I like to pick up Little Golden Books every now and then. I have some lovely memories of reading The Pokey Little Puppy and the one about Scuffy the Tugboat. But not long ago, I came across a Little Golden Book titled A Wedding is Beautiful. As an observer, it would have been a comic moment to have witnessed that precise moment when, as I flicked through the pages, my smile of nostalgia turned to a frown of misgiving.
A Wedding is Beautiful is not one of those ‘timeless’ children’s books. Opening these pages was like being sucked back to the 1980s, but not in a good way.
I understand that for many people marriage is still a sacred religious institution between a man and a woman that should be celebrated and promoted (the gay marriage debate highlights just how keenly this is felt by many). But surely, surely, even in 1998 when this was published, many marital traditions were being questioned, as well as discarded. Jesus, we were riding our third wave of feminism by that point.
In fact, by 1998 I know that it was no longer a sure bet that the man did the proposing, that weddings had to be in churches, that marriages necessarily resulted in offspring and, the clincher, that a small girl was to be encouraged to swoon about her wedding day and the man she would marry.
I came to the view that this book was the literary equivalent of buying a four year old a toy ironing board for Christmas. Just why would you??
So, I bought the book. I was keen to see what the book’s ‘target’ audience thought.
When I showed it it Master Four, he spontaneously howled in protest. Mater Six was willing, but suspicious. Yet I put on my most enthusiastic reading voice, like when I’m reading The Worm Who Knew Karate or The Magic Faraway Tree, and gave it my everything. The critics were not impressed.
I didn’t really like it…. I didn’t really like the drawings.
I didn’t like it cos they had things stuck on their eyes [After further questioning, it turns out the shape of the eyes freaked him out]. The story was not good. I didn’t like it the cos of the streamers. [I couldn’t get to the bottom of what was wrong with the streamers].
Compare those reactions to the enthusiasm displayed for Mr Chicken or Marcello Mouse. While I was hoping for one of them to shout ‘what are these hetero-normative assumptions, rooted in outdated patriarchal tropes?!’, their complete lack of interest means we won’t be reading it again. I’m glad I bought it though, if only to stop it from being gifted to an unsuspecting four year old for Christmas.