It has taken me a while to find the words to review Petey’s Listening Ears. I have it laying on our nightstand for a while now and have read it multiple times. Yet still, I remain ambivalent about this little children’s book.
The story talks about this little boy who — like any self respecting little boy — makes amok, even though he is told that he’d better not do the things he’s planning. He plays with his toy box, and even though his mom tells him not to take out all of his toys, he does and ends up having to clean up all morning.
After a pretty unhappy morning of having been told not to and doing it anyway, his daddy asks him what’s going on. After listening to the little boy’s annoyances, Dad asks if Petey has been listening to what the other people were saying. Petey admits he wasn’t and spends the afternoon doing as he’s told, and ends up having a great day after all.
The story is illustrated by Derek Knost, with marker drawings in bright colors. The drawings, even though they are rather simple, do work well with the story.
I generally don’t like moralizing books, as I think that children’s books should be about wonder and marvel and story line, not about “trying to teach them something.” The reason I have spent so much time pondering on this book is whether or not it is actually coercive.
Most of the situations Petey is not happy about would not arise in my household, because we wouldn’t force our daughter to clean up, if she’s put make-up all over herself and doesn’t immediately want to wash up, we won’t force her into the bath…
So in a way, this book does not promote the most coercion free style of parenting. However, I can find myself in the frustration that my child ignores my well meaning advice, even though I have her best interest in mind, and I think that’s mainly what the book is about.
The second part, where Petey does have a good time, sits rather well with me. For example, his sister asks him to put on his jacket, and as he does, they’re able to go to the park to play.
It is an interesting little book to show your child that actions have consequences, and that parents and caregivers do have the best intentions when they’re telling the child something he doesn’t really agree to immediately… It’s not the best book on my shelf, but for parents looking to deal with this kind of situation, it can give a gentle way of handling the issue.