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A Scary Thing Happened: The Coloring Book
April 30, 2009 9:25 AM   Subscribe

After receiving complains from upset parents, FEMA took the PDF coloring book "A Scary Thing Happened" offline, and now the story is spinning around the internet. Created by the Freeborn County Crisis Response Team in 2003 as a tool for children to use with a responsible parent or adult to help cope with the disaster, the book has been used with children who have experienced disasters related to Hurricane Katrina, California wildfires, floods and even the Interstate 35 bridge collapse, to name a few instances. There have even been international requests from the Australian Red Cross to use the coloring book as a model to aid Australian children. Looking for more than the offending page? The Smoking Gun has made the original PDF available, and FEMA still has three other coloring books online. (More coloring book fun inside)

Other coloring books of that were discussed previously:
* Colin Quashie, whose now-offline civil rights coloring book was discussed previously, also made the O.J. Simpson Coloring and Activity book with forum discussions per page
* Chinese military weapons coloring and activity book
* Farsi alphabet book.
* Coloring Book for Lawyers (discussed a second time, though the coloring book link changed)
* Law & Order coloring book (discussed again)
* Understanding the Legal System coloring book
* Black Panther Coloring Book

And for good measure:
*
the Gangster Rap Coloring Book
posted by filthy light thief (43 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
How does the newspaper have a picture of what is happening outside her window? Unless... oh my god... it was an inside job!
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 9:29 AM on April 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


"I feel disrespected," said Jason Owens, 20, of Manhattan, who was with his 3-year-old son. "I feel like I should punch the person who did this in the face."

You can tell he's going to be a great Dad.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:29 AM on April 30, 2009 [18 favorites]


Page from the FEMA controversial coloring book - digitally colored in.

Half a city block explodes in a ball of green flame -- green flame!
All hell is breaking loose here. And there are people who say you're involved, that you might be responsible, that you're a very dangerous man.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:31 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


They should have employed an artist to draw it.
posted by fire&wings at 9:31 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


If only parents had some influence over the coloring books their children use.
posted by brain_drain at 9:33 AM on April 30, 2009 [7 favorites]


How does the newspaper have a picture of what is happening outside her window?

I had the same reaction to that page. I think it's intended to show three separate ways someone might have seen what happened on 9/11, although it's not presented very well.
posted by brain_drain at 9:34 AM on April 30, 2009


So, is the righteous outrage about the book being made? Or about it being pulled?

Maybe it's really more of a litmus test disguised as a coloring book!

DRAW A PICTURE OF YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT THE BUSH AND/OR THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION
posted by yhbc at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


Page from the FEMA controversial coloring book - digitally colored in.

This could be what your child draws! They might imagine 9/11 as nothing more than an oddly shaped tree, or a building with a very lush patio garden! BEWARE!
posted by filthy light thief at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It is a travesty.... It is terrible... they used COMIC SANS!!!! That font would cause emotional problems in the best of children.
posted by nimsey lou at 9:38 AM on April 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I feel disrespected"

Why do I sense that this is going to be one of the key themes of this Century, until something really bad happens and puts everything in perspective.

I remember reading a Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comic that had a small scale demo about something someone found offensive. The story ends with people rampaging through town ripping everything down, because it was all offensive to someone, somewhere.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:45 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Perhaps people were concerned that, if their children were discovered to have made graphic representations of the 9/11 attacks, they would be expelled from school, forced to undergo psychiatric evaluation, and quite possibly taken from their parents custody by the state.
posted by Naberius at 9:45 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]




The wrecked car popped into existence on the cliff overlooking our two-walled house, right at the same moment our spring-loaded roof flipped into the air. Then things started to get really weird.
posted by anazgnos at 9:50 AM on April 30, 2009


WOW.

I followed that Law&Order Colouring Book link, spent some time at the fpp link looking at "Special Valentine Unit" valentines, and then got lost in the guy's other work. He definitely has an "oeuvre" going on there. (examples: 1, 2) At which point I had no idea how I'd gotten to the site or ended up looking at this guy's bizarre creations.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:50 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had the same reaction to that page. I think it's intended to show three separate ways someone might have seen what happened on 9/11, although it's not presented very well.

I think it's supposed to illustrate how it feels when news about one specific thing is the only thing you can see, wherever you look.
posted by interrobang at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I followed that Law&Order Colouring Book link, spent some time at the fpp link looking at "Special Valentine Unit" valentines, and then got lost in the guy's other work. He definitely has an "oeuvre" going on there. (examples: 1, 2) At which point I had no idea how I'd gotten to the site or ended up looking at this guy's bizarre creations.

Durn Bronzefist, welcome to the internet.

I find myself doing this a lot, too
posted by filthy light thief at 9:55 AM on April 30, 2009


How I felt from September 12, 2001 through approximately November 4, 2008
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:56 AM on April 30, 2009 [12 favorites]


Bloom County: Offensensitivity!
posted by Guy Smiley at 9:57 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


How does the newspaper have a picture of what is happening outside her window?

More to the point, why are Devo crouching out of shot on the television?
posted by fire&wings at 10:01 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm no emergency disaster response expert, but perhaps FEMA should be focusing on things other than making comic books. Maybe I'm way off base here in terms of what emergency management is supposed to do. I'm thinking managing emergencies. More focus on, y'know, sandbags, coffee, humane treatment of people who have lost their homes and need shelter, less Urwin and Wufi's Adventure with Wildfire.
But maybe I'm way off base here.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:02 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


Coloring books, I mean. Ugh.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:03 AM on April 30, 2009


Standing with her goddaughter, 43-year-old Risat Jabeen of Brooklyn, said she was shocked FEMA would find it inoffensive.

"Kids color for fun so these things shouldn't be in coloring books," she said. "So many people died that day."


I could understand her concerns, if the coloring book was "Molly Moppet Goes to the Land of Ice Cream Castles", only every single page depicted natural and man-made disasters in graphic detail. In a coloring book about disasters that is supposed to help children be less scared of the unknown? I can't really see the harm. Unless you want your children to live in a constant state of subdued panic, like you.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:15 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


The creative impulse should be a tool to encourage children to confront frightening or emotionally disturbing events. Adults do it all the time. Especially with an event such as Sept. 11. I like the idea of children having an active component in processing iconic imagery, instead of being merely passive receivers of media saturation.
posted by barrett caulk at 10:22 AM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'd like to think parents in general aren't defined by overprotectiveness, hostility, fear, ignorance, and a sense that, because they have had a child, the world must bend to their whims. I know there are parents like this. I presume they stay away from reporters.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:25 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm no emergency disaster response expert, but perhaps FEMA should be focusing on things other than making comic books.

It's a big agency, they probably have a bunch of people working for them who do different tasks.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:34 AM on April 30, 2009


You can still find Colin Quashie's Civil Rights coloring book here for some much needed comic relief after fretting over the FEMA images.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 10:34 AM on April 30, 2009


How does the newspaper have a picture of what is happening outside her window?

I addressed that issue (self-link) with an idea on how that illustration could be better utilized. Maybe some media entity is actually putting it to use and bought the image from FEMA.
posted by wendell at 10:38 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Molly Moppet Goes to the Land of Ice Cream Castles"

Where global warming is an extremely pressing issue.
posted by ob at 10:39 AM on April 30, 2009


Guy Smiley: thank you, a thousand times, thank you! I've been meaning to get a scan of that comic for years, but never was truly motivated. "Offensensitivity" has been one of my favorite words since I first saw that comic in the paper, a bazilion years ago.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:43 AM on April 30, 2009


"It's a big agency, they probably have a bunch of people working for them who do different tasks"

You'd think so. But here we are.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:46 AM on April 30, 2009


How does the newspaper have a picture of what is happening outside her window?

Easy, since the Jewish/Communist cabal controls the liberal media and staged 9/11...
posted by Pollomacho at 11:00 AM on April 30, 2009


Deputy Dan has no friends.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:05 AM on April 30, 2009


the Jewish/Communist cabal

There is no לחרוש מזימה.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:15 AM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


It appears that my favorite weird coloring book, Brasco the Bear (sample) (Previously) is no longer available in full. Boo.
posted by naoko at 11:27 AM on April 30, 2009


You'd think so. But here we are.

Those are different from the coloring book guys.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:40 AM on April 30, 2009


I know there are parents like this. I presume they stay away from reporters.

Or reporters stay away from them. A reasonable parent shrugging and saying, "It's really not a big deal" doesn't make good copy.
posted by bookish at 12:00 PM on April 30, 2009


Other than the art being pretty terrible, I really didn't see much wrong with the coloring book. This isn't meant to be a "yay fun coloring book!" you give to your child on any fun normal day but one that's supposed to be used when, you know, scary things happen and kids need help dealing with it.

So we're not supposed to show images of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 ever? yes, that day was horrifying and nightmarish but there are children who have memories of seeing it on TV (I mean, I saw the Challenger explode live on TV when I was 5). Does not showing them images of it make the tragedy magically go away?
posted by darksong at 12:08 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have a modest collection of childrens drawings depicting 9/11. I put them away in the same file with the burning papers that blew in my window that day.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:22 PM on April 30, 2009


I don't think they want it to go away. The chief objection to this colouring book seems to be the feeling that it trivializes the events of 9/11 by portraying them in an innapropriate medium. For many people September 11 remains an unresolved, painful muddle of emotions that is rapidly receding from active memory - and for them it's easier to venerate the event rather than examine it. FEMA has it's heart in the right place here, but unfortunately it will always be "too soon" for some.
posted by Kevin Street at 12:35 PM on April 30, 2009


"Those are different from the coloring book guys."

Yeah, but it's the same outfit. And its indicative of the same bureaucratic bloat and out of touch mindset. Pulling it down makes it even worse. If someone thought it was a good idea to put it up, that it helped kids or some such, ok, make the case. If not, shouldn't have gone up in the first place. But it seems like a waste of time and energy on all counts.

Seems like they have a lot to take care of over there organizationally. Maybe focusing on their core operation and streamlining the organization to do its basic functions, y'know, properly, might be the administrative mandate one would want to put forward.
Coloring books, putting them up, taking them down, hiring someone's useless brother in law as a favor, all just symptoms of not having any real core principles to adhere to and not taking the job seriously, to my mind.
And I think the political criticism is accurate. To be fair so is the criticism of parents. But FEMA has the former coming.
They're not supposed to be a political outfit really ... or are they? The charter seems to be that they take care of disaster relief (et.al) when the local and state organizations are overwhelmed.

Ok. Where do coloring books fit in there? I guess the same place civil defense did during the cold war. 'Course, that's gone now. And the government just kept hooking crap onto it like a catch-all: hazmat, counterterrorism, and under Bush, homeland security and all this political shadow goverment b.s.
It's poor engineering and big government at its worst. And they're still not doing anything worth a damn to really help anyone. Governors have been criticizing them again and again for their lousy response.
I guess if you have your own people posing as reporters to ask the boss questions, coloring books are about your level of savvy.

So, really, what the hell are they good for OTHER than making coloring books?
And yet, they screwed the pooch on that as well. Couldn't even do that right without pissing someone off.
Granted it's overprotective parents, but hell, I can commission the production of a disaster preparedness coloring book that is neutral enough to not flip anyone out if my outfit's whole job is going to be doing PR instead of having even the pretense that we're competent at managing disaster areas.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:13 PM on April 30, 2009


Ok. Where do coloring books fit in there?

The coloring book, titled “A Scary Thing Happened,” was created after the tornadoes in Glenville as a tool for children to use with a responsible parent or adult to help cope with the disaster, said Rose Olmsted, coordinator of the Freeborn County Crisis Response Team, on Wednesday. It has since been widely distributed across the country to aid children in other disasters. The Crisis Response Team is made of community volunteers, not paid bureaucrats. The coloring book was made locally, to help kids make sense of the world.

Olmsted said in October of 2003 she received a letter from the regional director of FEMA out of Chicago applauding her for the book, stating it was “an outstanding example of the dedication and the creativity of your team.”

Then it went on FEMA's website, which has content for kids, like many other government agencies. These aren't awkward government catch-alls, but attempts to engage kids at various levels. But regardless of intent or who made the content, these are all government sites, and the content can be pulled if it becomes some political issue. And when some content becomes an issue for a vocal contingent, the easiest thing to do is take it off the internet. Usually people don't notice, but somehow this was seen (I'm still not sure where this story was first picked up). Cue people commenting on "Big Government", and somehow it's a problem with the Obama administration.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:15 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


That first page has a ludicrous amount of disasters. It reminds me of this old calvin and hobbes. I don't think that's what they intended.
posted by Strshan at 8:06 PM on April 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think they should be held responsible for Strshan's imagination.
posted by faceonmars at 9:30 PM on April 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Cue people commenting on "Big Government", and somehow it's a problem with the Obama administration."

I'm sorry...FEMA is doing a heckova job now that Obama's president?

FEMA is NOT a classic example of a "big government" over bureaucratic, cronyism problem?

FEMA has NOT been politicized in the past?

C'mon, I don't object to the coloring books per se, nor do I object to the idea of engaging kids. My local fire department does stuff like this. The difference is they actually, y'know, put out fires from time to time.

And yes, it IS a problem with the Obama administration. I'll happily grant it's one he inherited. But yea, his problem. He's the President. It's an organization under the auspices of the executive branch. It was created by an executive order. It's his problem yes.

I don't doubt there are some good people there trying to make a difference, but don't tell me it's not an entirely f'ed up organization that's superwonderful and responsive and oh so politically sensitive all of a sudden because Obama's president.
You could put Doc Savage in charge of the place and they'd still screw up a one car funeral.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:15 PM on May 1, 2009


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