By Maureen Tai, 15 June 2018
“Mr McGee went out to play, down to the beach one windy day.”
Reading aloud to, and with, my children must be one of the best perks of being a parent. Rhyming picture books are the most fun to read aloud, bar none. And Mr McGee and the Biting Flea has male frontal nudity to boot.
Got you to read on, didn’t I?
Mr McGee sports a wispy, not-quite-Hercule-Poirot-but-close-enough moustache, has on his head a black not-quite-bowler-but-more-like-bucket hat and wears a crimson-purple-pink-blue ensemble when he goes out kite-flying one windy day. He runs along in joyous abandon, his yellow kite trailing behind him gaily. Mr McGee chances upon a similarly joyous dog, who is leaping rambunctiously at a flock of angry seagulls. The slender brown animal abandons the birds for the soaring kite, and chases after it and Mr McGee.
Suddenly Mr McGee lets go of his kite. His right hand clutches at his side, just under his left armpit. Something bad has bitten him. It hurts so awfully that an ear-splitting howl erupts from the stricken man’s mouth, frightening the cavorting dog who has frozen to a stop in wide-eyed surprise. Mr McGee’s eyes are squeezed shut in pain, his free arm extended stiffly. It’s a biting flea! He screams in pain “OOOOOO! OWWWWW! EEEEEE!” and starts doing a tortured dance as he desperately tries to locate the flea that is sinking its mandibles into him. He sheds his clothing bit by bit as the merciless insect leaves red welts all over his exposed flesh. The dog leaps and jumps and barks gleefully as Mr McGee gets completely naked (and yes, you do see some genitalia). Thankfully, the pesky bug finally decides to leave the poor man alone and to pursue some other, more suitable prey.
Mr McGee and the Biting Flea is a fun picture book to read together, and loudly. We relish shouting repeatedly – “OOOOOO! OWWWWW! EEEEEE!” – and then watching Mr McGee madly disrobe as we turn the pages. Of course, the nudity towards the end draws giggles and gasps but if you’ve already introduced your little ones to body science, you may instead get comments that Mr McGee’s private parts are quite unremarkable or that the author/illustrator hasn’t really put that much effort into drawing them because “Daddy’s privates don’t look like that!”
For ages 3 and up.