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in the United States, the war of children’s books is raging

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In the United States, the political polarization between Democrats and Republicans is so intense that it is now affecting books intended for toddlers. In recent years, parents on the left have been able to buy anti-racist baby (Scholastic), Feminist Baby (“ Feminist baby”) or A is fo Activist (“ A for Activist”). For their part, the conservatives prefer titles like Donald Builds The Wall (“ Donald builds the wall”), a comic book glorifying Donald Trump and his plan to extend the barrier between Mexico and the United States, or books that criticize socialism and transgender identity.

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Many classic children’s books do have messages, such as respect for differences, but these lessons are usually expressed in the form of a nursery rhyme, not a political manifesto. This is not the case with books like anti-racist baby, a bestseller for children under three, in which we can read: “Use your words to talk about race. No one will see racism if you remain silent. If we do not name racism, it will continue to be violent”. Its author, Ibram X. Kendi, also wrote the adult bestseller How to become anti-racist (Alisio, 2020), and he sees his children’s book as a necessary intervention as, according to him, American babies “consume racist ideas from the age of two”.

Parental disinterest

For a long time in the United States, all the protagonists of children’s books were white. Things slowly started to change in the 1960s with Snowy day, by the Japanese Komako Sakaï, then The Corduroy Bear, by Don Freeman, which tells the story of a stuffed animal adopted by a black girl. These books for under-fives remain hugely popular today, but their anti-racist message is simply to show a black child in the lead role in a story that doesn’t deal directly with racial issues, a far cry from the current trend. .

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Still in the under five category, C is For Consent shows a grandfather who asks his grandson if he consents to him giving him a kiss, and An ABC of Equality (“ ABC of equality “) declines the alphabet in a militant way with “O” for “oppression” and “L” for“LGBTQIA”. Despite the thousands of positive reviews online, most American families, even those who consider themselves feminist and anti-racist, continue to prefer books that focus on creativity and poetry over politicized ones. “Are these books really written for children, who seem to like stories about dinosaurs and cats more? Or are they a way for some white parents to show that they are good progressives? » journalist Jay Caspian Kang recently wondered in the New York Times.

On the conservative channel FoxNews, this type of work is brandished as a call for resistance to encourage parents to ask for the banning of any book that talks about racism, homophobia or feminism, even those that do so in a smart. In Texas, local elected officials are already drawing up lists of books to ban, and conservatives are starting to fight back with their own propaganda books.

Anti-socialist tale

Conservative journalist Matt Walsh just wrote Johnny the walrus, which will be released in March but is already shaping up to be a best-seller as there are so many pre-orders. His book tells the story of a little boy who thinks he is a walrus, and his mother who thinks her son should have surgery and live in a zoo. The idea is to ridicule transgender identity by suggesting that a man who wants to become a woman is just as absurd as a boy who wants to be an animal.

Another nursery rhyme published last July, titled Elephants Are Not Birds (“​​​​​​ ​Elephants are not birds”) carries exactly the same message. The book is published by Brave Books, a new publishing house specializing in countering “progressive” ideas. “Once conservative parents realized how many children’s books had an overtly progressive message, they started looking for books that upheld traditional, conservative values” explained the director of Brave Books in an interview.

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His publishing house has also published The Island of Free Ice Cream (“The Island of Free Ice Cream”), an anti-socialist parable where wolves promise free ice cream to everyone, but end up confiscating all the ice cream. More sober, the “Heroes of Freedom” collection, launched in November, offers books for children under twelve on Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and Margaret Thatcher. For those who prefer Donald Trump, Christian author Eric Metaxas has published a series of comics for children and adults in which a character named Donald builds a wall and bravely fights against “fake news”.

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