The 1977 Little Golden Book “Cookie Monster and the Cookie Tree” (which I think was also a segment in a Sesame Street episode) is ostensibly a fable about sharing, but I have a different perspective. Yeah, I know it’s pretty dorky to write a serious critique of a children’s book. Humor me, though.
There’s a reason we read fables and other morality tales to our children. In addition to teaching them to read and entertaining them, we’re hoping they assimilate some of the lessons. Other times, we keep some stories away from our children, because we don’t want them to assimilate those lessons. That’s why we care so much what they watch on TV, and how much, right? So, it is in the spirit of preferring some lessons over others that I bother to present my perspective on this silly book. (Besides, it’s a fun way to talk about economics, the dismal science.)
For those who haven’t read it in a long time (or ever), here’s a synopsis. A witch has a magic talking cookie tree, whose cookies she doesn’t want to share with anyone, especially the voracious and insatiable Cookie Monster. To keep all the cookies to herself, she casts a spell on the tree to prevent it from giving cookies to anyone who doesn’t share. Desperate for cookies, Cookie Monster tries to find a friend on Sesame Street who”ll share cookies with him. Unfortunately, nobody believes he’ll really share. Going back to the cookie tree, he meets the witch, who can’t get any cookie, either. They realize that if they share, they can both get cookies. At first, it works to mutual benefit, but it doesn’t take long for Cookie Monster to devour all the cookies, leaving none for the witch.
Since not sharing is presented as the cause for the dilemma, and sharing seemingly resolved it, it’s understandable if this book is used to teach children to share. I don’t think it’s particularly appropriate as a sharing lesson, though. Rather, I believe it’s a cautionary tale about the need for proper respect for, and effective enforcement of, property rights.