I remember the 1980s. Back before libraries used computers, back when borrowing cards still existed, when our primary school librarian Miss Hyde would stamp the due date inside the back cover.
Back when a story about a naked man sharing his bath with a goat, a wombat and a kangaroo rang no alarm bells.
The book in question, Mr Archimedes’ Bath, is a children’s classic in Australia. I remember liking it when I was little. But with the benefit of hindsight, it’s also ... a bit weird.
So it was with interest that I chose a newer book by the same author, Pamela Allen, for tonight’s bedtime story: Share Said the Rooster.
This is a story with a moral. Billy and Ben are the two characters who throughout the narrative refuse to share, despite the refrain of “Share said the rooster, share said the hen”.
They won’t share a pink sticky bun, they won’t share boots painted blue, they won’t share an apple up a tree, they won’t share an umbrella.
Their final problem is whether to share a boat out on the water. Aha, you think. Here comes the lesson. They’ll both get in the boat, the kiddies will learn the importance of sharing, and everyone will live happily ever after.
But no. Pamela Allen has other ideas.
She kills them.
Billy and Ben refuse to share the boat, and on the last page are shown sinking towards the bottom of the sea, presumably to their cold, watery graves.
The last line is chilling. “Goodbye Billy. Goodbye Ben.”
I did not see that coming. It was a twist worthy of Agatha Christie. In fact, I’ve read crime novels that have disturbed me less than this did.
It feels like a dark sequel to another Pamela Allen classic, Who Sank the Boat? At least in that one, everyone walks away unharmed.
This is a harsh lesson for kids to learn. Share Said the Rooster. OR ELSE YOU’LL DIE.