But I Waaannt It!
By Dr. Laura Schlessinger
Illustrated by Daniel McFeeley
Cliff Street Books, 40 pp.

I don't mean to brag, but I have discovered a parenting trick that, so far,is working really well. Whenever my daughter and I are out shopping and shesees something she wants, I give it to her. Not for keeps mind you, but tocarry around the store while I pick up toilet paper and lightbulbs. Whenit's time to go, we bring the thing back to its little home on the shelf,give it a hug and a kiss, and say good-bye. That's it. No tantrums, no tears,no begging to buy the stuffed turtle. Works every time.

Having cleared this parenting hurdle (Okay, you skeptical parents, I canhear your eyes rolling out there. I said so far. Let me enjoymy moment of triumph), I'll confess that I fully expected to be annoyed byDr. Laura Schlessinger's latest entry in the children's lit market. When abratty kid appears with a bratty title like "But I Waaannt It" on the coverof a book from She Who Will Not Stand for Brattiness, you anticipate thechatisement for your woeful lack of parenting prowess.

But Dr. Laura doesn't cast blame on parents. Instead, she has created thebook for parents and children to read together and discuss. And tosome extent, she's sucessful.

Like her first foray into children's books, "Why Do You Love Me?," "But IWaaannt It!" stars young Sammy. This time around, Sammy is off to the toystore to pick out a present for his cousin. At the store, Sammy isoverwhelmed by the sheer mass of stuff that could be his. When his motherreminds him that their mission is to get a gift for someone else, Sammymelts into a puddle of tears.

Rather than use the mother as a mouthpiece to teach permissive parents athing or two about saying no, Dr. Laura gives the story a little twist. Sammy'smom asks him why he wants all the stuffed animals he's grabbed. He responds,"'Because having them all will make me so verrry happy.' Really, saidMother. 'Let's see if that's true.'"

So we turn the page to find Sammy at home ensconced in stuffed animals,completely pleased with his new stuff. But his joy doesn't last. He can'tsleep with all the new animals on his bed. He can't find his trusty friendMr. Cat in the pile of new toys. Finally, he admits that he felt happy withall the new animals at first, but now he doesn't care about them anymore.It's Mr. Cat, who has been with Sammy through thick and thin, who reallymatters to Sammy.

Fiction is subtle, of course: too subtle, it seems for Dr. Laura. Ratherthan let its message settle in slowly, she goes on. "'Mommy,' asked Sammysleepily, 'are there some children who don't have even one Mr. Cat to loveand protect them when they're scared?'"

Isn't it just like a 5-year-old to inquire as to the well-being of childrenhe doesn't know? "Let's find those children and give them each one of thesetoy animals so they can feel loved and protected," Sammy suggests. "And justin case our kids are as dense as we are, Sammy's mom ties everything up in aneat bow. "So, honey," she says, "you see it's not how many thingsyou have that make you happy--it's how special something or someone is toyou that makes you happy." Awww.

For all her talk about guarding ourselves from the pitfalls of pop culture and clinging to moral, biblical truths, Dr. Laura's message here is: Things will make you happy, as long as they are verrry special things.

In a culture that continually pushes materialism and excess on children, itwould have been nice to see Dr. Laura take a strong stand against the desireto aquire. As a person of faith, Dr. Laura could have easily made her book alesson in finding happiness in a more lasting source, say, God. Instead, sheallows secular thinking to get the best of her and offers a shallow solutionto a deeply rooted problem.