A few nights ago, I read a book called Dinosaurs Love Underpants to my son. It’s a sequel to Aliens Love Underpants, another popular book by Claire Freedman & Ben Cort. A few pages in, I realized the crux of the story was that dinosaurs and cavemen lived at the same time. I continued reading, but I felt soiled for having read it. So, even though my son is just four, I felt obligated to explain to him that it was just a book and that dinosaurs were extinct long before the cavemen.
Enjoying fiction sometimes calls for a suspension of disbelief, but usually either the concept is so implausible or a few rules are tweaked to make the setting more interesting, it’s hard to mistake the fiction for reality. Something about the book just crossed the line for me. It was a little too close to the reality that some misguided people want us to believe.
So, I searched to find if anybody else had a problem with the concepts in the book — either intentionally or unintentionally promoting the idea of Young Earth Creationism. I didn’t find objections to the setting, but I did find several comments about the book being too violent for young readers (in the story the reason the dinosaurs are extinct is that the dinosaurs wiped themselves out by fighting over the cavemen’s underwear.) The fact people were more concerned about the violence than perpetuating the myth that the cavemen lived among the dinosaurs disturbed me, especially when in Texas a depressing number of people think humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. I couldn’t find statistics for the rest of the country, but I’m sure they are almost as depressing.
I may have been upset about the book, but looking back I don’t think it was such a bad thing that I read it to my son. It was a valuable opportunity to talk to him about the truth about humans and dinosaurs — even if he didn’t quite understand it. We can try to shield or children from stories that we don’t like, but exposing them can also be a valuable teaching moment. I just wonder how many parents reading a book like Dinosaurs Love Underpants would take the time to explain to their kids that it was just a story and that dinosaurs lived some sixty million years before humans evolved. I think the world would be a slightly better place if they did.
- Ramsey, Ross. Feb 17th, 2010. “Texans: Dinosaurs, Humans Walked the Earth at Same Time.” The Texas Tribune. Retrieved Aug. 3, 2011 from http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/public-education/texans-dinosaurs-humans-walked-the-earth-at-same/