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Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature
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Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  129 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Check out this interview with the author on C-SPAN! In 1912, a revolutionary chick cries, "Strike down the wall!" and liberates itself from the "egg state." In 1940, ostriches pull their heads out of the sand and unite to fight fascism. In 1972, Baby X grows up without a gender and is happy about it.

Rather than teaching children to obey authority, to conform, or to seek re
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by New York University Press
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  129 ratings  ·  23 reviews

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Jan 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
True story. My husband's best friend was dating a red diaper baby and one weekend we decided to stay in her parents' cabin. Not entirely grasping her upbringing to its fullest extent we were amazed and delighted when we stepped into the home to find it cover from tip to toe in amazing radical Socialist publications and decorations. As a children's librarian, however, my interest lay entirely in her old bedroom, still home to a fine selection of left-wing children's literature. It wasn't a large ...more
Barb Middleton
Jun 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult, professional
"Can you read this?" My husband, a first grade teacher, hands me a test that says to circle one of the pictures and explain what features help the animal to live in its habitat. This first grader circled a dolphin and wrote, "They have ckowlowcashine. They live in the sea. They need to breath arr." "Well, it has to do with a dolphin," I replied handing it back. "Ah! I know... she means 'They have echolocation.'" He laughs at my gaping jaw and explains, "We teach them that bats and dolphins use e ...more
AdultNonFiction Teton County Library
Teton Co Library Call No: 810.8 Tales
Marisa's Rating: 4 Stars

Great idea for a book! I was happily surprised to find this book come across the desk. The introductions to each "tale" were a bit dry, and definitely meant for adults not children (also evident in that the book was placed in the adult nonfiction collection). I liked the alternative takes on childhood books and especially liked the drawings/pictures/poem-based stories. A fun read -- good chapters on grassroots environmentalism and comm
Aug 02, 2017 rated it liked it
My elder kid read through this before I got to it, and overall she was less critical of the quality of the stories than I was. The pieces that I thought were highlights were:

- "Mary Stays after School or--What This Union's About" put out by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America during a 1939 strike. Well-constructed story in which a very practical fairy helps a little girl to realize that her parents are the real heroes, and stick it to the capitalist brats in her class.
- "Mr. His: A Child
Mary-Esther Lee
Jun 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
An anthology of strange, unusual, puzzling, and sometimes funny stories covering themes of socialism, environmentalism, business, economy, labour, unions, imagination, African-American heroes, racial discrimination, and peace.

Since June is Pride Month, look for "X: A Fabulous Child's Story" by Lois Gould, first published in 1978.
Jul 23, 2011 added it
I admit I didn't read every word of this, it's the kind of book you can dip into at any point. Many intriguing excerpts from progressive/radical books for kids from the past. Syd Hoff's HISTOWN is great, while Carl Sandburg's ROOTABAGA PIGEONS is as dull as I remember it. (His earlier ROOTABAGA STORIES was better, Micklenburg and Nel may not have included anything from it because it lacked political content--after 35 years I don't really remember.) I recommend reading each of the texts first, th ...more
Feb 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
I started to read this in the Fall, when Occupy Wall Street was in full-bloom, and then I let it fall by the wayside and kept renewing it from the library, and I finally finished it at jury duty yesterday. The book is a nuanced overview of left-wing ideology and how it manifested itself in writing for children in the 20th century. I am certainly aware of didactic moralizing in children's books (and those scoffers who wrongly feel children's writing is nothing but), but I was surprised to discove ...more
NYU Press
Some of the authors and illustrators are familiar, including Lucille Clifton, Syd Hoff, Langston Hughes, Walt Kelly, Norma Klein, Munro Leaf, Julius Lester, Eve Merriam, Charlotte Pomerantz, Carl Sandburg, and Dr. Seuss. Others are relatively unknown today, but their work deserves to be remembered. (Each of the pieces includes an introduction and a biographical sketch of the author.) From the anti-advertising message of Johnny Get Your Money’s Worth (and Jane Too)! (1938) to the entertaining les ...more
Dec 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is an amusing anthology that collects many forgotten pieces of "radical" children's literature. The excellent introductions make the point that all literature, including children's literature, is ideological--this just offers a *different* sort of ideology. The "everyday" nature of some of the primers, for instance, reminds the reader of the working class (and socialist) history of this country that is often forgotten. It includes some interesting and helpful pieces such as "The Practical P ...more
Mar 24, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-books
If, god forbid, we had children, these would be the types of stories we would read to them. I enjoyed the stories about workers' rights and unions quite a bit. Not all, however, weather the test of time so well. The ABC poem that pledges allegiance to Stalin was a little startling. "X: A Fabulous Child's Story," meanwhile, promotes the early feminist notion that there is no biological construct for gender, a theory now mostly abandoned.

These "Tales for Little Rebels" must still strike a nerve w
Edward Sullivan
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An excellent collection of mostly out-of-print stories, poems, comic strips, primers, and other "subversive" texts for children embodying the "radical tradition" of encouraging children to question authority, resist conformity, and think independently. These pieces are organized into thematic sections like peacemaking, civil rights, gender equality, environmental responsibility, and the dignity of labor. Introductions to each section and each piece provide historical context and critical comment ...more
Nov 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: required-reading
Great idea for a book! I was happily surprised to find this book come across the desk. The introductions to each "tale" were a bit dry, and definitely meant for adults not children (also evident in that the book was placed in the adult nonfiction collection). I liked the alternative takes on childhood books and especially liked the drawings/pictures/poem-based stories. A fun read -- good chapters on grassroots environmentalism and communist children stories. A fun read overall!

Teton Co Library C
Roy Kenagy
Feb 29, 2012 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Review from Brainpicker:

"explores how the political beliefs of famous mid-century American authors shaped their cherished stories, teaching children to question rather than obey authority, to stand up and out rather than conform, to develop critical thinking skills rather than seek redemption through prayer."
Jan 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
I know that in the introduction, they explained that they didn't want to whitewash the history of radical children's literature, but as a parent reading this, I was hoping to find more tales that I could share with my daughter and less of a history lesson. Most of the tales are at the very least morally problematic to radicals, and many of the stories aren't *fun* to read.
R. C.
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Many great (I suspect) books were taken out of context (stripped of their fonts and illustrations), then recontextualized historically and by genre of radicalism. This is academic mush. Use it as an overgrown bibliography.
Dec 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: children, political, 2013
I was hoping for more stuff to read to my daughter as opposed to what might be used as a textbook in a children's lit class.

There are some good pieces that I can read, but that's not the purpose of this book.
Jul 28, 2009 added it
Didn't finish this as I had to return this to the library. An interesting and varied collection, meaning I liked some and didn't others. I am looking forward to having time to picking this up again.
Jul 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children
came across it by chance... early 1900's radical children's stories?

a collection of portions childrens stories & their history... stories that wee contrary to the popular public opinion...

Aug 30, 2012 rated it liked it
This is a very nice collection. Some great stuff in here by Syd Hoff (better known for his New Yorker cartoons) and Walt Kelly (known for Pogo). I actually recall very similar books from when I went to school so there was a kind of nostalgia for these unabashedly leftist leaning works.
Jan 26, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
not what i hoped it would be, but still interesting.
Dec 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
i like how they organized the chapters. plus it's awesome that they included out of print texts. a great book for those interested in the topic ;)
Jun 25, 2010 marked it as to-read
Shelves: kids, radical-lit
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Julia Mickenberg is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of the award-winning Learning from the Left: Children's Literature, the Cold War, and Radical Politics in the United States and coeditor of Tales for Little Rebels: A Collection of Radical Children's Literature.