Politically charged children's books

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Politically charged children's books



Well, I guess I wasn't a progressive enough thinker as a child, but I had no idea that the Lorax was infact a tale of environmental justice. I mean, I knew this little guy really liked trees, and was trying to save them, but I'd never actually given the book or movie much thought, as far as its role in teaching children environmentalism. Now I'm wondering what other children's books I read, and missed the political mandate or social message of.

It was [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_banned_books]even banned in some part of the United States, [/url] for being an allegorical political commentary.

Excuse my quoting of Wikipedia, since I usually avoid it, but I thought this was interesting:


The Lorax is arguably Seuss' most controversial work, having been banned in some schools and libraries for its anti-forestry industry content.[4] Several timber industry groups sponsored the creation of a book called The Truax, [5] offering a logging-friendly perspective to an anthropomorphic tree known as the Guardbark. Just as in The Lorax, the book consists of an argument between two persons. The logging industry representative emphasises their efficiency and re-seeding efforts whereas the Guardbark, a straw man of the environmentalist movement much like the Once-ler is for big business, refuses to listen and repeatedly lashes out.

The line "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie" was removed in 1974 following the clean-up of Lake Erie.[6]


Well one book series that has been given lots of attention but not for that reason is the Harry Potter Books


In some of the later books Harry and his underground group of friends actively work against the government and the establishment. I found this to be very interesting as it's teaching kids realy not to trust authority all the time. It's a great message but everyones after them over the witchcraft piece, so the anti-establishment thread gets lost in the shuffle.

jeff house

The bad guys in Harry Potter are quasi-nazis. They call others "mudbloods" because they are of mixed descent. As well, the bad guys are generally Aryan-nation looking.


(Mild spoiler if you haven't read all the books) The thing I love about Harry Potter is that it shows that evil does not always show up in a cape with glowing eyes. It comes in the most banal forms- in fact these forms (the Dursleys and Dolores Umbridge)are in many ways harder to fight then the standard villains.
I am sure I will also be born out in my prediction that Snape, despite being an asshole, will turn out to be loyal to the Order of the Phoenix. [img]wink.gif" border="0[/img]

I think all of Seuss' books had messages that may have been considered political at the time of publishing, since his books advocate for equality and cooperation and against bigotry.

Ken Burch

I've just been reading HOME IS A PLACE CALLED NOWHERE, by Leon Rosselson. It's a story about a young refugee girl in Britain finding out where she arrived from and dealing with the anti-refugee hatred in that country(not that we have ANYTHING like that in the States, of course [img]rolleyes.gif" border="0[/img] ).

I'd strongly recommend it.


Sounds good. I know him as a singer/songwriter. He wrote "The World Turned Upside Down" about the Diggers (the originals).


There are actually quite a few lists out there in the world of the internet about children's books that have been banned, both in the past, and currently. [url=http://childrensbooks.about.com/cs/censorship/a/banharry.htm]Harry Potter, anyone?[/url]


We should be careful what we mean by "banned".

1. "Banned" could mean "made illegal by the governing authorities to own or distribute." In this sense, certain kinds of pornography are banned in many countries as are certain kinds of hate literature.

2. Sometimes people say that a book was "banned" by a certain library or bookstore if that library or bookstore decided not to carry that book for political reasons. Similarly, people sometimes say that a book was "banned" by a school board, if the school board decided, for political reasons, not to teach the book or to make it available to its students. If a book is banned in the second sense, then people can, of course, legally own and distribute the book.

I assume that the Lorax was banned only in the weaker sense, i.e. sense #2. No school or library has the power to "ban" books in the stronger sense, i.e. sense #1.


By the way, aren't all children's books politically charged?


[url=http://www.cbc.ca/arts/film/horton.html]A subversive film treatment of a Dr. Seuss classic[/url]


Dr. Seuss’s much-loved book Horton Hears a Who! has every appearance of innocence. It’s the story of a large animal — Horton — compelled to protect the Whos, a tiny civilization that lives in a speck on a clover and that only he can hear. Horton’s allegiance to the miniature people of Whoville is now a matter of public record. But who, we may ask, is Horton? An elephant of an irrepressibly plucky disposition — yes. An inhabitant of the Jungle of Nool — true. The subject of harassment, assault and forced confinement for his devotion to the Whos – definitely. One of the most cherished creations of Theodor Seuss Geisel, and now the star of a major animated feature – you betcha.

Yet what do we really know about this pachyderm and his sympathies? Is he the big-eared naпf that he appears to be, or does his sweet nature hide a secret agenda? Chances are, most of the viewers of the new film adaptation Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! will not struggle with these questions — seeing as many of them will only recently have mastered tying their shoelaces and making solo forays to the bathroom, judgments of the movie’s value as political allegory may be beyond them, anyhow.

N.Beltov N.Beltov's picture

I think Theodor Seuss Geisel worked on US military propaganda films back in WW2. However, they were anti-Nazi productions.


Many generally progressive writers and other artists took part in the anti-Nazi war effort.

What is sad then is that even Seuss, who did a lot of antiracist stuff after the war as well, fell into horrific racist stereotyping of the Japanese.

Maysie Maysie's picture

Remember when the Vancouver School Board banned "Heather Has Two Mommies", "Asha's Mums" and "One Dad, Two Dads, Brown Dads, Blue Dads"?

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Seuss's most political book was the Cold-war allegory [url=http://www.geocities.com/onewhoisalmighty/butter.html]The Butter Battle Book[/url].

And [url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMolzESn4oI]The Sneetches[/url] was about racism.

[ 02 April 2008: Message edited by: M. Spector ]

a lonely worker

Another great children's book is [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Click,_Clack,_Moo:_Cows_That_Type]Click, clack, moo[/url]

Its a great story about cows and other animals working together to demand improvements in their living conditions from the farmer. In the end they strike and win.

Probably the only children's book with a pro-labour message and very funny. Its still our daughter's favourite.

M. Spector M. Spector's picture
Ken Burch


Originally posted by lagatta:
[b]Many generally progressive writers and other artists took part in the anti-Nazi war effort.

What is sad then is that even Seuss, who did a lot of antiracist stuff after the war as well, fell into horrific racist stereotyping of the Japanese.[/b]

Seuss acknowledged the wrong of this in later years, according to a PBS(U.S. pubic broadcasting special) on his life that ran a few years ago.

They also quoted the wonderful moment when, near the bitter end of Watergate, Art Buchwald asked(and received)permission from Seuss to quote in it's entirety Seuss' text for his book "Marvin K. Mooney, will you please go away?", while replacing the name "Marvin K. Mooney" with Richard M. Nixon". All the "talking heads" on the show had a great time reciting this.

Another political Dr. Seuss note: "Yertle The Turtle" was a direct slam on Hitler.

Ken Burch

Another book I'd recommend was the children's book adaptation of "Brundibar" , with text by Tony Kushner and illustrations by Maurice Sendak.

For those who don't know, "Brundibar" was originally a children's opera produced in the Terezin(Theresienstadt)concentration camp in occupied Czechoslovakia by adult and child camp detainees. Operating under extreme constraints(as you might imagine)they created a story of children standing up to and defeating a horrible villain(guess who?). Apparently, none of the camp guards or wardens picked up on what they were talking about.

Here's the Wikipedia link to give you a better sense of the story.


[ 03 April 2008: Message edited by: Ken Burch ]


A friend recently published a little book called "From Seattle to Palestine, Becoming Neighbours and Friends. [url=http://new.gbgm-umc.org/missionstudies/israelpalestine/resources/]Children's storybook on Israel and Palestine"[/url] It is based on her own experiences of working in Palestine and Israel, and traveling back to the US to the questions of her grandchildren. The publisher has created a workbook to accompany it too.

As you can imagine, she is getting vilified in predictable corners. (If you google this book you'll find the critiques quicker than a link to the actual book). I wonder how long before the book gets banned?


Heh. Like [url=http://christianfairwitness.com/]these guys?[/url]

[url=http://christianfairwitness.com/umc/Methodist_From_Palestine_To_Seattle.... whine.[/url]

And check out [url=http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=2&x_outlet=118&x_article=1466]... promoters of "fair" reporting of the middle east:[/url]


These activists also believe in an alternative universe in which Israeli concessions and withdrawals bringing about an end to Palestinian violence – a fairy tale that has been proven false on numerous occasions in the past decade.

Wow, but they're not biased at all, are they? Lying pricks.

[ 07 April 2008: Message edited by: Michelle ]


spam and spammer gone

G. Muffin

Take some acai berry and fuck off, spammer.

George Victor

Just learned there is a chaildren's edition of Three Cups of Tea just out, aimed at beginning readers.  Teachers must be promoting a work that  shows kids hungering for knowledge.  : D   


Ok, this isn't about books but - when I was a kid, we used to watch "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and my dad would keep up a running commentary, pointing out the American/capitalist propaganda aspects of whatever they were showing. I suppose I could have ended up resenting this but he made a compelling case! It's not a bad way to educate kids politically (and arm them). 


What about "It's Just a Plant"?



And who could forget the PETA's attempts at getting kids while they're young! I'm a vegetarian and strongly support teaching children about animal welfare, but these ones take it too far. 

G. Muffin

PETA takes everything too far.  Do you remember when they sent Obama a "humane fly catcher"? Jesus, Get a grip.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture
M. Spector M. Spector's picture

[url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/aug/31/9-11-children-colouring-book... Kids' Book of Freedom[/url]

A colouring book about the events of 9/11, complete with pictures of the burning twin towers and the execution of a cowering Osama bin Laden for children to fill in, has provoked outrage among American Muslims.

We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids' Book of Freedom has just been released by the Missouri-based publisher Really Big Coloring Books, which says it is "designed to be a tool that parents can use to help teach children about the facts surrounding 9/11". Showing scenes from 9/11 for children to colour in and telling the story of the attacks and the subsequent hunt for Osama bin Laden, "the book was created with honesty, integrity, reverence, respect and does not shy away from the truth", according to its publisher, which says that it has sold out of its first print run of 10,000 copies.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Wow. Gross.

And why is this only causing outrage among American Muslims?


Fell the same way!
totally tastless!

Early age kid is especially easy to brainwash, best material to create an "Christian, anti-muslim, zombie nation".

Is there as sentense in the universal child right that prevent javelization of kid's brain?

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

j.m. wrote:

What about "It's Just a Plant"?


That is hilarious!  I love it.  Not sure I'd have the nerve to read that to a young child (can you just imagine the scene when the kid starts talking about it innocently at school?) but it sounds cute.  Probably more popular with adults than with kids.

I was amused, though, by the fact that in the book, the parents take the kid to the farmer who grows the pot, and the farmer gives the kid a whole tour.  Mmm hmm.  I'm sure that would happen - wouldn't any farmer growing pot want their customers to bring the kids to learn all about it, so that they can risk being exposed when the kid starts telling everyone at school about their weekend field trip?  Likewise the scene where the parents have the doctor tell the kid all about how great marijuana is.  Sure, and right after the door closes, the doc's on the phone to the CAS, I'm thinking.


Catchfire Catchfire's picture




Great story. I finally got it to load.

There is, of course an equally magical antidote to that story - the famous line from Bulgakov's Master and Margarita - "Manuscripts don't burn!"

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Love that book, Winston!

'No, that simply cannot be,' the foreigner objected firmly.

     'Why not?'

     `Because,' the  foreigner replied  and, narrowing his eyes, looked into the  sky,  where, anticipating  the cool of the  evening,  black  birds were tracing noiselessly, 'Annushka has already bought the sunflower oil, and has not only bought it, but has already spilled it. So the meeting will not take place.'

     Here, quite understandably, silence fell under the lindens.


Yeah, me too. First saw it as a fringe play, and I just managed to find a copy of the 10-part Russian miniseries, which was apparently very faithful, and very well-received. Haven't watched it yet.

There is a new translation which is supposed to be very good. Can't remember which mine is. it's sitting at home.


As for kid's stuff, I have always liked Syracuse Cultural Workers. Lots of great books, posters and other things with great messages for adults and kids.

Speaking of which, ever heard Woody Guthrie's kids album? 



Catchfire Catchfire's picture


Dr. Seuss quote too political for B.C. school

A quote from a Dr. Seuss book about a turtle trying to assert his rights is too political for students who shouldn't be caught in the middle of the current teachers' dispute, says a school administrator in Prince Rupert, B.C.

Dave Stigant, acting director of instruction for the local school district, said Wednesday he vetoed a quote from Yertle the Turtle when a teacher asked him to look at about 20 quotes to determine if they would be appropriate to expose students to during the ongoing labour dispute.

The quote was: "I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here on the bottom, we too should have rights."

Stigant said he doesn't care if the quote or the whole book is used in a classroom, but it's not OK for teachers to wear political slogans on buttons or T-shirts or display them in their cars on school property.

"This is simply an attempt to make the district look absurd." 




Dave Stigant wrote:

"I would not think it was appropriate for my child to go to an art class and be engaged in instruction and conversation about political rights and disputes and that kind of thing. That's not the teachers' job."

I wonder why we have around 50% turnout in elections and no one cares about politics. I can't imagine an educator saying anything more anti-democratic.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

This man is not an educator. He is an administrator.


I posted that in the teaching thread as well, Catchfire.


True, but try telling that to him and the associations who represent people like him.

BCSSA wrote:


Who We Are - The members of the BCSSA are the superintendents, assistant superintendents, directors of instruction and other senior executives of BC's 60 school districts. Prior to their district-level appointments, our members served for many years as teachers and principals. They each hold a valid BC Teacher's Certificate and bring highly-developed skills and a lifelong passion for teaching and learning to their district positions. BCSSA members are the province's educational leaders, uniquely qualified to ensure the success of students and school district operations.

There are currently more than 250 BCSSA members, including some members who have been seconded to the Ministry of Education. Additionally, there are more than 200 senior active (retired from school district) members who participate in association activities.

BCPVPA wrote:

  1. The BCPVPA will strive to ensure its members have the skills to be effective educational leaders;
  2. The BCPVPA will advocate for its members to have the time, resources and support to be effective educational leaders;
  3. The BCPVPA will work cooperatively with education partners to sustain and improve public education;
  4. The BCPVPA will proactively monitor emerging issues to inform, support and advise members;
  5. The BCPVPA will be recognized as an innovative, inclusive and vigorous community of educational leaders
  6. The BCPVPA will maintain a strong efficient and effective organization.




Timebandit Timebandit's picture


Sort of political, definitely ideological - although, I suppose, no worse than children's versions of Noah's Ark and other bible stories for small children.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

infracaninophile infracaninophile's picture

Has anyone seen this documentary:


If it is good I'll recommend my local library purchase it. Or I'll buy it myself. The filmmaker did another documentary (Call of the Wild) that I found moving and thought-provoking.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture