Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories” as Want to Read:
Should We Burn Babar?: Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  123 ratings  ·  21 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)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Should We Burn Babar?, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Should We Burn Babar?

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 349)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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.
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
This book really became a war of attrition by the end. I have some major political differences from the author, and while he and I agree on the broken state of public education, obviously our take on the solution is different. His essays were longwinded and, as another reviewer noted, downright boring. In my opinion, the title essay and the second essay were worth the read. The Pinocchio essay took me months to read because I was absolutely bored stiff.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 5 of 5 stars
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!
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.
Justin Unrau
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.
read most of the essays… will return
Oct 03, 2010 Whiskeyb marked it as to-read
babar is such a pompous dick!
Dean marked it as to-read
Apr 17, 2015
Jenn marked it as to-read
Apr 10, 2015
Neda marked it as to-read
Feb 20, 2015
Megan is currently reading it
Mar 30, 2015
Renee marked it as to-read
Feb 14, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature
  • Minders of Make-Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature
  • How the Heather Looks: A Joyous Journey to the British Sources of Children's Books
  • Children's Literature: A Reader's History, from Aesop to Harry Potter
  • Beyond the Hoax: Science, Philosophy and Culture
  • Enchanted Hunters: The Power of Stories in Childhood
  • Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science
  • Losing Our Cool: Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World (and Finding New Ways to Get Through the Summer)
  • The Skin That We Speak: Thoughts on Language and Culture in the Classroom
  • Eve Was Framed: Women And British Justice
  • Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction
  • Breaking the Magic Spell: Radical Theories of Folk and Fairy Tales
  • From Cover to Cover: Evaluating and Reviewing Children's Books
  • Islam Explained
  • Rhetorics of Fantasy
  • The Good Society: The Humane Agenda
  • From Mouse to Mermaid: The Politics of Film, Gender, and Culture
  • Waist-High in the World: A Life Among the Nondisabled
'I Won't Learn from You': And Other Thoughts on Creative Maladjustment 36 Children Painting Chinese: A Lifelong Teacher Gains the Wisdom of Youth Growing Minds: On Becoming a Teacher She Would Not Be Moved: How We Tell the Story of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Share This Book