The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Monsieur Mugs, the Drama and the Enduring Fame

This is the grade that my daughter is supposed to learn how to read. To this end, her teacher sends home different books each week—slim, delicate things swaddled in Ziploc. The characters wear the clothing of my nursery school years: saddle shoes and Mary Janes, scarves that somehow manage to look homemade in shades of orange and brown. I don’t have to check the publication date to know that these books are as old as I am. But I have never seen them before.

They weren’t on the curriculum where I went to school in Ontario.
There, we learned to read with Mr. Mugs, a white and grey sheepdog with a red collar. I remember him fondly, but what they’ve been reading here in Quebec all this time seems more exciting somehow. The story we read last night was about a gender-less child with a very pretty, very pregnant mother. On page ten, we see her, legs spread, on the delivery table: our perspective is that of the doctor in the process of catching her emerging baby. True, our view is unimpeded by any impertinent hairs, but that more likely reflects obstetrical practice of the time than any prudery on the part of the artist.

I can’t help but wonder: if Mr. Mugs had incorporated a little more nudity or raw drama, would he still be in harness today? As it is, he’s hard to find at all, even online, where he keeps a low profile, so low, in fact, that one blogger has taken it upon himself to post the first book of the series on Flickr so that "future generations" may benefit from the cultural lessons of our literary past. Thanks, Toronto Mike.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

How far primary readers have come from the days of Dick and Jane. Hard to imagine their mother's feet in stirrups.

Tue Sep 11, 12:15:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

See Mother push!
Push, Mother, push!
Push, push, push!

I remember "John and Janet" - not D & J. It was criminally sterile. A Mr. Mugs to brighten up the text a bit, or anything with feet in stirrups would have been so welcome.

Tue Sep 11, 10:39:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Good one, Mel! My evening laugh.

Wed Sep 12, 12:35:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Anne C. said...

I did some more reading last night and discovered that the Mr. Mugs pin I own is a much coveted item.

Wed Sep 12, 06:50:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

Oh my good lord, is the guy on the couch smoking a freaking pipe? In the same room as a child? Outrageous!

Wed Sep 12, 11:09:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

I only remember my Hooked on Phonics readers, no Mr. Muggs in Saskatachewan.

Thu Sep 13, 02:39:00 pm GMT-4  

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