Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature
Edited by Julia L. Mickenberg and Phillip Nel
New York University Press, 2008
Hardback, $32.95, 288 pages.
Childhood and Nature: Design Principles for Educators
by David Sobel
Stenhouse Publishers, 2008
Paperback, $17.50, 168 pages
Sometimes it's wonderful to be proved wrong. In 1995, I published an essay that made a plea for radical children's literature and claimed that it was almost impossible to find any. In referring to this claim, the editors of Tales for Little Rebels say in their introduction: "Yet in recovering a radical tradition in children's literature, we discovered far more work than we had room to include [in the book]. We've collected texts that offer a taste of the U.S. Left's 'social imagination' as it evolved over the course of the twentieth century."
Tales for Little Rebels provides fiction, nonfiction, poems, illustrations, and biographies from authors and illustrators as diverse as Art Young, Lucille Clifton, William Gropper, Langston Hughes, Norma Klein, Syd Hoff, Eve Merriam, Julius Lester, Tom Feelings, Walt Kelly, and Munro Leaf. It also states, convincingly, that these works are part of a radical tradition in children's literature. This beautifully produced book is full of illustrations, comic strips, and photos. The editors also provide a running commentary, which fills in information about the authors' and illustrators' personal and political lives.
I read this book with great pleasure and some of the entries stand on their own as first-rate works of children's literature. Taken as a whole, the 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.