Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Peas and Thank You

Peas and Thank You is just one of Zondervan's many VeggieTale books. Written in rhyme by Mike Nawrocki, the goal of this little volume is to teach kids that politeness matters. To make this point, we're introduced to "the Peas" and "the Beans." The Peas are polite, cheerful folk, while the Beans are grumpy and rude. We see that the Peas and the Beans often interact, but the difference in attitude between the two is especially notable on April 27th, when the sunflowers sprout. The Peas and Beans picnic on this day and then collect sunflower seeds. The Beans gripe and steal each other's seeds, while the Peas "take turns and thank one another." In the end, the Peas have huge bucketfuls of seeds, while the Beans have only managed to gather a meager collection.

And what makes this a Christian book? Other than the fact that it's published by a Christian house and includes VeggieTale vegetables, it may be hard to answer that...Until you look at the back cover, where 1 Peter 2:17 is quoted: "Show proper respect to everyone."

What I Like: This is a fun, not-preachy book that encourages the use of "please" and "thank you." As a bonus, the tale emphasizes that being polite is a win-win situation. The illustrations by Greg Hardin and Robert Bann have the classic, colorful VeggieTale look.

What I Dislike: Sometimes the meter seems a bit off on the rhymes, but after a second reading, I found my tongue tripping over the text quite easily. I also wish that 1 Peter 2:17 were included directly in the story, bringing some true biblical content to this board book.

As an aside, one reviewer at complains that this book encourages racism because there is a group "that live on the 'other side of the tracks', who a) all look different, b) are uniformly all rude, and c)steal from each other, and in the end they can't provide for themselves. They're generally 'bad' people, with no exceptions, whereas all the pea folk are all good."

While I appreciate this concern, I don't feel Peas and Thank You really fits the reviewer's description. Yes, the Peas and the Beans live in different neighborhoods, but we see that as fellow legumes they live fairly peacefully with each other. (We also see that the Peas are friendly with the Beans, despite their rude behavior.) And, this being a children's tale, it's not surprising that it's in black and white, with no shades of gray included for rude Peas or polite Beans. But there's absolutely nothing in this book that encourages children to not interact with people like the Beans, or to look down on them, or to speak ill of them, etc. Other than politeness, there is nothing in this book that says one group is different, and therefore "less" than the other.

If parents are concerned about underlying messages which they perceive in the story, then this book is an excellent way to start a discussion about those concerns.

Overall Rating: Very Good.

Age Appeal: 1 - 6.

Publishing Info: Zondervan, 2003; ISBN 0310705401; board book; $4.99

Buy Now at Amazon for $4.99.

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