"Yesh Mifletzet Basherutim" ("Il ya un monstre dans les toilettes") by Laurence Bourguignon, illustrated by Nancy Pierret, translated from the French by Michal Paz-Klap, 24 pages, NIS 53
Some day, cultural researchers should do a comparison of potty-training books written over the years in different countries. Saying good-bye to diapers is a cultural issue that one generation imposes on the next. After all, it is very hard to find a child who will do it on his own.
Parents and nursery school teachers around the world are saddled with the job of civilizing toddlers through an assortment of tactics and training techniques. Sometimes toilet training is carried out with fierce determination, and sometimes with cheerful patience. Sometimes it is done angrily, and sometimes with humor; sometimes with the promise of reward and sometimes under threat of punishment. Some parents feel an obligation to train their children by their first birthday; others wait until the age of four or five. It all depends on the attitude in a particular society to the call of nature.
There is much we can learn about this first socializing experience from children's literature. For decades, children's books have been considered a natural tool for potty training, since they involve both parents and child, and get the parties to sit for a relatively long period in one place. And so, hundreds of such books have been written, all of them with a happy end in which all the protagonists eventually wind up in the bathroom.
In Israel, Alona Frankel turned potty training into a literary theme back in the 1970s with her book "Seer Haseerim" ("Once Upon a Potty"), which is still selling well today. Translated into many languages, among them English, German, Spanish, Japanese, Norwegian and Chinese, the book has enjoyed great success all over the world. With her straight-talking, matter-of-fact style and tension-relieving humor, Frankel has managed to charm toilet-training parents everywhere.
Anyone who is interested in how the French "do it," are invited to check out "Il ya un monstre dans les toilettes" ("There's a Monster in the Toilet"), recently translated into Hebrew. This delightful book, which first came out about a year ago, is primarily a picture book, full of beautiful illustrations. Small children will love to turn the pages and pore over the story, again and again, while they do as the protagonist does: warily sit on the toilet.
But first a parent needs to tell them the story: Jonathan is afraid to sit on the toilet. He is sure a monster lives inside - one that roars when the water is flushed. Little by little, he gets to know the monster. First, he tries to suffocate it by stuffing up the toilet with mountains of toilet paper (to which the monster replies with a frightening "Glop!"). Then he tries to get on its good side by throwing in a lollypop, and to make friends with it by parting with several little toys.
At a certain point, he really hopes that the monster will come out already and show itself. To be on the safe side, he decorates the walls of the bathroom with cheerful pictures. In the end, he and the monster become so close, Jonathan goes to the bathroom for visits even when he doesn't need to use the toilet. One of his favorite pastimes in the bathroom, unsurprisingly, is reading as he sits on the toilet.
The Germans have a really clever potty training book: Werner Holzwarth's "The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit," illustrated by Wolf Erlbuch (translated into Hebrew by Atara Ofek in 1999). This funny book never mentions the words "diaper" or "toilet" even once, keeping its educational pretensions subtly hidden. Instead, it amusingly focuses on the toilet habits of each animal and takes us on a hunt of who-did-it - in the wrong place.