Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Poky Little Puppy in doghouse?

        The Saggy Baggy Elephant is bankrupt. This is sad but hardly shocking news. It must be tough out there for the old kiddie books. Besides the cartoon channel and more kidvids than the Poky Little Puppy has fleas, the Shy Little Kitten had to stand up to books about hormones and seriously graphic potty training manuals. Finally, the axe fell on the Little Red Hen.

        A week ago, Golden Books Family Entertainment announced a prepackaged bankruptcy reorganization with DIC Entertainment, a producer of animated kid shows such as Mario Bros. and Sailor Moon. DIC will pay $70 million in cash and assume responsibility for about $100 million in debt.

Boot the Bunny?

        This is the second time Golden Books has filed for Chapter 11, and its shares have been trading for pennies in past months. That alone, of course, is enough to stop coddling the Bunny. A pat? Let's give him the boot.

        Golden Books probably have not been relevant for a long time. These days, children don't have time to waste on trivial characters such as Scuffy the Tugboat. They are busy at computer camp and trying to make the select soccer team.

        Besides, modern children have issues. For instance, A Kid's Guide to Dealing with Daily Dilemmas has advice on conflict resolution, missing a deadline and sharing space. What to Expect When You Use the Potty includes a diagram of a sewer system. And if you think this is too much information, you should read the chapter which describes in vivid detail the process of elimination.

        It's enough to make a kid turn to a book about Head Lice, also available. As is a book called Is That a Rash? How is a red toy tugboat convinced he can sail the length of the bathtub supposed to compete?

        Golden Books produced a Barbie coloring book. Meanwhile, an ultra hip Hello Gorgeous “fab fashion guide” from Scholastic promises to help little girls “create a look that's totally you.”

Noisy literature

        And just when you thought it was safe to open the cover, there's What Do You Do with a Potty? An Important Pop-Up Book. Even if they do not come with a lesson in social skills or a hygiene tutorial, the books often sing, dance and make noises. A story about a fire truck has a complete array of sound effects.

        Old-fashioned paper and cardboard are packaged with more alluring dolls or jewelry. Somewhere a marketer surely is trying to cut a deal for a bottle of LiceGuard Shampoo and a nit comb to be shrink-wrapped with every copy of Head Lice.

        Most of the books I read when I was a kid probably came with some sort of lesson. I suppose Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, who saved the day during a heavy fog, delivered a subtle lesson. But I still wanted a nose job for my 13th birthday.

        Maybe the Tawny Scrawny Lion was a warning about bulimia. If so, it sailed right over my head. I thought it was entertainment. I thought is was an entry to the wonderful world of books. Of course, that was back when you opened a book and nothing popped up.

        And I wonder if kids are really the reason for so many books about sex. And toilets. Is it because parents would rather not discuss these things?It makes me long for the days when Golden Books simply gave us the lowdown on Frosty the Snowman.

        And our parents told us everything else.

        E-mail lpulfer@enquirer.com. Past columns at Enquirer.com/columns/pulfer.


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