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Book Review

By Hal Hase

Title: "Kids Say the Darndest Things"

Author: Art Linkletter

Art Linkletter’s little volume was first published 60 years ago; however, its enjoyment has endured. The delightful things children say are timeless. It was popular with most everyone, especially parents. The book includes an introduction by Walt Disney, and some very engaging and witty illustrations by Charles Schulz. Both men were friends of the author.

Linkletter was an entertainer and humorist. He began in radio, then shifted into TV, where he performed for decades. He was most famous for his interviews with youngsters from age 4 to 10. In the '50s and '60s, he had no difficulty gaining the cooperation of local schools and teachers in the Los Angeles area. Children were nominated by teachers, then screened for their potential to be entertaining.

The author studied the subject of psychology and thought himself an amateur psychologist. However, he knew that he learned best from the children themselves.

In several chapters, he offers some of his ideas on parenting. He believed children ought to be trained lovingly, yet they should be required to be obedient. In addition, parents were admonished to not frustrate children unnecessarily. He felt it was good for kids to have pets. With a dog or cat, children feel loved and learn responsibility from meeting the pet’s needs.

Linkletter introduced a wide spectrum of questions to children, but themes related to parents, siblings, school and philosophies were common. Many entertaining quips related to the child’s partial understanding of the adult world. Linkletter asked a girl if her mother advised her about how to behave on the program. She replied, “My mom told me not to act normal.”

He asked a boy why his teacher nominated him, to which he answered, “The teacher picked me because I’m funny. And (I’m) irresistible to women.” Linkletter was bemused.

One child recently lost a tooth and reported, “The good fairy brought some money and put it under my pillow.” When asked where the fairy got the money, the answer was, “I think he robs a bank someplace!” A girl had another way to make money. She quipped, “I get a nickel every day I don’t have a damp bed.” Linkletter asked what she earned. “I made a dime last week,” she replied.

When asked about pets, one child said, “I had three goldfish, but my sister put water softener in the bowl and they softened to death.” A boy had a dog but lost him, lamenting, “I once had a dog, but he got married and moved to Oakland.” Another wanted a beaver for a pet because “he could sharpen my pencils for me.” A girl listed the tricks her dog could do: “He can sit up, shake hands and roll over … but the best trick is that he can go to the bathroom outside.”

Linkletter asked a little girl to define a “gentleman,” to which she responded, “A man who cleans up after himself in the bathroom.” When he asked a boy who was the smartest man in the world, the youngster replied, "God.” When Linkletter wanted an explanation, the boy said, “Because when people are naughty, he can take the naughty right out of them,”

If you are interested in a little nostalgia and some enduring gems from children, this book will serve you well. It is currently available in paperback or as a Kindle book.

Hal Hase is a retired psychologist who practiced in Bismarck for 35 years. Since retirement, he has resumed his hobby of writing after doing so “eons ago” for his college newspaper. He and he and his wife enjoy tennis and their two grandchildren.

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