Friday, July 20, 2012

IT'S NOT FAIR!

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

(HarperCollins, 2008)

I’m not sure children are the primary target of this picture book.  The inside cover is a faux legal complaint, filed in the Circuit Court of Fairness, alleging a “totally unfair cause of action” against Sibling No. 2 by Sibling No. 1.  The specifics?  A shared chocolate chip cookie halved by the defendant in a manner that showed a complete disregard for any common representation of one-half with the CLEARLY larger “half” consumed by defendant to the nutritional detriment of plaintiff.  

As a former lawyer, I loved this opening.  Children will pass it by and immediately yank another bedtime book off the shelf if a parent even attempts to read this humorous document aloud.

Further, what kid wants his oh-so-serious protestations of unfairness mocked with increasingly silly “Unfair!” whines in a work created by adults, the very sort of people who always—ALWAYS!—dismiss the aforementioned protestations?  Why would a reputable publisher like HarperCollins even publish such drivel?!  Let a child author chronicle common examples of unfairness without the smirky bias of older folks, beaten down by repeated “Too bad” dismissals of even older folks.

But, seriously, I do hope parents and teachers pick up a copy of this book,...maybe even forcing kids to pay attention, even as “unfair” allegations are made when the TV cord is unceremoniously unplugged.  Yes, it starts with a cookie, an aggrieved boy eyeing his teensy portion and saying, “Why’d I get the smaller half?”  We’ve all been there, haven’t we?  (I am compelled to add that life would be so much better if pizza makers learned how to cut equal slices!)

Each page depicts another example of unfairness, the episodes grouped in sets of two or three rhymed wrongs, followed by the oh-so-familiar “It’s not fair.”  To help you get the gist, here are the opening lines:

Why’d I get the smaller half?
Why’d he get the bigger laugh?
Why can’t I have a pet giraffe?
It’s not fair.

Save for the giraffe, the early examples are true to life, with complaints about going to bed too early, being on a losing team and getting sick on one’s birthday.  Everyone join in now:  It’s not fair!

But Amy Krouse Rosenthal helps the reader change from frowns to smiles as her examples become more ridiculous.  Why, yes, the concept of unfairness begins in the maternity ward as infants compare baby blankets.  Three-legged stools look enviously at four-legged chairs.  Even ring-less planets grouse about Saturn’s gift.   By the book’s end, there may be no resolution to the totally unfair cause of action, but it won’t matter.  Sometimes we can’t control everything.  Sometimes unfairness happens.  And, yes, sometimes the best approach is to laugh and move on. 

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