How wonderful when a grandmother can sit with her granddaughter and read the same children's book she used to read as a little girl. This Christmas it happened with the Italian classic Il Primo Libro di Susanna (Susanna's First Book) by Colette Rosselli.
It's a simple, sweet story: Susanna visits the zoo with her little dog Ucchi and a little bird called Nicola. A red balloon figures prominently throughout the story.
An old-style book that I find very cute (using a font resembling a child's handwriting), kind (the turtle apologises to the lion when he finds himself in the lion's den by mistake) and with a friendly touch of bon-ton (the zebras bow when they meet Susanna).
The only part of this book (that I'd never read before) that stunned me was when the son of an amiable monkey "is shouted at and spanked" by his mummy who was busy chatting to Susanna.
It surprised me not just because spanking does not enter our parenting lexicon, but because the reason for this vicious telling-off is so ironic nowadays.
The little monkey was guilty of having taken advantage of his mummy's chat with Susanna to eat up all the fruit that was in the girl's basket. Just think of all the parents these days that find themselves imploring, begging, blackmailing (even paying!) their kids to eat at least one piece of fresh fruit or vegetable a day...
Just think of how much ink is spent in books and parenting magazines on finding creative ways to make fruit and vegetables more attractive for children (shakes, juices, creams, meat-less-balls, skewers, cubes and so on)... Yet, the hapless monkey receives a beating!
My daughter was tired by the time this episode was read to her and didn't react. But I wonder what effect this story would have on other 21st century children?