Toddlers, Coloring Books, and Tiaras

Jacinta Bunnell. Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon. Oakland, CA. 2010. ISBN 978-1604863291
Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon

Recently, a family member was confronted with an odd request for a niece’s Christmas gift. The constraint, though she felt it was completely warranted, eliminated most popular toys, books, and movies. Her sister-in-law had asked that she purchase a gift that was, “genderless.” Having recently looked through the pages of the coloring book Sometimes the Spoon Runs Away with Another Spoon, a book written by Jacinta Bunnell with the intention of providing parents with a vehicle with which they may discourage the establishment of gender roles among young children, I suggested the book as a gift for her niece. Realizing that most of the content would be lost on the three-year-old child, I decided to experiment with my slightly older four-year-old brother, Mark.

Sitting cross-legged in the center of my living room with the sound of Modern Warfare Three humming in the back round, I removed the coloring book from my bag. Enamored with the sound of guns and falling helicopters, Mark did not at first seem interested in the book. I asked him if he wanted a present, then handed him the pink and purple covered activity. He did not immediately dismiss it, but asked me who the people on the cover were. We began to flip the pages and he laughed at the silly illustrations of dancing monsters. I found a page I thought was fitting, captioned with, “Enough war, tonight we dance,” and asked Mark what was happening in the drawing. He immediately said, “He has a sword,” ignoring the disco ball and the boy with a large afro.

Watching as he flipped through the pages of the book, laughing at the odd depictions of princes and monsters, I realized that Mark had a few of his fingernails painted. I asked him why he painted his nails, to which he responded, “Because I wanted them to be pretty.” My brother has been raised in quite a conservative household; it was odd to me that my father should allow him to paint his nails. I had often heard my father say to him, “Mark, those are for girls,” in response to his asking for certain items like heeled shoes. From this experience with Mark I came to the conclusion that I do agree with the author that gender roles are forced upon children, but the book’s implication that children fall into those roles only when influenced I must disagree with.

Accompanying the many hilarious illustrations is a page of questions which many adults may have some difficulty answering. This book is taking a step forward by exposing children to images of both boys and girls engaging in interesting and genderless activities, though I feel it was ineffective in its purpose do to the fact that children confronted with the book would not understand the message. This book takes on a relevant topic. Jacinta Bunnell has raised questions that I do not usually think about. This book could be a great tool in the fight against disempowering gender rules.


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