Classification can be a pain in the tooter.
Understandably, book sellers arrange their shelves according to sections, but I’ve never been comfortable with this classification: Fiction & Literature.
Sounds uppity, eh b’ys? It implies that capital L Literature is loftier than other — lesser? — fiction.
To the Fiction & Literature folks I say, “Poppycock.”
To wit …
Nicolette Little and Tara Fleming’s A Toot in the Tub (Pennywell Books) can be found in the Children’s section of book stores. That’s OK. It is a rhyming picture book for kids after all…
… but there is no reason a couple of copies of this slip of a book couldn’t be tucked in among the big fat capital L tomes.
Despite his rocky start in a pervious century, Kurt Vonnegut — my favourite writer dead or alive — is nowadays perpetually stowed on Literature shelves
He’s an icon. For frig sake, he’s quoted more than Mark Twain.
Try a vintage Vonnegut quotation: “I tell you we are here on earth to toot around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
Of course, Kurt doesn’t say “toot”. He uses the coarser[?] vernacular of Middle English, or Old English, or Anglo Saxon for all I know.
A Toot in the Tub stands shoulder to shoulder — bumps butt to butt? — with Vonnegut regarding this theme he (Man of Letters; Literary Figure) so often touts: There’s nothing wrong with tooting around occasionally. It’s good for the soul.
I know Kurt — who’s up in heaven now! — is tickled rosy-red with this Toot in the Tub couplet: “When work is done and I need a scrub/I like to toot a big toot in the tub.”
Literature, eh b’ys?
And that’s not all.
An obvious purpose of Toot in the Tub is to emphasize the “importance of being kind to others.” The kid in the book helps Ms. Smith bring in her laundry and takes out her garbage. He helps his father rake autumn leaves. He helps rescue the neighbour’s cat. He’s a well-behaved boy who says, “When she’s around, I’m good to the nanny.”
Hear Vonnegut speak about kindness to babies he welcomes to planet Earth: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies — God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”
The stuff of Literature, eh b’ys?
Listen, Literature explores important issues.
While the text of Toot in the Tub doesn’t specifically address the issue I have in mind, the illustrations do.
Recently, my seven-year-old granddaughter — who might have been falsely accused at her elementary school — made this thoughtful remark: “It would be nice if we could see toots, ‘cause then we’d know for sure who did them.”
Well, Pop’s Girl, thanks to Tara Fleming’s illustrations of toot bubble rising from the bathtub, know this: toots can be seen …
… and they’re turquoise.
Only one of Tara Fleming’s illustrations troubles me.
Forgive me for pointing out a safety concern.
The kid — who wears my childhood spectacles, by the way — is helpfully (kindly) mowing his neighbor’s lawn with a power mower. He has paused after mowing a swath and a half, and it’s a good thing …
… because he’s wearing short pants and sneakers, his toes and naked shins exposed to accidents.
Tara, my duck, please dress him long-legged pants and sturdy-toed boots before letting him push that mower another inch.
Okay, I’m a nit-picking curmudgeon. Believe me though, I’ve seen bloody shin wounds caused by rocks flung from lawn mower blades. For frig sake, I’ve sported bloody shins lacerated by rocks flung out from my mower.
My favourite illustration shows the kid hove off in a tubful of purple bubbles, turquoise toots drifting in the air like those bubbles youngsters blow from Dollarama bubble pipes in summer.
The little feller is hove off enjoying the pleasures so well expressed on the opposite page:
I like to foof a big foof in the bath,
It’s nice to watch those big bubbles come up,
They tickle my back and go fizzeldy-blup!
No doubt, youngsters love this book. It allows them to have fun with a taboo from former uptight eras.
Blow congratulatory horns — Toot-Toot-Toot! — praises to the author and the illustrator for their humorous treatment of airing (!) intestinal gas.
Yet I leave with an unsettling thought.
Tooting in the tub is a metaphor for relaxing and being oneself.
I fear the metaphor wouldn’t work as well — wouldn’t be as cute — if, rather than kids, old geezers were enjoying the tickles go fizzeldy-blup, eh b’ys?
Thank you for reading this gem-dandy piece of Literature.
— Harold Walters lives in Dunville, Newfoundland, doing his damnedest to live Happily Ever After. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org