Children’s Books that Presidential Candidates Need to Read

Children’s books aren’t immune to politics. Many deal with issues that children need to learn about. The Lorax is a good example as a modern fable for protecting the environment. Other books have a left/right divide: In If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is it better to be generous, or are we just “enabling”? Evidently it has generated political discussion.

I was doing some work in our Curriculum Materials Collection, when I pulled this book off the shelf:

The Chickens Build a Wall, by Jean-Francois Dumont. Translated into English and published by Eerdmans in 2013, Dumont tells the story of hedgehog that appeares in the barnyard. Chickens, under the leadership of the rooster, decide to build a wall to keep out other “foreign” and unknown things.

As a read this, I immediately thought of the U.S. presidential campaign–and one candidate in particular, Donald Trump. Then I thought, what about if I assigned children’s books to each of the major presidential candidates?

Here’s my take on it. Some of it humorous, some serious.

Donald Trump, please read:

chickensbuildawall

The Chickens Build a Wall – written and illustrated by Jean-Francois Dumont
Summary: Chicken freak out over an hedgehog. Decide to build a wall.
Why?: Incendiary rhetoric from the candidate.
Lesson: Don’t be xenophobic.

mymouthisavolcano

My Mouth is a Volcano – written by Julia Cook, illustrated by Carrie Hartman
Summary: A children’s lesson on not interrupting.
Why?: Candidate never seems to stop talking.
Lesson: Respect others; listen, don’t interrupt.

Hillary Clinton, please read:

waitingisnoteasy

Waiting is Not Easy – by Mo Willems
Lesson: Sometimes you just have to wait.
Why?: Candidate was presumed front-runner in 2008. Presumed front-runner in 2016.
Lesson: Duh. Waiting is not easy!

doug-dennis

Doug-Dennis and the Flyaway Fib – by Darren Farrell
Summary: A little fib can really escalate.
Why?: Candidate could solve a lot of political and personal issues by simply being truthful and transparent.
Lesson: Honesty is the best policy.

Bernie Sanders, please read:

the-chocolate-war

The Chocolate War – by Robert Cormier
Summary: The pressure one can face when not conforming.
Why?: Candidate stays true to his convictions, but can he compromise when needed to get things done?
Lesson: Taking on the establishment doesn’t always pan out.

thepromisebook

The Promise – written by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin
Summary: Young girl snatches an old woman’s purse. The woman asks her to keep a promise of what’s inside. The girl doesn’t find money, but acorns.
Why?: Candidate promises a lot. Results are not often immediate.
Lesson: Deeds, not words.

Ted Cruz, please read:

charweb

Charlotte’s Web – written by E.B. White
Summary: Unlikely barnyard friends.
Why?: Patrol Muslim communities? Dissing single moms? Candidate has a serious “empathy” deficit.
Lesson: Be a friend, not a foe.

eachkindness

Each Kindness – written by Jacqueline Woodson
Summary: Rarely do you get a second chance at kindness. So be kind from the start.
Why?: Candidate’s rhetoric seems overly mean.
Lesson: Your actions influence others. Don’t be a bully.

Need more suggestions on children’s books that teach life lessons? Check out:

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You’ve Come Along Way Baby? Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books

I’ve been doing a shifting project in the curriculum/children’s lit collection I manage at my academic library.

Every now and then I come across a little “gem” like this: I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl – written by Whitney Darrow, Jr. and published in 1970.

What’s it about? It goes through a series of things boys do vs. what girls do. Here are a few screen shots:

I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl

I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl

Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.

Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.

Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.

Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.

Boys can eat. Girls can cook.

Boys can eat. Girls can cook.

Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.

Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.

Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.

Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.

I'm glad you're a girl! I'm glad you're a boy!

I’m glad you’re a girl! I’m glad you’re a boy!

We need each other.

We need each other.

Have you fallen out of your seat yet? Turns out this has been a popular little book. Brain Pickings provides an excellent overview, as does Bustle. So it this “for real”? Well…the author, Whitney Darrow, Jr., was a satirical cartoonist for The New Yorker, so *probably* not.

I tried locating reviews from the time period, but hit the wall with the usual ownership v. access problem with libraries (Most of our print indexes, bound volumes, and microfilm are gone. Our full-text access for what we have doesn’t go back far enough for the usual book review sources). I did a search in the Google Newspaper Archive and came across an article that was published in a series of newspapers in 1974: Children’s Book Changes Proceed – which discusses sexism in children’s literature.

A more recent take, “Planning Literacy Environments for Diverse Preschoolers” (Young Exceptional Children, 15(3), 2012) appears to take the book at face value and labels it as blatantly sexist.

Gender Stereotyping in Children’s Picture Books:

So is I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! staying in the collection of my academic library? Yes. A lot of the education classes discuss gender stereotyping. Even as satire, this can be a useful tool (see Teaching Children’s Literature: It’s Critical). Does it belong in the children’s collection of a public library? Probably not. What do you think?