Saturday, March 14, 2009

A Character Study: The Man in the Yellow Hat

Sometimes I have to ask certain characters to please excuse themselves from a scene.

Most are very understanding, slipping out of the scene to play a video game or go shopping.

Parents-not so much.

When I ask the parents to please find something else to do while their daughter saves the world, they say, "Over my dead body."

Only, I am not prepared to kill anybody...yet. So, I have turned to Curious George for answers.

Yes, Curious George would never be able to set the pigs loose or call the fire department if the Man in the Yellow Hat was always around.

And so the Reys used the following methods of getting rid of this annoying parental figure-so that Curious George could be Curious:

Method #1 - Parental unit assigns main character a task and sends main character away.

A perfect example in Curious George Goes Camping. The Man asks George to fill the bucket with water while he puts up the tent. I think he really wants George out of the way so that he can set the forest fire George puts out later in in the book.

Method #2 - Parental figure leaves the scene, placing implicit trust in the main character that they will behave while they are gone.

Hmmm...this seems to be the Man's favorite method. Really, it is in 75% of Curious George books. He thinks that if he says, "Just stay out of trouble," then everything will be all right? I'm not a big fan of the Man's parenting methods. Someone needs to call SRS...or PETA.

And finally,

Method #3 - Main character sneaks away from parental figure. (And parental figure does not find main character again until all of the action has transpired.)

In Curious George Visits a Toy Store, George sneaks away while the Man is deep in conversation with a lady in green. Again, a serious case of neglect. He's not even looking at George. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure George has threatened to fling poo at the said lady if she doesn't distract the Man.

Oh wait, there is one more. Hardly worth mentioning because it is the worst method ever.

Method #4 - Who knows?

The book begins with no explanation of where the Man is. No doubt on another safari, looking for another wild animal to bring home to suburbia.

You can't really start a book out like this, unless you are Michael Grant. Gone begins with all the parents disappearing. Where are they? No one knows. But it works, because that is the whole point of the book.

Disclaimer: I don't have a really bad scanner, just no scanner, and a camera instead. I had to explain to my husband why I was taking pictures of our son's Curious George book.

Second Disclaimer made many days later: After discussing blog illustrations with my Litigating Latin Love, I have decided to remove all images that aren't mine. I've made a few edits so that the post still reads well, but trust me, it is just not the same...


  1. It's funny how you need parental figures to go away in YA novels. It's almost neglectful.

  2. Great post. In my first book I did have to kill off the parental figures, but it's kind of the point of the book. And then my MC ran away, so there's nobody telling her what to do. It's awesome! My second book is all adults, so that's easy! I'm adding you to my blog roll. I'm so glad you came over to check out MMW. :)

  3. Can I have your email? I have something I wanted to send you. If you don't mind me having it you can send it to me at Thanks!

  4. So funny. It's true. In YA you always have to find a way of getting rid of those pesky parents. I mean, they're always ruining the fun.

  5. lol, so true! I ran into the same problem in my YA novel. Well, I should say that my reason for getting Mom out of the way didn't really hold water. (As my betas pointed out.) I tried to give her extra shifts at work, and make her all busy, but in the end, I still had to throw in a few confrontations. It all worked out. :)

  6. LOLOL! This is awesome! I love this post! So cute! and great pictures... even if your hubby thought you'd gone bonkers! Duh? You're a writer. Honestly, what else does he expect you to take pictures of? LOL! LOVE IT! Jenni

  7. Patti-I agree it's neglectful. I mean my main character wouldn't exist without her parents, right?

    Candice-It sounds like your MC has been through a lot. I hope you gave her a really great love story to make up for it. Oh and I'm emailing you now for my something.

    Kasie-Yes, when I moved from home and went to college I thought that I would never have to worry about pesky parent again. But I must have missed them enough to write them back into my life.

    Oh! I have to put my son to bed and give my husband the laptop, but I will be thinking of really great things to say back to Renee and Jenni.

  8. LOL so true and I love the examples of Curious George. The Man in the Yellow Hat is the most caring parent without any form of name that I've ever seen. :D

  9. Hi Jenn. I agree. And it's a good thing George can't talk because "the Man in the Yellow Hat" is a mouthful.

  10. Awww, what cute pics!
    I think my two year old has pinkeye too. We've all been sick, but for some reason he got the cold in his eyes and now they're both red and goopy. Poor guys. LOL Mine got spanked too.
    Anyways, I've always wondered "Where are the parents?" in YA. They don't often seem to play an important part. I always like Elizabeth Mazer's book Silver, and looking back, that book actually made the mom and boyfriend seem like real people, not just shadows.

  11. Jessica, I like it when authors make the parents part of the story. Have you read 13th Reality? It's a middle grade book, and the MC's parent is actually in on the drama and LETS his son go save the world.

  12. Yeah, as I struggled to figure out what to do with my heroine's family, I thought, "So this is why the MCs of fantasy novels are always orphans."

  13. Tara-It is such a cop-out way to get rid of the mom and dad, and give the MC free reign.

  14. Interesting, I acutally have a lot of parents in my books. They even cause the conflict at times. But this is definitely a theme in YA—where have all the parents gone? Hehe.

  15. That's funny, Natalie, because that tune was running through my head as I wrote this post. "Where Have All the Parents Gone." Oh that would have been a much better title...