Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some thoughts on Children's Books and Social Change, by the authors of Wild Things!

Tomorrow I will be posting a review of the book Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in Children's Literature by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson and Peter D. Sieruta.  Since my review will be part of a blog tour, I've got a fun piece for you to read by the authors that will help you get excited for this book:

Children’s literature, as we write about in our book Wild Things! Acts of Mischief in

Children’s Literature, has a way of accompanying social change. Sometime, though, it precedes it.

Our book, mind you, sets out to debunk the cute-and-fluffy notion of children’s literature.

For many people, the mere mention of children’s books conjures up this world of cute, fluffy

bunnies and sweetness and light. There’s a place for books like that, we suppose, but in our

book we aim to dispel the notion that all books are or should be that way by not only looking

at the wilder side of those authors and illustrators who create the books, but by also looking

at subversive literature itself. Yep, some of our favorite books are subversive and downright

WEIRD and life-changing and mind-blowing. Not all children’s books are sweet and fluffy.

But when it comes to looking at examples of children’s books that precede social change,

one book you can examine actually is about cute and fluffy bunnies. Garth Williams’ 1958

picture book, The Rabbits’ Wedding, is the simple story of two adorable, fluff-tastic rabbits who

want to be together forever. They have a happy forest wedding. That about covers it.

But it became one of the most controversial books of the 1950s. And that’s because one

rabbit is white, and one rabbit is black. And they appear on the very cover. In 1950s’ America,

such interracial marriages were taboo. Or, as we note in the book, “they didn’t like the color of

his hare.”

It’s brainwashing, wrote one columnist from Florida’s Orlando Sentinel, and it’s

propaganda, wrote another journalist at the Montgomery Home News. The book should be

burned, stated Alabama State Senator E. O. Eddins.

Garth Williams himself remained calm during this debate. We could tell you his response

to the arguing, but then we can’t give away all our book’s secrets, can we?

It just goes to show: Cute, fluffy bunnies are never what they seem.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I guess some folks wouldn't like the fluffy bunny's wedding. When I was a kid in the early 60's it was illegal to marry a person of another race (as in go to jail). So in the 50's, yep, that book would not go over big.
Thanks for a good post and I look forward to the book, which should be a fascinating read.

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