ISBN 0310705401 - Big Idea gets some serious kudos from me. They've figured out, in their VeggieTales series, how to market Christian stories and values to two tough groups: children with the attention span of flies and non-Christians. As a non-Christian parent who watched my own kid, and others, just loving these guys, I'm happily amazed. The only specifically Christian reference is on the back cover, in the form of a line from the bible.
Two nearby towns, West Manor and South Boorish, are inhabited by folks of very different habits. In West Manor, there are the Peas: happy, friendly and quick with the "please" and "thank you". Over in South Boorish, the Beans are grumpy, unsmiling, and unfamiliar with the terms of gratitude. While the grateful ones reap the benefits of their behavior, so do the ingrates. At sunflower seed picking time, the Peas work together to get buckets-full and the Beans merely snatch each other's seeds and wind up with few.
Is there a potential for some people to interpret an element of racism here? Yes, there is, especially those people who look for racism everywhere - there are two groups of "people", each group made of people who look and act alike but unlike the members of the other group. One group is better off. Were that the story, racism would seem a reasonable charge - but it's not the story. One group is better off than the other because of the way they behave, not the way they look or where they live. More to the point, this is a children's book, for ages 6 and under. If they're going to take away "Peas are better than Beans", it's going to show up at the dinner table, not in racist tendencies.
VeggieTales are great tools for teaching. Kids like the bright, funny vegetables, a change from the constant stream of cartoon animals. The images are very attractive, the text is to the point and still amusing and the message is clear: Good manners will get you further in life than being a meanie.