The story starts out straightforwardly enough. Denver is rich and generous. He has lots of staff and supports the local village with prizes for the prize giving and even dresses up as Santa at Christmas. When he has parties even more villagers are employed. (It was round about here I started to twitch. )
Then one day a stranger comes to town and whispers about how unfair it is that Denver is rich and the villagers aren’t. They had been happy before this but now they become jealous. Before it can degenerate too far, Denver divvies up everything he has and gives everyone an equal share. He goes off and rents a small house while the villagers squander their new found wealth on holidays.
Denver painted as a hobby and now begins to make a new fortune selling his work. The people of his new town are very happy as his work draws visitors and prosperity to their town, and the story ends as he employs a cleaner, with the warning to watch out for the stranger and not listen to him.
I don’t really know where to start with this. And I’m slightly bemused to find reviews describing it as moving and entertaining. I suppose lots of picture books tackle meaty topics, life, death, birth, bullying, potty training, that kind of thing. But I don’t think I’ve ever come across one simplistically imparting a political message dressed up as a parable before.
I suppose you could argue that it’s good to introduce ideas to your children for discussion, and we do discuss all sorts of things here, particularly around the dinner table. But I judge the topics we raise carefully, and appropriately to the child concerned. I can’t see how this is at all appropriate to children of 3 or 4 and I’m really disturbed by it.
What do you think? Are there topics that shouldn’t be addressed in picture books? Or am I over reacting?
ETA – the reviews at Amazon are hilarious. Have a giggle here: Denver (affiliate link.)