Friday, August 26, 2011

Clash of Cultures: Children's Literature

So, for the last couple weeks I have not been writing as much as usual.
I have a lot going on over here, and I figured my 10 followers would understand a little hiatus.
I still have a lot going on. And only 8 months, 3 weeks, and 4 days, to accomplish it all.
But at this exact moment, before I go any further, I would like to ask the country of Poland one question?

Why are *ALL* of your children's stories written in poetic form?

When Hejjo was a baby we got one of our first Polish books for children.
 A cute little book with one simple story; the whole thing was poetry.
Ok,  I guess this is just  a famous poem for children, like "Humpty Dumpty."
That's neat. I like poetry.
Then we got a collection of children's stories, a large volume.
Every single story is a poem.
Ok, so this must just be a collection of children's poetry,
I get it. Well that's nice. Good to have those on hand.
You know, Polish Mother Goose, that sort of thing.
Then, we got gifted two more books, equal in size and page numbers.
All written in poetry.
I do not have a single children's book, written for children,
that is written in prose.

What. is up. with that?

So, Martin says that I should learn Polish...
...and start writing children's books, for Polish "regular."

Of course, now all I can think about is what stories I would write.
Wow, this is getting us nowhere.

related, but slightly off topic...
The story in question.
Me: (tonight, stumbling through a Polish children's story, written in poetic form)... I don't know guys, do you understand what I'm saying, what's the story about?
Felix: Yeah, yeah, I know, it's about a dog who can do tricks. (uh, yeah. duh, I can SEE that... man, 3 year olds...sheesh... Am I right?)
Hejjo: Yeah, but mommy, you don't have to read that.
Me: Oh, I know Hejjo, it's frustrating to listen to me trying to read in Polish, isn't it?
Hejjo: No, no, it's just that you don't have to read it, if you don't want to.
Me: Oh, but I want to, so that's ok.
Hejjo: Yeah, but you don't *have* to.
Me: I know Hejjo, thanks, but I want to.
Hejjo: No, mommy, really,  that's ok, just read this instead ( Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman).
Me: Alright, if you insist....

Ahhh...Polish children's literature, you have won again... or not, depending on how you look at it.

back on topic...

And here are two stories, American, written in Polish that are NOT written in rhyme....

The one on the left is the classic tale of Goldilocks.
Apparently, when Poles tell the story, Goldilocks hangs out afterward
and pays a friendly game of  "blocks" with baby bear.
NOT BLOODY LIKELY! (isn't there a version where they try to eat her but she gets away just in time? or they do catch her and eat her and then the woodsman comes and chops open papa bear and she is still alive inside? and then the woodsman kisses her and she wakes up, and they live happily ever after the woods...with lots of trees and a big shoe? And there's pie? And a plum? A thumb? Birds? what?)
That little hussy wouldn't get within 10 feet of *my* baby.

And good ol', reliable ol'... Clifford.
Old school prose style.
I love that big red dog.

Goodnight nobody.
Goodnight mush.


  1. 1 - Found your blog through a fanatical googling session attempting to enrich my understanding of my Polish heritage and had to say hello! Your blog is great.

    2 - Is the rhyme scheme in Polish children's books usually paired (I'm a poet and I didn't know it) or does the pattern vary from one text to the next?

    3 - Bears eat their own young (if they think they won't be able to survive on their own later) not the young of others (except fish). I didn't mean to go dark there, the listing just seemed to require a third item.

  2. 1- Thanks for commenting! I'm glad you found my is certainly a personal and narrow (and fun!) attempt at explaining our situation, so, you know, "grain of salt" and all that.

    2- I have found that with children's literature it is pretty much "I'm a poet and didn't know it." Adult literature for sure has much more complex and beautiful poetry. My children have several Polish songs and poems memorized just from having them read repeatedly. "Paweł i Gaweł" and "Kaczka-Dziwaczka" (a truly odd story) are two favorites around here.

    3- Haha! Well, I have read so many variations on Goldilocks that I am sure, somewhere in there, the bears are actually waiting for her to leave so they can eat baby bear... you never know...

  3. Thanks for responding, I am immensely appreciative. Also, I am immensely jealous of you and your children for knowing Polish. Kudos. Back to the children's poetry, my recent research splurge also found Ignacy Krasicki (Poland's Prince of Poets) who wrote a book of fables and parables. It's rhymed couplets like the books you talk about in your blog, but it was written during the Prussia/Russia/Austria partitioning and slyly comments on the events and repercussions in much the same way as Dr. Seuss commented on America's fear of communism.

  4. (cont'd) It might be worth a read if you haven't already.

  5. Well, I don't technically know Polish, but you can be jealous of the fact that I know enough to make strangers at the grocery store think I do! ;)

    I will definitely look into the author and work you have mentioned. I bet my husband has heard of him. And now I am intrigued. Thanks for the recommendation!

  6. Found this: Bajki Ignacego Krasickiego (1844) (Nauru Edition)

    So Bajki= fables...this must be it. Hmmm...Not too expensive through Amazon...