Friday, December 20, 2013

It's bothered me for years

I've never told anyone about this. But it's been eating away at me for more that forty years.

When I was in the fourth grade, I was reading one of those books----what are they called? Primers? One of the reading books they had that you'd read to practice reading. They had little stories in them. I think university professors wrote them. I had a teacher in high school who said he had a professor who wrote textbooks like that who tried putting in stories about children of different races being friends, but publishers wouldn't accept them because they couldn't be sold in the south. So he tried doing stories with animals, with a brown dog and a white dog playing together, and they wouldn't publish those, either, because, again, school districts in the south wouldn't buy them.

There was a children's book in the 1930s called The Rabbit's Wedding that was banned in several states because it showed a black rabbit marrying a white rabbit.

But that has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.

There was this one story in the book that was different from the others.

It was about a couple. I don't know if it specified where they lived. But when their baby was born, he was very small. Not Tom Thumb small----he was a very small baby but within the bounds of normality. The father suggested a name for him, but the mother thought it was too grandiose because the baby was such a "li'l bit". The father jumps at it.

"That's what we'll name him! Lil Bit!"

I guess they were hillbillies.

Their son, Lil Bit, was still puny when he went to school. When the teacher asked his name, the class laughed when he said "Lil Bit".

Lil Bit was an outcast, being puny and having such a stupid name.

Then one day, because the roads there were so poorly maintained, the school bus went off the road and rolled down an embankment into a ravine. The children were trapped inside. They couldn't escape. But there was one child who was small enough to squeeze out the window. It was Lil Bit. He climbed out and ran for help.

And everyone was nice to him after that.

At the time it depressed me to think that there were kids who this story was written for, who lived places with dangerous roads with parents who couldn't pronounce the word "little".

It also bothered me that they used that stupid plot, where a kid is an outcast because of some trait that ends up making him a hero.

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