Debatables

Debatables: The Better Balloon!

Welcome to a special Thanksgiving-themed edition of Debatables!

My Sarah Josepha Hale bobblehead nods in approval.

For those of you not in the know, Debatables is a monthly column where odd and esoteric kid-lit questions are argued with perhaps a bit too much passion.

My sparring opponent is, as usual, Cricket Muse, whom I love like a sibling. And, just like a sibling, she knows how to get on my nerves.

Cricket is a teacher, reviewer, and a librarian at heart. She began her writing career with Highlights for Children and earned the magazine’s Author of the Month honors for her first published story “Marvin Composes a Tea.” While she still publishes stories and articles, she is now focused on several book projects including a middle grade novel about the Idaho gold rush. She is also positive that her cow-centric manuscript, Udder Nonsense, will soon find a publisher. I am positive about this, too.

If you don’t already follow Cricket’s blog, you totally should!

Here are the Debatables ground rules:

Each Debater is allowed one brief argument (fewer than 300 words) on a previously agreed-upon topic. These brief arguments will then be followed by a briefer rebuttal (fewer than 150 words).

This months topic:

Which children’s book character should be a Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon?

It’s a simple question with only one ground rule: Cricket and I could not choose a character that has flown in a previous parade.

Cricket chose Tigger from Winnie the Pooh.

I, on the other hand, chose Peter from The Snowy Day.

Aw. So cute.

So! Let’s begin:

 

Cricket’s Argument

He’s bouncy. He’s trouncy. He’s fun, fun, fun, fun, fun. He’s also the only one.

He’s very much the heart of the Hundred Acre Woods’ of the most excellent animal pals. He’s boisterous, irrepressible and he exudes enormous amounts of energy. A provider of levity, a chaser of gloominess, he exudes confidence, joy, and optimism.

I’m talking about Tigger. He’s joyfully carefree and his enthusiasm for life makes him positively buoyant. Tigger is unique, there are no other Tiggers about, a fact he expounds upon quite frequently, yet his dedicated observation of this fact is not tedious or vain; it actually promotes a yearning to celebrate this wonderful persona.

What better way to celebrate, to honor,this lovable bouncy character than by him becoming a Macy’s Parade Balloon.

He truly is the perfect candidate. As the song states:

Mike’s Argument

What the Thanksgiving Day Parade does not need is yet another Disney creation floating past 34th Street. Mickey, Donald, Goofy, Kermit (now owned by Disney), Buzz Lightyear, Rex, Olaf, and others from the House of Mouse have all had their turns down the parade route.

I think it’s high time for something different—a little less predictable and a lot less corporate. I propose an often overlooked but always beloved character: Peter, the main character from The Snowy Day.

Here’s why:

Multiculturalism: Diversity is sadly lacking in the Thanksgiving balloons. In the entire history of the parade, only one character of color has ever appeared in ballon form. And that character was… Little Bill, the animated creation of serial rapist Bill Cosby.

Geography: Peter is a city kid. Who else could be more deserving to soar over the Greatest City in the World!

Subject Matter: In addition to Thanksgiving, the parade—with its Rockettes, snow-covered floats, and Santa Claus—represents the beginning of winter. The Snowy Day is the quintessential picture book about winter.

Timing: Ezra Jack Keats won the Caldecott Award for The Snowy Day in 1963. 2018 would be the 55th anniversary of this achievement.

Design: That red onesie snowsuit with the pointy hood is adorable, iconic, and instantly recognizable.

Character: Peter is a good boy. He’s innocent, playful, and has wonderful imagination—able to find fun with little more than a stick. He represents the simple wonders of childhood, a personality perfectly suited for a family friendly parade.

For these reasons and more, Peter deserves a Thanksgiving Day Parade place of honor.

 

Cricket’s Rebuttal

While Mike strives to make a plea for Peter, his arguments melt like a snowman caught out in the sun.

For one: Tigger wasn’t originally a Disney character. He can’t help it that Disney recognizes that he makes a wonderful addition to a family of beloved characters.

Secondly: Tiggers have never been represented in the parade. Big oversight.

Thirdly: Tigger is a very fitting tribute for a city known for its non-stop energy.

As for celebrating winter! No thanks—Tigger represents the bounce of spring and the fun of summer. Cold snow? Isn’t happy frolicking in temperate weather more appealing? Peter is cute, but Tigger is sunshine happiness.

2018 marks Tigger’s 90th birthday—he deserves a fitting celebration. Tigger is his most happy bouncing about. No sticks required.

A vote for Tigger is a vote for the effervescent joy of rising above troubles.

 

Mike’s Rebuttal

You may want Tigger in the parade, Cricket, but, now more than ever, we need Peter in the parade.

In this sad era of emboldened racism, tribalism, and nationalism, Peter would serve as a gentle yet firm reminder that Americans come in all colors, from all walks of life, and from all points on the globe. This diversity is why America is great, and for that reason we should all be truly thankful.

 

***

 

And that’s the debate! Who do you think is more deserving of balloony honors?

Leave a comment below. Don’t be shy! Cricket and I love to hear your thoughts!

On Writing

What the Burros Taught Me

My plushy muse.

A long time ago, years before my son was born, my wife, Ellen, bought herself a stuffed Eeyore doll at the Disney Store. Her plan was to snuggle it while she slept. It turned out to be the perfect size and shape for someone who sleeps in the fetal position.

So, for the first time since I was seven, a stuffed animal was now resting on my bed. And, well, I guess I regressed.

I soon gave Eeyore a voice and a personality that bore little resemblance to the morose Milne/Disney creation. In the beginning, the persona I created was solely designed to make my wife laugh. As time went on, however, Eeyore – my Eeyore – became more textured and complex.

Eeyore never left the bed ­– so he became a self-appointed Bed Guardian, keeping watch while we were out. Upon our return home from the store or wherever, he would report to Ellen how, during our absence, he had single-handedly thwarted legions of “pirates, ruffians, scalawags, hoodlums, no-goodnicks, and counterfeiters.”

The counterfeiters part raised my wife’s eyebrows, so that became a running joke. (It was later revealed that, to Eeyore, counterfeiters were people who would break into our house and have fits on our kitchen countertops, “which,” Eeyore emphasized, “is quite unsanitary.”)

And, well, it went on from there. Ellen and I learned a new tidbit about Eeyore just about every day. Eeyore’s favorite song is “Funkytown.”  He is fond of ponies, guinea pigs, and Clint Eastwood movies (especially A Fistfull of Dollars, as that is the one where Eastwood kills four guys for scaring his mule.) Eeyore’s weapon of choice against pirates is a sock full of nickels (or as he describes it, “seventy-five cents worth of mayhem.”) He likes to help Ellen with Sudoku but always suggests the number 11. He often uses bad language, loves to dance, is not fond the pullout sofa, and has a seething dislike for the stuffed squirrel on the other side of the room.

As I write this, I fear this all makes me sound insane. I’m harmless, really.

I also have a point. Adopting this stuffed animal’s personality has stimulated my creativity on more occasions than I can count. Talking through Eeyore keeps me from censoring myself; it allows the ideas I might dismiss an opportunity to be heard out loud.

The most obvious Eeyore-inspired story is a manuscript I’m working on titled The Bed Guardian. Eeyore has also frequently inspired me in smaller ways, a turn of phrase here, a glimmer of a plotline there…

Eeyore has even pitched my wife a few children’s book stories. Mind you, I have him pitch ideas that are deliberately and aggressively terrible (my primary goal with Eeyore is still to amuse my wife, after all). But very few bad ideas – even deliberately bad ideas – are all bad. Once in a while I’ll be speaking as Eeyore and my Mike brain will kick in and think, “Hey! That donkey might have something there! Where’s my notebook?”

Getting that kind of inspiration is well worth looking a little crazy.

And that’s good because, now that I think about it, that stuffed squirrel has been kind of quiet lately. I wonder if he might have anything to add.