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

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

by Julia L. Mickenberg, Philip Nel, Jack Zipes
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New York University Press


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

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780814757208
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 11/01/2008
Pages: 313
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 11.10(h) x 1.10(d)

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One of the "Noteworthy Paperbacks"-The Indiana Gazette,

"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,

One of the "Best in Paperbacks."-Times Herald-Record Sunday,

"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

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