ANNAPOLIS – Book “E” Lookee, the proposed state symbol for literacy is sexist, resembles a milk carton with legs, a square M & M or a juice box missing a straw, depending on which senator you ask.
The fluffy puppet debuted in the Senate Committee for Education, Health and the Environment Friday when its creator, Judylynn Mitchell, propped it on the witness table at a hearing for the bill that would make it the state’s first literacy symbol.
Book “E” Lookee will create an image “for children to want to read a book, visit a library or enjoy a good book with a family member,” said Mitchell, a Wicomico County educator who created the character for the former local cable television show “Land of Books.”
“Children and adults recognize the importance of symbols,” she said, adding Book “E” Lookee would reinforce the importance of reading skills and vocabulary development.
But at first (and sometimes second and third) glance, some people have no idea what the “cushion-shaped buddy” is supposed to promote, including some senators.
Sen. Robert Zirkin, D-Baltimore County, said he thought it was an ode to the drink that does a body good.
“Looks like a milk carton with legs,” he said, before giving a drawing of the puppet a second look. “It looks like the M & M symbol — just like a square. Doesn’t it?”
Others got hung up on gender.
“I think its sexist,” said Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore.
But Gladden is one for compromise. She said she would accept Book “E” Lookee — with amendments. She proposed trimming the eyelashes to make the symbol less gender specific.
“I think you may need something that’s asexual … It’s probably a better sense of what the state’s symbol should be,” she said.
In true senate form, suggested amendments kept coming.
“You could always make this one of those boxes that looks like a juice box — put a straw on the top,” said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, R-Cecil.
“I have a problem with this `Lookee’ word here,” said Sen. Catherine Pugh, D-Baltimore.”If we are going to teach people to read we certainly want to make sure we’re using correct English.”
Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick, wasn’t sure Book “E” Lookee should have made it out of the “Land of Books.” He was ready to amend it out of existence.
“Is there a bill (for this)? Unbelievable,” he said.
But in the midst of all the cartoon confusion, Sen. James Rosapepe, D-Prince George’s, had a moment of clarity.
“Looks like a book to me,” he said.