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Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories
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Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories

3.53  ·  Rating Details  ·  139 Ratings  ·  22 Reviews
In “provocative and entertaining essays [that] will appeal to reflective readers, parents, and educators” (Library Journal), one of the country’s foremost education writers looks at the stories we tell our children. Available now in a revised edition, including a new essay on the importance of “stoop-sitting” and storytelling, Should We Burn Babar? challenges some of the c ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published January 1st 2007 by The New Press (first published 1995)
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The first three essays are interesting, even if the second and third essays are somewhat scattered. Also be warned, I discuss Kohl's points which some people will consider spoilers.

I got this book because of the title essay, "Should We Burn Babar?", an essay that tackles the question of suitability of certain classic children books.

I'm torn about the subject and about this book in general, and I think this review is going to be somewhat scattered in thought as well, but here it goes.

Part of the
Sandy D.
These are sometimes really fascinating and on-target, but sometimes overly pedantic and dated looks at racism,sexism,and class in traditional kid lit (especially Babar, as you might expect). I liked the title essay, and the one on Rosa Parks and why her story is so often mistold, but the essays on what a radical (in the revolutionary sense) kid's lit should look like, Pinocchio and multiculturalism in the early 1900's, and why progressive education is not a new idea dragged more than a bit. I le ...more
Jun 04, 2014 CarolynKost rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
Kohl writes three essays that demonstrate the power that the stories we tell have to shape the ways that children think about the world. Kohl devised his own method of shared inquiry and challenges the status quo ideology of European and wealthy at the pinnacle of culture and that which is to be emulated and desired. Anyone familiar with children's literature and stories that are part of the lexicon, like Rosa Parks and Pinocchio, will recognize the considerable evidence that Kohl uses to suppor ...more
Yeah...I have to reluctantly say this book will probably only appeal to Kohl fans, really. I do have to say I think his essay on the way Rosa Parks is "taught" in schools should be required reading for all textbook developers, children's book writers, teachers, and anyone at all interested in children's books and education as a whole. His essay on Babar is a good introduction to a way of thinking about children's literature and literature's effect as a whole--it would be a good essay for student ...more
Dec 01, 2007 Mia rated it really liked it
I initially got this book for the final chapter, which is a fictional narrative dealing with the history of public education in this country (I am arguing in this quarter's final paper that public education was created as a type of enslavement, ironic when juxtaposed with the abolitionists' fight to abolish slavery and the suffragists' fight to rid the institution of marriage of its slavery-like aspects). Then I began to read Kohl's analyses of children's stories like Babar and Pinnochio, and th ...more
Feb 14, 2014 Yellowoasis rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
A very good examination of some of the problems of children's literature. His thoughtfulness regarding potentially problematic books, especially those regarded as classics, would be of help for parents, teachers and librarians grappling with the issue. His chapter calling for radical children's literature is also worth reading.
Oct 09, 2015 Michele rated it really liked it
I found the essay about Rosa Parks and the history of education in America particularly interesting.
Jan 20, 2016 Julie rated it liked it
Shelves: education
The first essay, "Should We Burn Babar?" is really insightful and thought-provoking, and the second essay on radical children's literature is also interesting. The other essays were fine, but they seemed to stray from what I thought was going to be a whole-book focus on evaluating children's literature. They also don't present any arguments that can't be found elsewhere. I agree with and believe in Kohl's stance on and passions for education, but I wish the rest of the book matched the new infor ...more
Most of the topics addressed by this book are of interest to me, and I did find some parts of the essays interesting, but some of Kohl's points might have resonated with me more if they had been more clearly made. There are also portions of the book that I found quite boring.
Jill Anderson
Feb 06, 2011 Jill Anderson is currently reading it
How our schools, our children's books, our histories have taken the powerful, incredible wonderful story of Rosa Parks and watered it down.... Also, I am realizing it is no coincidence that two of the radical Chicana women writers I have studied chose to write children's books too.... What stories do I want to tell A and her amigxs, and how will I tell them?
Oct 03, 2007 Devon rated it liked it
I actually didn't read all of this book - just the first two essays. I really enjoyed the essay on the Rosa Parks story. I'd consider assigning it to a class as a way to demonstrate the problems with historical memory, etc.

As for Babar, well - I don't think we should burn any book, much less his.
Aug 01, 2008 Alfajirikali rated it really liked it
Not being fond of Babar to begin with, naturally I was intrigued by the title. The author presents many interesting topics about literature intended for children, it questions many "classics" and their underlying themes. I enjoyed the analysis process, and the writing style of the author.
Feb 11, 2013 Andy rated it liked it
Pretty okay book. Definitely thought it would be more about debunking children's books with bad messages. Only Babar is presented this way, and that makes up maybe the first quarter of the book.

If you want a history of alternative education in the U.S. this is your jam. Otherwise, skip it.
May 13, 2012 Avery rated it really liked it
My two favorites in this collection were "Should we Burn Babar?" and "A Plea for Radical Children's Literature." I'm not in the education field but I think this is a good cultural analysis as well as helpful for choosing literature for the burgeoning readers in your home!
Aug 14, 2008 Pauline rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Parents and Teachers
Recommended to Pauline by: Lisa Fanaro
Shelves: teaching
Quirky and entertaining...I love the way this book made me think about traditional stories to which we've exposed children/students. This will be a great resource for students doing a 'banned-book' paper!
Aug 22, 2007 Elvis rated it really liked it
Shelves: readawhileago
What I learned...there are ideas from this book that still float around in my head - how to write a pro-community, pro-people book (the lessons expand beyond kids' books)...etc.
Karolinde (Kari)
While there may be some good points about racial stereotypes in children's lit in this book, I found most of the points far removed from reality.
Jan 03, 2013 Isabel rated it liked it
Particularly interesting essay about the teaching in schools of Rosa Park's involvement in the Montgomery bus boycott.
Feb 09, 2009 E marked it as to-read
I'm thinking I may disagree with a lot of this, but I want to read it anyway.
Aug 10, 2009 Gloria rated it liked it
read most of the essays… will return
Oct 03, 2010 Whiskeyb marked it as to-read
babar is such a pompous dick!
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