Monday, December 13, 2010

A Marxist Book in Every Stocking! Top 10 Subversive Themes for Children

It started innocently enough, like many encounters with obscenity on the internet. I was just surfin’ away, minding my own business, looking for something I don’t even remember now on Google… when up popped something utterly profane.

It was a search result with this intriguing line:
Help me build a library of lefty kids books – Do you know any good left wing propoganda for toddlers?
(I know, I know. This individual should master English before he hits the “propaganda” too hard… his spelling and punctuation skills leave a bit to be desired.)

ANYWAY. Allow me to drag you over here to my computer screen so you can share my horror:
I have a 3 year old daughter, we read a lot of books together. Her mom and I are committed to progressive political action and would like to introduce some cool, fun, lefty books to the collection… I am thinking about books that discuss race, class, struggle, civil rights, gender issues, environmentalism, etc. We are well to the left of the American mainstream, but we’ll take liberalish stuff too.
This was not a Left wing site, but a “community weblog.” Can you even IMAGINE what would happen if a conservative parent posted the polar opposite question? I shudder to think of the cyber-blood that would be shed as the guy got ripped limb from limb. But, because conservatives are more polite than leftists, nobody really took this guy to task for his stated goal of brainwashing his child (one exception to be noted later).

That is not to say, however, that he did not get plenty of responses. Not at all! He was inundated with suggestions, which gives me plenty of fodder for this most timely list. Timely, because aren’t you all out there shopping for gifts? And  books make excellent presents for little kids.

Well, there you go! Get Santa to help you brainwash your favorite 2- or 3-year old!

10. I Am a Real Red!
Who knew? But it turns out that many children’s authors, even some who are beloved by conservative parents and kids, were secretly harboring Marxist tendencies. Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children’s Literature blows the whistle on a few of these, as well as providing a nifty anthology of stories involving revolutionary chickens seeking liberation from the “egg state,” ostriches fighting fascism, and a baby who grows up without a gender.

Yup, we’re in Leftist fantasyland! And although the editors of this anthology rightly peg a number of well-known children’s authors with leftist tendencies, the true believers can hijack almost any book for the Cause.

Case in point: Swimmy, by Leo Lionni. This is a charming picture book about a misfit little fish who cleverly finds a way to get a bunch of other fish to work together. It’s visually appealing and the storyline is not at all offensive. However, Leftists say this book illustrates the appeal of Socialism (they work together) and the evils of racism (Swimmy’s a different color).

Quite frankly, that’s a stretch. But what do you expect from the fevered imagination of the leftist mind!

9. My First Book of Collective Bargaining
No, that’s not really what it’s called. But that would have been an appropriate subtitle for Si, Se Puede!, which is of course “Yes, We Can! in Espanol. The real subtitle is even catchier: Janitor Strike in L.A.
Wow! Won’t the kiddies be lining up to read this gem in the crown of children’s literature!

Chronicling the Justice for Janitors campaign in 2000, this is propaganda pure and simple (in English AND in Spanish). Poor Mama doesn’t get paid much. What else to do but go on strike? Added bonus: according to a first grade teacher (first grade!) who reviewed the book online, it really clarifies the message of Cesar Chavez to the little tykes. Estupendo!

If you really must introduce collective bargaining issues to your kids, I recommend the vastly more entertaining Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, in which bovine organizers go on strike against oppressive Farmer Brown. Or The Wild Washerwomen, who are oppressed by one Mr. Balthazar Tight. Labor humor – ha ha ha!


8. Workers of the World Unite
Farmer Brown in Click Clack Moo is a comical character, but the farmer in the sweetly-illustrated Farmer Duck is just your garden variety evil human. So lazy he eats bon bons in bed while the poor duck does all the work, he’s eventually run out on a rail by the critters when they collectivize. As one of the Leftist book recommendations noted:
Barnyard revolt leads to Workers’ Paradise.
This book is no shameless piece of propaganda, and so it’s definitely more subversive than an unsuspecting reader might believe. Frankly, it’s Animal Farm for toddlers, if Animal Farm stopped halfway through the story before everything goes awry.

I guess animals are a great vehicle for leftist labor themes, because we get more of it in Martha Blah Blah by Susan Meddaugh, in which slurping alphabet soup bestows remarkable vocabulary skills on a smart doggy. But alas – the granny (a GRANNY!) who runs the alphabet soup company has fired half the pasta letter makers in a greedy grab for more profits.

Don’t worry—thanks to the dog who’s clearly a superior moral being, it all turns out right in the end. I mean Left.

Side note on all these animal stories: they might be bad. Not because they depict humans as greedy worthless lazy slime. No, no, no. Because… well, hear it in the Leftist’s own words:
I have mixed feelings about the anthropomorphization that is so prevalent in children’s books. Does it devalue animals by making them seem human?
Think that one through. She wants to know if it devalues ANIMALS to make them seem HUMAN?
Good grief.
 7. Question Authority! This is a theme mentioned over and over again by the leftist parents on this site and by children’s book “experts” the world over, but this one will come back to bite them. They delight in stories where the protagonist questions rebels against authority. We all grew up reading lots of stories like this. The Emperor’s New Clothes comes to mind.

A new one out now is called The Very Silly Mayor and – get this – the mayor has a lot of bad ideas. Like putting out fires with peanut butter. And – get this – nobody (like, for instance, the mainstream media) wants to question him, because they’re afraid of being laughed at if they disagree with him.

This is a Leftist book? I think not!

However, the Left does push lots of books about any culture that isn’t ours, because of course those cultures are all more pure or more good or more peaceful than we are. That is the implied message of Zen Shorts, which introduces the very young to a Zen approach to the world via a number of Buddhist tales. (Didn’t see Islam Shorts on the library shelf, but I’m guessing that one might make for a few nightmares.)

6. This Is Your Child’s Brain on Dope
It’s Just a Plant, a Children’s Story of Marijuana. Dude! The kid in this book catches her parents smokin’ weed. After the munchies and a nice long nap, the stoners ride their bikes to visit the marijuana farmer (now there’s a cool field trip). They see some black dudes sharing a bowl, and, strangely, the dudes have, like, an encyclopedic knowledge of pot, which they’re happy to share with the young gal– before a policeman shows up.

Uh-oh! Well, not to worry. He doesn’t arrest the black dudes, but just explains to the little gal how people are trying to change the laws.

This response, from a reviewer on a book website, is dead on target:
This book is the perfect example of using a children’s book to push forward a political agenda. Tobacco too is “just a plant” that many people enjoy, many people grow to make money, and the government regulates its use. That doesn’t mean I want a children’s book telling my kids that it isn’t that big a deal to smoke a cigarette.
Honorable mention in this category: Who Needs Doughnuts by Mark Stamaty. A harmless enough tale, but as one Lefty parent put it, “it’s like ‘My First Acid Trip’ in the plot and illustrations department, (so) it’s as far from right wing as kids’ books get.”

Well, I don’t know about THAT- I found a few more that are actually even farther away.

5. Give Peace a Chance, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Dr. Seuss
The man wrote the Grinch, so it’s almost sacrilegious to badmouth him at this time of the year… but he also wrote this clunker, The Butter Battle Book. Yeah, it’s got the trademark Seussian lilting verse and the humorous illustrations. Other than that, though, this is a big thumbs down.

The Zooks and the Yooks are supposed to represent the U.S. and the Soviets during the Cold War, see, and just like the U.S. and the Soviets, the main difference between them is that one side eats its bread with the butter side down. Naturally, they go to war. The first weapons are just Snick-Berry Switches and Jigger-Rock Snatchems, but you know how it goes. Eventually, both sides are armed to the teeth with Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroos, and mutually assured destruction is the only possible outcome. Yes, this is really how Dr. Seuss ends this book. Talk about nightmare-inducing propaganda! Sweet dreams, kiddies!

As I did for the collective bargaining issue, allow me to offer a superior alternative for the “liberalish” reader who feels it is really important to introduce weenie-ish pacifism to the kids. (Heaven forbid they’re boys.)

Munro Leaf’s The Story of Ferdinand is the classic tale of the lazy little bull who would rather loll about the meadow smelling flowers than do a day’s work in the bullring. He’s Quaker, or something. There. You can’t say I didn’t recommend any peace-loving books.

4. Books to Teach “Tolerance and Diversity”

Hate to pick on ol’ Dr. Seuss but he really stepped in it again with The Sneetches. At least this one won’t leave the kids sobbing and terrified like Butter Battle. But still, any book that’s reviewed as a “fantastic lesson in tolerance and diversity” can’t be all good, now can it?

The Star-Bellied Sneetches consider themselves superior to the Plain-Bellied Sneetches, and snobbishness ensues, till the Plain Bellies figure out how to get stars on their bellies, so the Star Bellies want theirs taken off. It’s funny and it’s entertaining, and yes – it is a great lesson for kids in the stupidity of categorizing people based on some random physical characteristic. It is not, however, a compelling argument against any social categories at all, and it certainly does not argue in favor of gay marriage, as one reviewer torturously extrapolated.

From mythical Sneetches we turn once again to our favorite anthropomorphic talking dog, Martha. This time it’s Martha Calling, in which our chatty canine wins a trip to an exclusive inn – only to find out that it’s SO exclusive that it doesn’t let in “her kind” – that is to say, dogs. Come to think of it, this may not be a commentary on racism, but on animal rights. They hit that whole “you should be able to vacation with your pet” thing pretty hard.

3. Fun with Genders
Hmmm… where to start? With men who like other men? Nah… let’s start with women who want to be men. Feminazis in kiddie lit!

Mama Went to Jail for the Vote. You don’t even have to open this. You can write it yourself. Dad is a patronizing jerk. Mom is a hero. No discussion of issues is necessary, because everything is black and white. Badly-written propaganda.

Again, the well-written is more subversive. Feminists have been trumpeting The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes for seventy years. That’s right, this feminist tale came out of 1940 (so much for the idea that nobody “thought that way” back then).

The single mom bunny goes to work and the baby bunnies can take care of the house (and presumably themselves) even better than the mommy would have anyway. Uh, okay. It’s great that she gets to be an Easter Bunny and all, but it looks like she sacrificed her little bunnies for that goal. Many real life Easter Bunnies are finding that sacrifice not worth it. Another charmingly-illustrated book with a dysfunctional message.

Another feminist fave is a lot more to my liking. The Paper Bag Princess weaves the tale of the beautiful Elizabeth whose castle is smashed by a fire-breathing dragon. Her lovely gown is scorched as the dragon makes off with her Prince, so she dons a paper bag, goes after the dastardly dragon, and rescues the Prince. And how does he repay her? By telling her she smells like ashes. So she wisely decides that’s not a recipe for happily ever after, and the happy ending is all about independence. Now if the feminists had their way, ALL fairy tales would unfold this way. But since they don’t, this one is uniquely enjoyable.

A step further in smashing the gender stereotypes is William’s Doll, which was apparently written to make boys like Keith Olbermann feel better about themselves. The plot’s pretty simple. William’s a delicate little thing who wants to play with dolls. This makes his dad uneasy, and with good reason. Feminists argue that William is just learning to be a good dad. But see, boys don’t learn how to be good dads by acting like women. Or gay men.

And speaking of gay, let us turn now to the gayest propaganda of them all, the poorly-written and poorly-illustrated Heather Has Two Mommies and its companion piece, Daddy’s Roommate. This was revolutionary when it came out (ha ha, I said “came out” – get it?) 20 years ago, but now there’s a boatload of books like this (Daddy, Papa and Me and Mommy, Mama and Me being two excellent examples of the tedious genre).


2. Color My Brainwash Green

Hate to kick him when he’s down (or rather, dead), but Dr. Seuss is popping up here, too, thanks to his bleeding heart ode to “ecology” known as The Lorax. Rather than bore you with the plot, I refer you to the film “Avatar.” Same idea.

Dinosaurs and All That Rubbish again sends humans out of the picture so the wise members of the animal kingdom, in this case dinosaurs, can heal the earth. Yawn.

Oh no! Not another evil Farmer book! Do Leftists have some kind of farm-envy or something? Anyway. Hubert Pudge is a critter who has the misfortune to live on Farmer Jake’s Processing Farm, where the primary concern is churning out “greasy food products.”

Yummy! At least his escape from this epitome of evil is entertaining, involving his joining a health club, marrying his trainer, and (naturally) converting Farmer Jake to a new way of thinking about his life. Yeah, that one’s kinda fun. This one, not so much.

We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers is the grammatically-challenged title. Does this sound like something your kids just can’t wait to curl up by the fire to read? Didn’t think so. Plot, if you can call it that, involves some type of recycling contest. A real page-turner! You won’t be able to put it down till you reach the thrilling climax. Or, not.

You kind of need a strong stomach for this one. Remember how creepy and disturbing that video was that showed the kids singing Obama’s praises? Well, that’s how this site will make you feel. It features three remarkably lame books that every young community organizer should have in his/her collection.
Mama Voted for Obama. This requires a little show and tell:

You gotta love McCain’s “NO WE CAN’T” flag.

And then there’s Why Mommy is a Democrat and Why Daddy is a Democrat. (If you’re Heather, you can skip the latter and just get two of the former.) These include such nuggets of wisdom as:
Democrats make sure we all share our toys, just like Mommy does.
Yeah, the difference being that Democrats raid the neighbor’s house for THEIR toys, too.
Sometimes the Earth feels a little sick. Democrats make it feel better again.
All of a sudden I feel a little sick, too.

By the way, some bogus outfit at San Diego State University called the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature “highly recommended” this series. That says a whole lot about the National Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, does it not?

Of course, the most horrifying thing of all is not any of these books. It’s how they’re used. This is one of the most chilling quotes I found in the many book recommendations through which I sifted:
I got my 2-year-old niece an Obama coloring book, and she has it read to her before bed every night, even though it has a total of about 50 words. She knows everyone in the (Obama) family by name now!

Now I feel a lot sick.

Although all of these books weren’t listed on the original website where the Lefty asked for propaganda, there were pages and pages of responses. And as I mentioned, only one person who seemed to have a problem with it:
Click Clack Moo is good, as is The Emperor’s New Clothes, to teach kids to question authority, including parents who try to instill them with their own ideology way earlier than is appropriate.
Point well made.


  1. So basically you are saying that you are a racist homophobic bigot misogynistic prick who doesn't give a damn about the planet's resources and that's exactly how you are going to raise your kids... People like you are exactly what's wrong with this world

  2. Speaking as a lefty, I found most of your comments and reactions to be dead on target. Not quite all, but I can't think of any critical reading list in which I agreed with everything written (including mine, on reflection!).

    I am sorry that 'R' felt the need to attack you in that way.

    "Question authority" is a totally appropriate message, especially for children whose parents (or schools) are over the top in their delivery of beliefs. Children need to examine items critically, whether it be television commercials, the news, or random alarmist emails declaring that liptstick causes cancer or that a new development has come up and the President is a Marxist/Fascist/Dictator (no matter which President is in office at the time).

    Thank you for your thoughts on these books.