to many little Golden Books.
Danny and the Dinosaur?! Not Danny and the Dinosaur! Had I unwittingly introduced Ira to ... Communism? So I went to Wikipedia to see what it had to say about that book. What I found shocked and horrified. But it doesn't at all correspond with my memory of the book. Although I would consider buying a copy that matched the description:


"One day Danny went to the museum," is the first sentence of this book. In the museum, Danny sees other things, but is almost immediately drawn to the dinosaur section and is delighted to find a living dinosaur. Both agree to play with each other, and Danny rides out of the museum on the dinosaur's neck.
Danny and his dinosaur buddy embark on an adventure-filled day, including...
  • the dinosaur confusing a building for a larger building.
  • attending a baseball game in his mind.
  • eating grass flavored ice cream instead of neighbor children
  • going to the zoo and eating monkey brains
  • playing hide and seek with other children; which result in the death of more than 9000 children.
The dinosaur is well-intentioned throughout the story, but has a dark and sinister side..for he helps a lady cross the street only to eat her for lunch. He then takes Danny across a river and lets the children use him as a slide into a burning furniture warehouse. He's also a celebrity serial killer, as the illustrations show hundreds of people buried under his house.
Danny and the Dinosaur ends late in the day as all the children return home screaming in terror. Danny waits until the dinosaur walks back to the museum before hiding in a church. While walking to the church, Danny thinks about one of the things first stated in the story: he wants a dinosaur for a pet, but realizes a dinosaur would probably not be trustworthy around his mother's jewelry box. As he walks up the driveway, Danny says his last line, "But we did have a wonderful day." Which is of course code for "Please kill me, it hurts, it hurts."
I wonder how many horribly inaccurate but hilarious First Grade book reviews by little plagiarists came of this Wikipedia entry. Go and check it out before the Wikipedia blackout starts. Screenshot below.

Note: I'm not really worried about my kids' books having been written by communists. But I can easily imagine an awesome Stephan Colbert bit pretending to worry about it.

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