This is SUCH a neat book - I barely know where to begin to describe how unique and fun it is to read. First of all, it is unlike anything else I've come across on the subject of children's books; a great blend of history, text book and literature it is as educational as it is fascinating.
First a few comments - I've never given much thought to the topic and those with more than a passing interest may find some of the information rudimentary. However, there is a good balance between "background info" and the stories themselves. If you have a strong interest in this topic then here is a great collection of what must surely be hard to find stories that represent foundatonal examples. If you are like myself with a limited background on the topic then the additional material is helpful - and the stories are simply fascinating.
The authors do a great job of providing a brief background on the author, era and environment of the original writing then the story itself is reproduced. The version of the book I'm reading is an uncorrected proof so the text/other isn't much to go on at this point but they have also taken steps to reproduce some of the original sketches along with the story which is a nice touch to give the full impact of the original.
Another aspect of the book that I really enjoy is the variety of subjects included...from basic primers to more advanced levels these present a diverse look at how childrens literature and learning presents agenda's ranging from science to socialism. As you might expect, religion plays a significant role in some of the oldest examples but perhaps the most stunning examples are those concerning politics. Examples like "The Story of your Coat" and "The Socialist Primer" are simply fascinating.
Finally, the authors provide excellent notes and additional information for those interested in pursuing additional reading on the subject.
Who Will Love this Book...
Those interested in history, politics or religion.
Those interested in education.
Those interested in literature and how it shapes the world around us.
Those with children who want to further their understanding of how the minds of their own children are being shaped.
Academics - teachers and college students.
Anyone with an interest in unique literature.
A delightful, unique and utterly wonderful addition to my library! GREAT job on this book.
on September 25, 2008
Understanding "radical" as wanting "to explore the essence of phenomena, experiences, actions and social relations to enable young people to grasp the basic conditions in which they live", Tales for Little Rebels takes 8 social/cultural themes and examines how they have been addressed by liberal children's authors. Many of the featured pieces were obvious in their efforts to influence the behavior and thought of readers, particularly those written for Socialist or religious publications, but the vast majority simply wove the values into a story that children could enjoy. It was interesting to read about the personal experiences of the authors and to see them reflected in their stories, particularly writers like Syd Hoff and Wanda Gag who also wrote for Marxist publications. Much of children's literature has the underlying theme of make order out of disorder/good conquering evil (although who and what is good is not necessarily the same for all people) as well as giving kids the encouragement to find their own solutions to the riddles of life. (which means that it is all political ~ commenting in some manner on social relationships) With the glut of choices, it is important that adults choose well and encourage their children to experience a wide range of literature that can entertain, reassure, inform, challenge, empower and invite them into a large and diverse world. It is also important for adults to read to and with their children and help make connections between the story in the book and their own stories. The authors have included a list of radical reading which includes old as well as new works, organized by theme. We live in a time when critical thinking skills are essential and the ability of enough people to do so is inadequate; radical literature will help with this. I would also add to this list the Lois Lenski, Robert McCloskey and Margaret Wise Brown books, The Man who had no Dream, Gordon the Goat (Munro Leaf), Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel (Virginia Lee Burton)....and many others. This is not a book that one would sit down and read cover to cover in one sitting, but is an excellent resource for teachers and for anyone interested in seeing the tremendous interplay between arts and culture.
on October 8, 2008
TALES FOR LITTLE REBELS: A COLLECTION OF RADICAL CHILDREN'S LITERATURE took me by surprise, twice. At first, I thought the book was going to be filled with funny cartoons and stuff like that...but when I got it, it was knee-deep with analysis. Thinking I made a mistake, and flashing back on my college years, I begrudgingly forced myself to start reading.
And what I found was my second surprise: it was interesting! Yes there was some semiotics involved, but the editors Julia L. Mickenberg and Philip Nel did an excellent job of compiling the book and explaining things in simple to understand language.
It's broken down by themes, i.e. rebellion, organization, justice etc., and each theme has an introduction that helps the reader understand what was going on at the time when these stories were published. This is followed by information regarding the author and illustrator of the piece (if known), followed by the actual story.
All of the works are from the 20th century and many are taken from Socialist, Marxist and Communist papers or books. Likewise, many of the writers and illustrators were part of either the Communist or Socialist movements and many turned to children's stories because those stories weren't heavily scrutinized by the censors. And for many it was the only job they could find after being blacklisted during the McCarthy era.
The editors did a fair job in presenting the reasons many of these authors and illustrators/artists turned to Socialism etc. because of a reaction toward unfair labor practices and living conditions that affected adults and children alike.
Stories consist of either cartoons, comics, text-only stories, and stories with photos (that seemed to be from school books), and were taken from a variety of sources, so there's a pretty broad mix here. And some stories are quite obvious in their propagandist tone, while others are very subtle.
There are also stories about the environment, race relations, gender equality and peace.
Would I recommend this book to kids? Not necessarily. But I would suggest that parents get it, read it, and then read the stories to their children. As the editors pointed out in the introduction that the purpose for collecting and re-printing many of these stories is not to influence young minds to either side of the coin, but to help them begin to critically analyze the world around them.
With so much going on in our world today, young people could use all the help they can get.
Its important, as other reviews have noted, that you go into this book knowing what you are getting.
The stories are nice and well selected. The intros and background given are a nice addition to help you get more in tune with the underlying themes and metaphors that are woven into their fabric. This book is a good addition to the library of anyone that takes chilren's literature seriously and is looking at the subject matter with a more adult eye.
What it is not is a collection of stories that will fit right on the bookshelf next to many of the other books that are marketed to children. It bills itself as a collection of children's stories, but in reality is more of a collection of analyzed children's stories.
The stories contained within discuss many issues with themes that range from gender to authority and in between. A great examination of stories that were written for children, but that have universal appeal for their willingness to "take" on the powers that be and change the status quo.
I applaud the volume for what it contains and am pleased to add it to my collection, however it will not be a volume that is added to my child's collection. It is more of an adult nature and should be treated as such.
Books like this are hard to find. With lot of easy to read snippets, covering a wide time period. The book is a collection of various materials from different time periods and subject matter. It also provides a good insight on how our personal beliefs gets manifested in our print material. Lot of though provoking items. You can use it as a easy evening reading material or for a book club. There are lot things where you can ponder around for weeks and months. After reading the book, it increased my curiosity for similar materials and I spent count less hours in google.
There is no progression per say, it is like reading last month left over news papers. Whole lot of information. Every thing is interesting.
on September 26, 2008
Having misunderstood the point of this book, I feel it would be unfair to review it on any other terms but its own -- upon which it is excellently and thoughtfully done. One can see how much work went into the collection, and it's certainly engaging.
By and large, the book concerns socialist or communist leanings in children's literature -- that is to say, the ways in which those ideologies have crafted or influenced various children's stories, and children's lit as a whole. These are not necessarily "blatantly" ideological tales; nor is the gathering of these stories, as the authors point out, based in highlighting a *political* ideology so much as a philosophical one: One could call the stories "leftist" more safely than anything else; and cumulatively, they deal more with cultural singularities than with politics *per se*. One chapter, for instance, deals with environmental issues; another with racial (and general) prejudice.
However, as another reviewer here has pointed out, the authors don't judge their subject(s). They aren't championing any particular view; they've chosen a subject of interest and they present literature -- with commentary upon each author and chapter and part, positive or negative as warranted. I appreciated this commentary -- I'd have liked it, a little more, to "tell me what to look for," but the authors seem to have wanted to avoid that, which is understandable -- and some of the stories themselves were so engaging, I got lost in them.
You'll find everyone within from unknowns to Dr. Seuss; you'll see children's stories well done, badly done, didactically done, and even didactically done well; you might learn a few things. I did. I'm happy to have found this, and while one should not mistake its academic purpose and premise, I recommend it absolutely. At the very least, if the essays "bog you down," you've got short children's tales or excerpts from short children's tales, a number of them now out of print, from over 40 diverse authors in one well-designed volume.
This fascinating book looks at politics and history through selections from children's literature. The pieces include poems, comic strips, stories and excerpts from schoolbooks, many illustrated with black and white illustrations. The book focuses on writing for children that includes left-leaning political ideology. Some of the writing espouses socialism; other pieces are about equality of the races and sexes. Much is very clunky and weighted down with obvious social meaning. Other pieces soar. Dr. Seuss's The Sneetches, about "star-bellied sneetches, the best on the beaches" and "plain-bellied sneetches, with no stars upon thars" is a classic tale of bigotry. Included here is the original Redbook magazine version of The Sneetches, before it was a book.
Tales for Little Rebels is not a book for children, although smart teenagers will appreciate it. It's a scholarly look at how politics shows up in children's literature.
The 43 mostly out-of-print selections each have an introduction and biography of the author.
Here's the chapter list:
Part One: R is for Rebel
1. Excerpt from The Socialist Primer: A Book of First Lessons for the Little Ones in Words of One Syllable (1908)
2. Excerpt from The Socialist Primer (1930)
3. Excerpt from Pioneer Mother Goose (1934)
4. A B C for Martin (1935)
5. Excerpt from The Black BC's (1970)
Part Two: Subversive Science and Dramas of Ecology
6. Excerpt from Nature Talks on Economics (1912)
7. Excerpts from Science and History for Girls and Boys (1932)
8. The Races of Mankind (1945)
9. The Day They Parachuted Cats on Borneo: A Drama of Ecology (1971)
10. Red Ribbons for Emma (1981)
Part Three: Work, Workers, and Money
11. Sharecroppers (1937)
12. Excerpt from Johnny Get Your Money's Worth (And Jane, Too!) (1938)
13. The Story of Your Coat (1946)
14. The Little Tailor (1955)
15. Girls Can Be Anything (1973)
Part Four: Organize
16. Happy Valley (1907)
17. Battle in the Barnyard (1932)
18. Pickets and Slippery Slicks (1935)
19. The Beavers (1936)
20. Mary Stays After School or -- What This Union's About (1939)
21. Mr. His: A Children's Story for Anybody (1939)
22. Oscar the Ostrich (1940)
23. Doria Ramirez (1970)
Part Five: Imagine
24. Why? (1925)
25. Excerpt from Funnybone Alley (1927)
26. The Teacup Whale (1934)
27. A Little Hen Goes to Brownsville (1937)
28. The Practical Princess (1969)
Part Six: History and Heroes
29. American History Retold in Pictures (1931)
30. Excerpt from North Star Shining: A Pictorial History of the American Negro (1947)
31. Stories for Children (1950-55)
32. Lucretia Mott (1968)
33. High John the Conqueror (1969)
Part Seven: A Person's a Person
34. A Little Boy in a Big City (1952)
35. The Sneetches (1953)
36. Who Stole the Tarts? (1954)
37. X: A Fabulous Child's Story (1978)
38. The Princess Who Stood on Her Own Two Feet (1982)
39. Excerpts from Elizabeth: A Puerto Rican-American Child Tells Her Story (1974)
Part Eight: Peace
40. Buster Brown Plays David and Goliath (1907)
41. How Two Sweetheart Dippies Sat in the Moonlight on a Lumber Yard Fence and Heard About the Sooners and the Boomers (1923)
42. In Henry's Backyard: The Races of Mankind (1948)
43. Three Promises to You (1957)
44. Excerpt from Come with Me: Poems, Guessing Poems, and Dance Poems for Young People (1963)
To be a reader in today's media bite driven world is in itself a radical act. To have a child become a critical reader and thinker might be the single most important thing a parent can do. No matter what their politics and viewpoints become there is nothing so important as the ability to ask why.
This book contains a wonderful collection of stories from the 20th century that center not essentially on a radical or leftist 'agenda' but on making sense of the way the world works from a critical thinking perspective. What the stories ask the reader to do, child or adult, is examine the world always asking why something is so, who benefits, who loses, and is there another way? Is there a better way.
The book is divided into 8 parts. Unfortunately the first and the last parts are the weakest. The book starts with R is for Rebel an examination of some of the earlier and more strident radical 'party' literature. The stories contain more stick figures than critical thought. R is for Rebel is, fortunately, a starting point to see how radical literature becomes more nuanced, specific, and self-aware.
The last section on Peace I was really looking forward to. If anything deserves critical thought it is why wars are fought. And this could have been a critique of almost every form of government and society in the 20th century. But sadly the selections offer almost no exploration of power, money, and leadership and who benefits and who pays when a war is fought.
One of my favorite parts is Part 2, Subversive Science and Dramas of Ecology. The single best piece in the collection is included here; the Day they Parachuted Cats on Borneo. It is a brilliant introduction to ecology that should be required reading for 3rd to 5th graders. The following selection, Red Ribbons for Emma contains a moving history of the search for fairness, justice, and compassion for a people thrown aside and under by big business.
That search for fairness is the essential point of this collection. Many of the stories by the most radical of writers in this collection point out the great material advances made by society and science in the 20th century. What they also mention, especially in Part 4 entitled Organize and Part 3 Work, workers, and money, is the importance of union organizing and a search for fair distribution of the products of work and labor.
Nothing could be a more important lesson as we go forward in the 21st century. Far from being a bane on capitalism, labor organizing saved capitalism in the 20th century. It is only by having workers earning a fair wage that capitalism can survive. It is only by having a society where families can afford homes, rent, and good that anyone can `make a profit'. A point that is being driven home with abundant clarity right now once again.
Tales for little rebels succeeds in bringing a wide variety of authors (most of them quite obscure to me) whose aim is to get children (and adults) to think about how the world around them works. Part 3, Work, Workers, and Money succeeds particularly well at this. There are at least 15 to 20 of the 44 selections that still are loaded with relevant topics and are well done that any parent wishing to help raise a critical thinker will find useful. The book also succeeds in having well researched introductions of the authors and artists that serves as a social history for how radicals were treated the last century. The book falls short in that a number of the selections have little educational or enjoyment for children or adults. These selections are only redeemed by the introduction of the authors and their history.
In the end, wherever you or your child might fall on the blue-red spectrum, those views only have substance if they were arrived at with thought, questioning, open-mindedness, and ultimately compassion. And despite any shortcomings of individual pieces in this collection as a whole that is what you will find inside.
Let's get this straight--this isn't really a children's book. It is more of an anthology for adults into the politicizing of children's literature.
I wasn't quite sure what this book was when I selected it, since the description wasn't pulling up completely. I just went on the title and decided it was most likely a good read. Can't go wrong with words such as "Rebels" "Radical" and "Literature", let alone though in "Children's"!
This is a well put together collection of out of print stories, poems, drawings and essays from both well known and unknown (at least to me) authors. Do be aware these aren't complete works. While I would had liked to have read more of the stories and less commentary, it is still a worthy read, mainly because it is a topic you don't typically run into often.
If radical children's literature does catch your fancy, then this book will give you a good jumping off place to go and research more and find the complete works.
So what if it looks a little silly on my 3 month old's bookshelf.
This anthology of radical children's literature from the twentieth century is helpful for at least three groups: (1) historians of the labor and other leftist movements, (2) historians of modern children's literature, and (3) parents and teachers looking for stories that expose children to liberal and progressive ideas about workers' history, racial and sexual equality, ecology, globalization, and the peace movement.
The editors take a stand, which you can tell from the picture on the cover - - a little boy with furrowed brow, a pop gun in his left hand and a sign saying "I AM A REAL RED!" in his right. Most historians of left-wing movements have some sympathy for the people whose stories they tell.
The editors Julia L. Mickenberg and Philip Nel aren't ideologues. They know that some of the literature "recall[s] the communist Left's rather blind worship of the Soviet Union." They distinguish Soviet totalitarianism from the ideals that inspired the supporters of the Industrial Workers of the World (the Wobblies) and the early twentieth-century American socialist parties.
The editors don't preach; they just present the children's stories. Some of those preach, but that's history.
From The Socialist Primer:A Book of First Lessons for the Little Ones (1908) by Nicholas Klein:
O, see the shop! The child is in the shop. . . .
The child works hard. The child should be in the
school, and not in the shop.
Martin's Annual (1935) by M. Boland:
J is for Jail, where good rebels are held.
E stands for Empire, built upon blood.
K stands for Kremlin, where our Stalin lives.
It's interesting how many literary artists contributed to this genre, like Langston Hughes and Dr. Suess.
Most of the selections are more recent and more relevant, and it would be good if they were still given to children to read.
The Day They Parachuted Cats on Borneo: A Drama of Ecology (1971) by Charlotte Pomerantz tells a fascinating story for older children about the effect DDT had in Borneo. (One of the best things about Tales for Little Rebels is that whole stories are included, not just short excerpts.)
Red Ribbons for Emma (1981) by Deb Preusch, Tom Barry, and Beth Wood is the story of Emma Yazzie, a Navajo environmental activist.
Clara Hollos's' The Story of Your Coat (1946) shows how much goes into making one coat. Even for adults in the twenty-first century, it's more effective than a lecture on globalization.
Some of the most important lessons for children today are in stories like Girls Can Be Anything (1973) by Norma Klein and the one that's my favorite in the whole book, X: A Fabulous Child's Story (1978) by Lois Gould. (It's probably not a coincidence that both of these stories are by women.)
There are stories of children whose families are in the United States to make a better life through work.
Doria Ramirez was eighteen when Sandra Weiner told her story in 1970 in small hands, big hands: Seven Profiles of Chicano Migrant Workers and Their Families. Doria still didn't know how to read, but was going to learn.
Doria reminds us that even though life is full of "so much work . . . you have to carry some happiness in your heart."