Liberalism and Social Justice Warriors have ruined children’s literature.

A while back, some guy said:

Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.

Liberals take this very seriously.  That is why children’s literature now sucks so bad.

Evolutiontheorist left a humorous and insightful comment on my post about the children’s book The Tooth:

“I’ve noticed that the children’s book world is full of sentimental/boring works that only adults would be interested in. Every time I go to the library, it seems like I come home with at least one book that looked good, but turns out to be about a kid who’s pet died or a bird whose best friend turned out to be a snowball and then melted. Or about how the author grew up in poverty but it’s okay because they liked eating paint. (I am not making that up.)

Kids like books about cheeky toy trains, hoppy bunnies, funny superheroes, or grand adventures. They like rainbows and unicorns and swashbuckling pirates. They do not want to hear about how if you eat too much candy, you might have to go to the dentist and get a tooth pulled, for goodness’s sakes.”

If you don’t think that there is any particular agenda behind this, listen to the following children’s story.

Moral of the story: It’s fun being married to a cross-dresser!

But it isn’t (just) the liberal/SJW agenda that I’m objecting to.  If the story is well-crafted, I could talk through with my kids why I don’t agree with whatever political or “social justice” point the author was trying to make.  Kids’ books have always been a bit preachy in their own way, it’s just that back in the day the preachiness was aimed at getting kids to behave and be good and now it’s aimed at getting them to tear down Western civilization faster, faster, faster.  But the craft aspect to it is TERRIBLE now.  Thornton W. Burgess was a preachy conservationist, but my children loved hearing his stories about Reddy Fox and Lightfoot the Deer (you can listen to his stories being read by non-professional readers here).  He was a fine children’s literature writer despite his tendency to anthropomorphize deer and his inability to comprehend that slow death by starvation due to overpopulation is not kinder than a quick death by a hunter’s gun.

Several years ago on another blog I wrote a post entitled What is happening to children’s literature?  I think we understand now exactly what is happening to it, but I am going to repost that essay here since it seems relevant.

What is happening to children’s literature?  

Posted on 03/09/2014

Painting by Emil Rau | Public Domain image from Wikimedia Commons

If you have children, you probably already know that March is National Reading Month.

Because we don’t watch television, our family listens to a lot of audio books.  We try to choose ones that we all enjoy listening to and which will appeal to a range of ages.  A typical evening in our house finds us gathered in the living room, the children drawing or writing and me working on a blog post, while listening to stories on the CD player.  Because of this, I have listened to quite a number of both classic and modern children’s stories, and I have concluded that the modern ones are largely unimpressive.

Surely I am not the only parent who has noticed the startling decline in the quality of children’s literature?  I first began thinking about this about ten years ago, when my husband and I noticed that many of the picture story books that had the Caldecott Medal Winner sticker on them were so…weird.  The books were uninteresting to children and sometimes even frightened them, but I’m sure they were intriguing to the highly-educated, liberal parents of our generation who were raised to see things that are “alternative” as superior.  This is the basic ethos of progressivism; anything new and strange, no matter how objectively crappy, is better than what came before.  Weird, disturbing children’s books must be better than the simple, charming types of stories that came before, right?

We have continued to notice this trend as our children have gotten older.  One year awhile back, we joined a mother-daughter book club at the library.  One of the first books that was assigned to us was called The Higher Power of Lucky.  We were given a free copy of the book to read, and let me tell you, it was dreadful.  It was equal parts morbid and boring.  The ten-year-old main character is a girl named Lucky whose mother died from being electrocuted during a storm; her father is unaccounted for and she lives with her father’s first ex-wife in an old trailer in a depressing desert town.  She is obsessed with Charles Darwin for some reason and the primary adventure in the story seems to center around Lucky eavesdropping outside AA meetings and worrying that her guardian will abandon her.

Librarians are obsessed with this book.  It is everywhere; it is one of their most highly recommended books.  Just now we have returned from the library and there were five copies of the audio book on the shelf.  Five copies!  Audio books are expensive, and it always takes them ages to order the classic ones that I request, but somehow we have money for five copies of this book.  No one ever checks them out, but I’m sure it makes the librarians feel very cheerful and progressive to see them on the shelf.

There were several other books that we read for that book club, all equally strange and uninspiring.  Modern children’s books usually have main characters who are female, have an intense grrrll power message, and often involve scenes in which girls behave unethically to get what they want.  I allowed our girls to listen to a modern story called The Callahan Cousins on audio book last summer about three cousins (all girls) who stay with their grandmother for the summer.  The girls – all grrrl-powered up of course – lie, steal, gossip, sneak out, sneak around, and none of this is portrayed in the story as a negative thing.

I can’t imagine what kind of literature is out there for boys now.  I rarely see much of anything geared at boys on the shelves, other than stories based on movies, video games, and TV shows.  Classic literature isn’t used much anymore, but the new literature is mostly badly written, dull, upsetting, and uninteresting, mostly progressivist propaganda.  Virtually every book for girls in the age range of 7 to 12 seems to include some kind of self-conscious gender-bending or gender “stereotype” smashing theme.

I know that many of my readers are parents and would probably like to know of good books for children between the ages of 7 and 15.  I will start by recommending the following five books, none of which are Christian books.

All of these stories are available on audio book at our library, but even if you can’t get the audio version, I think your children would enjoy reading these stories:

The Miracles on Maple Hill  (1956) by Virginia Sorensen:

Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (1939) by Margaret Sydney:

Rascal (1963) by Sterling North:

Larklight (2006) by Philip Reeve:

 

The Mistmantle Chronicles – start with Urchin of the Riding Stars (2005) by M. I. McAllister:

And our family’s FAVORITE series of audiobooks ever, Hank the Cowdog.

These are perfect for young boys as well as girls.  You can buy the books, but I very strongly recommended springing for the extra few dollars to buy the audio books.  The author reads them himself and includes songs, and his delivery is just so entertaining.  I recommend Hank the Cowdog very highly.  We have almost the entire series on audio book now (we’ve been purchasing them slowly over the past decade); also, check your library’s children’s audio book collection because they very well may have some of these or may be willing to purchase them.

Here is a YouTube clip of the author, John Erickson, giving a reading (he’s a much in-demand speaker and lecturer and is a salt-of-the earth Texan Christian sort.)

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10 thoughts on “Liberalism and Social Justice Warriors have ruined children’s literature.

  1. I seem to recall, though I cannot locate, a quote or some tenant of progressivism/liberalism that states that all artwork should be shapeless, formless and non-defined so as to break down the concepts of black/white, good/evil. Everything should be an undetermined ‘shade of gray’. I have no doubt this extends to literature as well. Gone are the days of brave knights and damsels in distress! Knights are too white and damsels can save themselves! The good guys are really bad guys in disguise, and the bad guys are just misunderstood. Liberal heroes aren’t weaklings who learn to be strong, but weaklings who convince others their weakness is strength, and then convince them they should be weak as well.

    Back in the day I used to read the Dragonlance saga (based on Dungeons & Dragons), but it expanded so fast it seemed like every time I went into the bookstore (a bookstore, for those of you who don’t know, was a store that sold books, but wasn’t Barnes & Noble!) they would have 3-5 more books available! The main writers, Weiss and Hickman, were accompanied by a bevy of additional writers, some good, some not so good. Either way, it was an epic tale that would probably have rivaled LOTR if it were made into a non-animated movie. They did an animated version of the first book, Dragons of Autumn Twilight, I believe, but it didn’t go anywhere. I may have to pick them back up and read them again.

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  2. Modern children’s literature is a depressing wasteland. I’m so glad that back when my kids were little, even though we were a single-income family on a tight budget, I chose to invest lavishly in high-quality children’s literature. I have hundreds of beautiful picture books, and because we always took good care of them (yes, even small children can be taught to handle books carefully), nearly all of them are in excellent condition despite having been read dozens of times. I’m really thankful that I saved them all, as most of them are out of print and it’s almost impossible to find copies that are not either in wretched condition, or prohibitively expensive, or both. I have a grandson who is at the board book stage right now, but it won’t be long before he’s ready for picture books, and it’s going to be so much fun to read them all with him.

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  3. It’s not absolute, but one rule of thumb that has served my family well is to be very cautious reading anything written since about 1960. That was when too many authors started thinking that wooden writing with negligible plot lines would always be rescued by a healthy dose of “adult situations.”

    Come to think of it, that’s about when the movies and TV started to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t have kids, so this is all a surprise to me. While they’re not books, I just saw an excellent eight part series on Horatio Hornblower on youtube. Also, they have both seasons of Sharpe. That would be good for boys. That you can’t find anything for boys does seems par for the course. Our society intends to neglect them until they go away.
    This should help cheer up the boys.

    BTW, what’s so wrong about anthropomorphizing forest animals? 😛

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  5. My ‘dopted kids loved our reading books. They both loved “Green Eggs And Ham”…knew all the words and sang it loudly. And when I took them to gather the eggs for a visiting neighbor that had Araucanas, they announced that was what we should have for brunch. Sometimes you have to laugh and enjoy their free spirit ;-D

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    • I would respond with a like, but I am a mere lowly technoserf, and don’t know how. The kids are growing up and have learned on to “Treasure Island” and “Little House On The Prairies,” but the garbage on the school library sickens me…andt I hope they can still succeed, we all tried.

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  6. You might want to look at books from the UK, where there is a golden age of children’s writing unfolding. The books are usually subversive, sometimes wildly so by American standards, but that’s been the nature of children’s books since Struwwelpeter came out in the mid-nineteenth century. (Let’s face it – no modern author can touch writers like Hans Christian Anderson for morbid content. Dancing feet being cut off? Little match girls dying in the snow? Yet great literature.)

    Typically the UK books for much younger children are funnier than their trans-Atlantic cousins.

    I was occasionally made to read Caldecott and Newberry medal winners at school, and usually found them dry and moralising. Not sure if that’s because I’m not American and hence not the target audience, or because they really ARE dry and moralising. The other year I read the much-garlanded Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and while I thought it was a good book, I did wonder if it was more likely to appeal to librarians and teachers than to actual kids themselves.

    Not that I’m dissing American writing. I thought Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Grey (very unfortunate title notwithstanding), which is about a teenager whose family was deported to Siberia by Stalin, was an excellent book about a period of history that needs more scrutiny. Am looking forward to reading her Salt to the Sea.

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  7. Moral of the story: It’s fun being married to a cross-dresser!

    You say that like it’s a bad thing. Used to happen in Metropolis all the time –

    http://misfitdaydream.blogspot.com/2013/10/countdown-to-halloween-2013-jimmy.html

    Of course, Jimmy also spent time as a werewolf, a giant turtle man, a Sphinx, Hitler’s astrologer, and a prehistoric Beatle (yes, one of those Beatles), so dressing as a chick was a quiet day for him.

    One of the stories had Jimmy dressing up to get another job because he was bummed out that his girlfriend made more money than he did. These days, he would be tarred and feathered for having such crimethoughts.

    I realize this has nothing to do with your post. I apologize not. 😉

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  8. Kids like books about cheeky toy trains, hoppy bunnies, funny superheroes

    …or hoppy bunny superheroes.

    If you want some Great Books For Kids, or at least for the boys, check out some of DC Comics black-and-white Showcase editions. They’re reprints of older stories from before comics started going full-on proggie. There’s a couple of great Batman books, like this and this, and tons of Superman/Batman team-ups from before they had a tiff and started fighting like high school girls in the movies.

    I would read them before handing them to really young children, say, 8 or so (one Batman story takes place in a mild horror setting, and there are occasional not-terribly-graphic murders and such depicted on camera) but by and large they’re perfectly suitable for kids.

    Some of the Essentials books by Marvel Comics are pretty good, but they were generally geared more for teenagers and college kids.

    Rule of thumb: check the contents pages in the Showcase collections to see the original publication dates. Anything published by DC Comics up to 1970 is 95% always safe for kids, especially the Superman books. 1970-early 80s are still pretty clean, but they start sneaking in some liberal stuff there and there, and the rare subtle naughty reference. Past that, proceed with caution.

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