Cross-posted with the Pomerantz Kidblog.
It’s been a long time since I’ve obsessed publicly, here on this blog, over a children’s book. So clearly it’s time.
We’re big Mo Willems fans (the man who brought us the pigeon who is not allowed to drive the bus), and ever since seeing this movie, have been obsessed with naked mole rats. (It was a happy, happy day when the Syracuse zoo installed a naked mole rat exhibit.) So we were congenitally unable to resist this book:
Wilbur’s different from the other naked mole rats in his colony, because he wears clothes — and likes it! But what will happen when Grandpa, the oldest, wisest, and most naked, naked mole rat ever discovers Wilbur’s secret?
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
What happens is this: Grand-pah makes a proclamation, on the acceptability of clothes. (There’s one page were 3 naked mole rats repeat “A proclamation!” Charlotte loves to read this dialogue in increasingly high voices: A PROCLAMATION! A proclamation! a proclamation!) And when he makes his proclamation, Grand-pah is dressed in a rather natty summer Southern suit and hat. At which point, Wilbur rushes home to get dressed, and when he returns, several other naked mole rats are also clothed.
Which makes me wonder: Where did Grand-pah and the other naked mole rats get their clothes? Three possibilities present themselves to my mind:
1. They went out and bought them right away: Grand-pah before his proclamation, and the others as soon as the proclamation was made. I reject this option, as it wouldn’t have given the others enough time to go shopping. The text very clearly states that Wilbur ran home and got dressed and returned, “as fast as his legs could take him.”
2. They stole the clothes from Wilbur’s store. Oh yes, did I mention that Wilbur opened a clothing store? At the sarcastic urging of his fellow naked mole rats. One has to wonder to whom Wilbur expected to sell clothes, since, as his fellow naked mole rats repeatedly point out, naked mole rats don’t wear clothes. Theft from an unmanned (unmoleratted?) store would of course speed up the clothing acquisition process. But it would also indicate an amorality and lack of regard for the law that one does not usually associate with naked mole rats. Though let’s give them the benefit of the doubt: maybe they intended to pay Wilbur later.
The other problem with option #1 is this: Where did Grand-pah get his clothes? Not from Wilbur’s store, since if he had, Wilbur would have been wise to the theme of the proclamation ahead of time. Maybe Grand-pah (and the others?) went shopping at someone else’s store? But not a store owned by another naked mole rat, since it seems pretty clear that Wilbur’s store is the first of its kind. So this begs the question, who else makes clothes in naked mole rat sizes? Moles? Rats? Is there some kind of rodent Garment District a few burrows over?
3. They had the clothes all along, and only had to run home to get them. I’m sure it says something profound about how my head works, that this is my preferred option. Because it makes me wonder about the existence of a clothing underground in the naked mole rat community. Anti-nudists? Could there have been a whole bunch of closeted (Get it? Closeted? Ha!) naked mole rat dressers out there? While only Wilbur was bold enough to go public with his fetish, it was a fetish shared by many: approximately half of all naked mole rats, to judge by the picture in the book. Perhaps Wilbur wasn’t a poor businessrat; perhaps he had a bead on otherwise hidden naked mole rat subculture. I imagine all those poor little naked mole rats, dressing up in front of their tiny full-length mirrors, feeling like freaks and misfits (Get it? Fit? HA!). Worried, and rightly, if Wilbur’s case is any indication, about persecution by their fellow naked mole rats. And then Grand-pah takes a stand validating clothing fetishism! Support from the top for inclusion and alternative lifestyles! Civil rights for the clothed! It’s enough to make you cry. Well, almost.
Of course, prior clothes-ownership only pushes back the problem; it does nothing to address the underlying question: where did the clothes come from in the first place? Still, I’m willing to overlook this glaring omission, in favor of a good civil rights story.