Saturday, December 26, 2009

Love You Forever, By Robert Munsch


Our neighbors to the north have given us many awful things, many of them far too awful to list here. In the mid-80s Canadian children’s author Robert Munsch gave us the book “Love You Forever” from Ontatio’s own Firefly Books. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but this may not be true in The Heartland Province. The cover shows a rosy-cheeked little boy sitting beside a toilet. I’d say this is a pretty good representation, ay?

The story begins innocently enough. A mother rocks her newborn baby to sleep. The father, as throughout the book, is nowhere to be seen – true to the deadbeat dad epidemic that plagued Canada in the 80s.

As she rock the boy, she sings:

I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be

There are song lyrics in movies like M and A Nightmare On Elm Street that are far less haunting than this, and it gets repeated over and over.

Next the boy is nine years old and quite a little pain in the keyster. He’s always filthy and using foul language, and Mommy even contemplates selling the rascal to the zoo, another historically accurate portrayal of parenting in Canada at the time. Nonetheless, Mother still cradles the lad and rocks him, all the while singing that horrible song, penned perhaps by Anne Murray or Leonard Cohen, or some other Canuck.

From here it gets downright creepy. As a teenager the boy performs a song, looking like Elvis or a member of Sha Na Na, for some reason, while a monkey-looking girl swoons beside him. Later, while the rock star sleeps, lonely ole Mum peaks into his room to cradle him some more, just as she has every miserable day of this child’s Oedipal life. Mommy will no doubt later use the baseball bat sitting by the door to crack open her son’s girlfriend’s skull so she can have the boy all to herself. Is it any wonder Dad hightailed it out of there?

As our story continues, the boy moves out of the house, leaving Mommy all alone with all those razor blades and sleeping pills in the house. He moves across town, far enough, he assumes, that the old lady can’t just pop in. Silly man. Little does he know. One night, perhaps that very night, Mom drives to her son’s new home, shimmies his bedroom window open, climbs in and again cradles the sleeping grown man like the baby he once was. Whether he is actually that sound a sleeper or he is faking sleep and pretending he’s just eating cotton candy at the circus, we don’t know. But we do feel for the boy.

This demented Cat’s in the Cradle winds down with the grown boy frying up some mushrooms in the kitchen when guess who calls? That’s right, needy old, now sick and dying Mother. “Come visit me, you neglectful, ungrateful bastard,” she demands. And guess who rushes to her side to cradle her just as she did him for over twenty years? Sonny boy. And by now we get the picture that this must be how Norman Bates grew up.

On the last page we follow the son back to his house. Maybe he laid his mother back down on the bed and finally pushed the pillow over her face. We don’t know. What we do know is that the son now has a daughter to whom he is now singing the aforementioned abysmal song. There isn’t a wife or girlfriend to be seen. So we’re left to assume the son turned out gay and is living in a very liberal state where people like him can adopt. Hopefully by the time the daughter is a teenager she’ll be bitchy enough to scream, “Get your dick beaters off me, Dad! I’m going to the movies!”

All in all, “Love You Forever” is not a book a parent should ever read to his or her child. Nor should it be read at all. Robert Munsch has some issues, and illustrator Sheila McGraw ought to be ashamed of herself for partaking in this venture as well.

1 comment:

  1. I would say it is highly unfair to include the illustrator in your dislike. We all need to eat...right?!?