April 17, 2010

Nostalgia courtesy Sweet Pickles

My nostalgia buttons got pushed with sadistic force last night when my nephews (twins, age six, awesome) asked me to read them a bedtime story. I perused their comfortingly large collection of books and came upon this.
Ho-lee. This is an entry in a children's book series from the late '70s called Sweet Picklessweet 'cause they're nice, pickles 'cause they always get into minor problems. Twenty-six books, each about an anthropomorphic animal representing a particular letter of the alphabet and a corresponding characteristic (e.g., Accusing Alligator, Bashful Bear, through Loving Lion and finishing with Zany Zebra), all living together in a cozy small town. Lion, for instance, is sad because he has new roller skates and he can't share them with friends and blah blah blah. Let's pretend your heart has been warmed. Also, they were drawn in a surrealistic, Yellow Submarine–esque style that was both comforting and off-putting, like a less drugged-out Gahan Wilson drawing Aesop's Fables.

I loved these books when I was a child, as did my sister, which prompted her to buy a few for her kids off the Web (used—they went out of print about 20 years ago). It was one of those subscription deals—we accumulated most of the set, missing only Positive Pig and Unique Unicorn (how the hell do I remember that?). Also, each book had a super-cool map on the last two pages; I loved inspecting the stories themselves to find instances where they violated the map's logic, but I seem to recall the writers being unnecessarily careful about that, depriving me of self-righteous rule-following anger.

I literally hadn't thought of these books in decades, though they were awfully popular: There were toys, a record (getting a copy of that would be worth replacing the turntable I tossed ten years ago), a cartoon, sundry other junk. In hindsight, my favorite was X-Rating Xerus (star of Xerus Won't Allow It), a censorship-happy squirrel who looked a little like a cartoon bandit and was basically a mean motherfucker.

Not only do I give the writers props for digging up an African ground squirrel genus for an X animal, but within a series of books about caring and friendship and worrying and all that usual bullshit, censorship actually seems like a kinda edgy issue to tackle. I believe the tale ends with all the other animals roasting Xerus over a fire and Enormous Elephant claiming a leg. (Maybe not.)

Also, these books were full of lesbians. Anthropomorphic animal lesbians, but still. In an effort to be equitable (it was the '70s), half of the characters were boys, half girls, though the writers seemed to have a habit of making all the most obviously male-style characters female. Accusing Alligator—a big, angry reptile who worked as the super in the town's apartment complex—was a she. Clever Camel, the local fix-it genius, clad in a red jumpsuit—was also a she. Same with Fearless Fish, a motorcycle-riding daredevil with an aquarium perpetually mounted on her head. There was no Womynly Wolverine, but you get the idea.

Finally, enjoy this video of a stoner reading Fixed by Camel:


8 comments:

Bill Scurry said...

PLEASE do not forget Me-Too Iguana, still relevant today. Perhaps more than ever, even.

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