Context, Privilege, and Pain

Last month, there was some on-line discussion about this quote (from me) in a CNN.com article: But Nel argues that the answer isn’t simply removing “problematic” children’s classics like Mark Twain’s “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” which uses the N-word 219 times, from school reading lists. Such stories, “if used carefully, appropriately and in context can…

Ruth Krauss in 1951

In honor of Ruth Krauss’s 117th birthday (today, which she would have celebrated as her 107th birthday), here’s a photo you likely have not seen before.  It appeared in the May 12, 1951 issue of the Herald Tribune Book News, which described Krauss’s latest book (I Can Fly, illustrated by Mary Blair) as follows: “Very small girl…

Sherman Alexie & #MeToo

As many teachers do, I teach Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  When confirmed reports of his sexual harassment and other abuses of power became public, I knew I had to talk to my class about it — I had already taught Absolutely True Diary in my on-line Multicultural Children’s Literature class earlier in…

What to do with Dr. Seuss?

The objects of your nostalgic longing may disappoint you, if you are willing to look at them openly and honestly.  If you read, create, or write about children’s literature, today — the 114th birthday of Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss) — would be a good time to admit this to yourself.  OK, the time for…

Children’s Literature and Comics/Graphic Novels at MLA 2018

It is time again to gather ’round in fluorescent rooms, adjust the sound (“can you hear me?”), smile, and present to all four or fifty-seven who found the right room, the right day. Coffee! Insecurity! MLA! January 3rd through 7th is the Modern Language Association’s annual conference, held this year (2018) in New York City….

Children’s Literature vs. Nationalism: IRSCL’s Statement of Principles

The International Research Society for Children’s Literature (IRSCL) — an organization of which I am a member — is today issuing a statement in support of academic freedom, and against the rising tide of nativism/nationalism that threatens to curtail it.  We’re issuing it in 20 different languages (with more to come) and you can see…

Crockett Johnson Tells the Story of Money

Today is the 111th birthday of Crockett Johnson (1906-1975). To celebrate, let’s take a deep dive in his oeuvre — looking at one of his lesser-known books, This Rich World. The popular story is that Crockett Johnson began creating books for children when he illustrated Ruth Krauss’s The Carrot Seed (1945). This is a compelling…

Was the Cat in the Hat Black? (Talks at Google)

And now,… presenting a 45-minute illustrated lecture of my Was the Cat in the Hat Black?: The Hidden Racism of Children’s Literature and the Need for Diverse Books. Indeed, here are two versions, one in English and one in Spanish (which is also delivered via sign language).  Both versions were recorded in the past couple of…

7 Questions We Should Ask About Children’s Literature (Oxford UP blog)

White nationalism is on the rise in the US and nativism is in the ascendant across the globe.  What role can literature for children play in teaching the next generation to be more empathetic, to respect difference, and to reject hatred?  How do we find children’s books that promote these values?  And what do we…