Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature

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NYU Press, Nov 1, 2008 - Literary Collections - 295 pages
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Check out this interview with the author on C-SPAN!

In 1912, a revolutionary chick cries, “Strike down the wall!” and liberates itself from the “egg state.” In 1940, ostriches pull their heads out of the sand and unite to fight fascism. In 1972, Baby X grows up without a gender and is happy about it.

Rather than teaching children to obey authority, to conform, or to seek redemption through prayer, twentieth-century leftists encouraged children to question the authority of those in power. Tales for Little Rebels collects forty-three mostly out-of-print stories, poems, comic strips, primers, and other texts for children that embody this radical tradition. These pieces reflect the concerns of twentieth-century leftist movements, like peace, civil rights, gender equality, environmental responsibility, and the dignity of labor. They also address the means of achieving these ideals, including taking collective action, developing critical thinking skills, and harnessing the liberating power of the imagination.

Some of the authors and illustrators are familiar, including Lucille Clifton, Syd Hoff, Langston Hughes, Walt Kelly, Norma Klein, Munro Leaf, Julius Lester, Eve Merriam, Charlotte Pomerantz, Carl Sandburg, and Dr. Seuss. Others are relatively unknown today, but their work deserves to be remembered. (Each of the pieces includes an introduction and a biographical sketch of the author.) From the anti-advertising message of Johnny Get Your Money’s Worth (and Jane Too)! (1938) to the entertaining lessons in ecology provided by The Day They Parachuted Cats on Borneo (1971), and Sandburg’s mockery of war in Rootabaga Pigeons (1923), these pieces will thrill readers intrigued by politics and history—and anyone with a love of children’s literature, no matter what age.

Check out co-editor Philip Nel discussing this book on NPR here.


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User Review  - Cheryl_in_CC_NV - LibraryThing

So far, very academic. I'm mainly interested in the selections themselves, but there's so much annotation they're difficult to pick out. -------- Update - it's gotten much better. Lots of good stories ... Read full review


R Is for Rebel 7 15 Girls Can Be Anything 1973 87
Geyt a hindele ken Bronzvil Illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast
Excerpt from The Socialist Primer 1930 14 16 Happy Valley
A B C for Martin from Martins Annual 1935 19 Written by Helen Kay Illustrated by Juanita Preval
Subversive Science and Written by Oscar Saul and Lou Lantz
Excerpts from Science and History for Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America
23 Doria Ramirez from small hands big hands
Work Workers and Money 59 1925
Excerpt from Johnny Get Your Moneys Worth Illustrated by Lydia Gibson
History and Heroes 169 Part 8 Peace
Stories for Children Heard about the Sooners and the Boomers
A Persons a Person 201 Munro Leaf
The Sneetches 1953 207

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About the author (2008)

Julia L. Mickenberg is Associate Professor of American Studies, University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Learning from the Left: Children’s Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States.

Philip Nel is Professor of English and Director of Kansas State University’s Program in Children’s Literature. His most recent books are Tales for Little Rebels (NYU Press, 2008, co-edited with Julia Mickenberg), The Annotated Cat (2007), and Dr. Seuss: American Icon (2004).

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