Boo your own Adventurer

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Submitted by brad on Thu, 06/10/2010 - 14:52

I was excited the other day to find Choose Your Own Adventure books for younger kids at the library. I loved the originals growing up, and they have a whole series aimed at 5-8 year olds. Lots of pictures, not as many words. We picked out two, headed home, and proceeded to read Ghost Island. Ooh - spooky.

It starts out ok. Young kid, goes to Antigua, rumours of a ghost in the cemetery, do you investigate it that night or hide and lie that you did? So far so good.  We get to the cemetery, there appears to be a real ghost, and I run away to the boat but stop and charge my friends a buck if they want to get on and escape with me. Umm...ooookay...not sure a.) about the ghosts not being fake, and b,), about trying to profit from my friends' fear and extorting them with the threat of ghostly attack. Maybe if I say nothing, Gillian won't notice either. But she caught the money one. No fooling that kid. "That's not very nice.", She said. Indeed.

Little did I know, that was the good ending. We back up and this time we go through a cave.  Cue the eerie mystical noise and we're back in time with the natives, staying for months and learning their ways. "The portal's opening. Do you want to go home, or stay another 6 months?" Sure, let's stay. "Hey, there's a big ship down there! Let's go look, shouting 'Peace! Peace! Peace!' as we go. OH MY GOODNESS, it's Christopher Columbus! I can't believe it! Wait until my friends hear about this!"

(This is where my rant comes in) I turn the page to a picture of me, terrified, hiding in the shadows, with words (heavily paraphrased and not directly quoted) to the effect of...."but you never get the chance. Christopher Columbus takes everyone as slaves. As you lay there, you remember your teacher talking about how the explorers to new worlds could be cruel. The End"

W T F?!? Did my kid just die under the boot heel of a raping, pillaging, bloodthirsty Christopher Columbus in a 5 year old's 'Choose your own Adventure book'? Where did that come from?  I mean, never mind the interpretation of Christopher Columbus.  Seems written with a litle bias, a bit of a slant, but whatever. I'm trying to avoid that topic. Horrible things happened, I'm sure. But in a 5 year old's choose your own adventure book? Come on! Give me a dropped ice cream, maybe I crashed my racecar and broke an ankle, but death through slavery at the hands of Columbus?

And, ok, let's broach the topic a little bit. If you want to argue Columbus was a murdering bastard, fine. Far be it from me to try to defend him. I'm no historian.  However, if you're going to broach the subject of slavery and cruel invaders of new lands in children's book, if you're going to bring that level of 'reality' into it, then it's all fair game. So, since you opened that door - according to the book up to that point I had entered a cave, gone back in time, and stayed a few months. End of story. I didn't turn into a native, I didn't speak only in their language. This wasn't Quantum Leap rules. I was still me, presumably still in my own clothes, with my own language. So not only are you saying Columbus was a dick to the natives he enslaved, but he was just an all around asshole? It didn't perhaps go:

"Hey, Christopher Columbus, great to meet you!"
   "Egads young child! You speak the Queen's English (which I know even though I am Italian...maybe). How do you know my name?"
"I know all about you. I know your name, your ships' names, where you came from, and what you're doing here. And lo, behold my strange garb. Read the tags as they are made in China, the far Orient,"
   "What wonders! You are truly a great wizard! Come, rule with me, and tell me of my future!"
"Awesome. Oh by the way, this place? Not India."
   "Whaaaa?!?"

No, not at all?   Ok, fine - even if he didn't' speak English, I'm still different than everyone there and I can say Christopher Columbus, Italy, and Santa Maria close enough to pique his interest. Even my daughter could at least say 'Hello' in Italian or Spanish.  Columbus was such a dick that he didn't even care about time travelling children with wondrous powers and strange materials?  Did he just step off the ship and start hacking?  Or are you saying that, when introduced, he was thinking: "Uh huh. Uh huh. Knows my name. Uh huh. From the future. uh-huh. China, yep...hey, y'know, this young 5 year old girl's skull would be the perfect size to hold my cashew shells." <WHACK!>

But I digress. Christopher Columbus - Douchebag murderer of time travelling children and slaves. Thanks for the valuable life lesson, Chooseco. I'm afraid to choose the other paths now. I may get to the cemetery and find out European tomb raiders are stealing the valuable antiquities, and now they must sell me into the slave trade..."As I danced for the leering men and cried, I remember my teacher telling me archeologists were cruel and souless pillagers, and now I knew it was true. The End".

WTF?