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

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9780814757208: Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature
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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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About the Author:

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.

Review:

Tales for Little Rebels anthologizes 75 years of radical children’s literature. It’s a rousing, relevant chronicle of teaching kids about social and environmental justice, civil rights, and their power to challenge the status quo.”

-Julie Hanus,The Utne Reader

“A ribald, witty, sometimes fun, sometimes thoughtful examination of a wide swath of too little-known literature.“

-www.schoollibrary.com

“Financial behemoths have been nationalized. There are even rumors of universal health care. Socialism is on the march! As we leave capitalism behind, the traditionalists among you may be wondering: Will they come for our children? Too late. As Mickenberg and Nel document in Tales for Little Rebels, Marxist principles have been dripping steadily into the minds of American youth for more than a century. . . . As America backs cautiously away from its laissez-faire disasters and reluctantly into an unfamiliar, communal style of politics, some of us may find ourselves wishing we had been scared with such rhymes in kindergarten instead of having had to live through them as adults.”

-The New York Times Book Review



Tales for Little Rebels is indeed a timely collection and one that serves as an excellent touchstone for future research into a ‘usable past’ for contemporary academics.”

-Children's Literature Association Quarterly

“As an educator, I share the belief that all of the authors in this collection must also have held as truth: that children are indeed the future, and to bring about social change, one needs to begin by changing the hearts and minds of children... I believe lovers of social/political history and inquiring minds in general, [sic] would find this collection appealing.”-Style Substance Soul

“This book reveals a unique, vibrant, imaginative, and energetic left-wing tradition of writing for young people. It is an invaluable resource for progressive educators and hopefully will inspire teachers to write and even publish their own children’s books dealing with sensitive political and social issues.”
-Rethinking Schools Online



"Children's literature with timeless philosophy for grown-ups."-Maria Popova ,Brainpicking

“Julia Mickenburg and Philip Nel have edited a collection of children’s literature that represents the left-wing-oriented, oppositional tradition in children’s literature in the United States. And a lovely collection it is!... Mickenburg and Nel have done all of us —parents, activists, writers—a service by providing examples of what has been done. The task remains to carry this forward.”-Science & Society

“Mickenberg and Nel have switched on the power of radical children’s literature to maximum wattage, revealing a rich, compelling tradition that deserves our attention. Creating an archive that will have authority and endurance, they have recovered stories encouraging children to engage with social, economic, and environment challenges and to become agents of change.”
-Maria Tatar,Harvard University, and author of The Annotated Hans Christian Andersen



“Readers looking for the animals, sprites, and other characters common to children’s literature will find them, with a twist.”
-The Chronicle Review

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