I vividly remember a few of the first books I encountered as a child. Though I never knew the names of their authors until I had kids of my own and started taking them to the library, I know I was fascinated by Ingri and Edgar d’Aulaire’s George Washington and Norse Myths. I don’t know if it was Wotan or Odin, but one of those Norse gods set in my mind as the father in “Our Father, who art in heaven,” and I never could quite accept what they taught us in Sunday School about God being Love. I thought Jesus was the nice, gentle guy who protected the little childred from getting smote by God, all wrathful over something we did wrong.
Fortunately, the image that stuck with me the most was something a lot funnier:
My family had one or more cats pretty much the whole time I was growing up, and a few of them endured hours of being picked up by the middle and lugged around by one of us adoring little boys–the way it seems all little kids carry cats:
After having this book read to me and looking through it over and over, I started to consider if maybe there were gentler ways to pick up the cat. See, the message of the book, as I understood it at least, was that if everybody did something like pick the cat up by the stomach and carry them all around the house, well, then, kitties would end up all pinched up in the middle. Which does look pretty uncomfortable, though funny.
Every once in a while in recent years, the image of that pinched kitty would come to me again and I would rack my brain to try to remember what the name of that book was. But I always drew a blank. I know I never came across it in trips to the library with my own kids, so it struck me recently that whatever it was, it might be a candidate for a mention on this site.
Out of the blue, it occurred to me to do a search on “What If Everybody Did?” It came up blank. So I tried, “If Everybody Did”, and lo and behold, there it was on Amazon:
And it was in print.
If Everybody Did is nothing more than a collection of illustrations of what might happen if everybody did what kids often tend to do: track in mud, leave toys on the staircase, leave water running in the sink, or wipe dirty hands on the wall or window. Some of the extreme results are pretty comical, but in my view, nothing tops the pinched kitty.
Jo Ann Stover wrote and illustrated a few other children’s books, including They Didn’t Use Their Heads, which, like If Everybody Did, has been brought back in print by Bob Jones University Press. Yes, the fundamentalist Christian college that seems from the outside, at least, a little Stepford Wives-like. Apparently these two books are popular with home schoolers.
Still, I’d highly recommend If Everybody Did for any parent trying to foster some manners in a two-to-five year old. At least one of their bad habits is in here, and I can offer personal testimony that seeing the exaggerated consequences is a good way to turn it around. I know there are a few kitties lounging around Cat Heaven now who owe Jo Ann Stover a bit of gratitude for not having to walk around our house looking like an A-frame.
If Everybody Did, by Jo Ann Stover
New York City: David McKay, 1960
Greenville, South Carolina: Journey Forth Press, 1989