Thursday, May 2, 2013

Terrifying Nixon-Era Children's Books: The House Biter by William D. Sheldon (ill. Dan Dickas) (1966)

Published in 1966, just as Johnson's Great Society was really getting started, The House Biter seems to have been inspired by the (probably understandable) fear children might have of the giant construction equipment then dotting the urban landscape, particularly those huge excavators with giant grapples for tearing down historic architecture so that cheap, modern, and totally disposable buildings could be thrown up in its wake. Like Bam Zam Boom, this book is a window into that strange, pre-preservation era when it just made sense to everyone that old stuff should just get knocked down. Today it seems somewhat strange to see that mentality articulated so bluntly in a book meant for children.

In this book, the machine calls itself "the house biter," because that's not nearly as scary as "hydraulic excavator," right?

He bites houses of any size, really. Including houses the size of your house. . .

See, nowhere is safe. Not even school.

That's all he does, really.

I like the way that woman is staring dreamily at the house biter. She can't wait for that historic home next door to be demolished!

I'll bet the new school is going to be really lovely, too, with none of that annoying old stonework or that leaky, 60-year-old roof. . .