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>Oops! I did it again

>Via a colleague, I was recently warned by someone “just trying to be helpful” to refrain from political commentary on this blog. The thinking was that making fun of Republicans was not good for children’s books, the one place, apparently, where we all get along.

And children’s books have certainly been good to the Republicans. Just ask Mrs. Voldemort. And now Laura Bush is getting into the act. But I have just a small friendly suggestion. Really. Kids who don’t like to read hate books that tell them “books can be a lot of fun.” (Kids who do like to read hate them, too.) To them, it’s just another instance of grownups telling them how wrong they are. As my “helpful” correspondent pointed out, nobody likes to hear that.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >Upon clicking the Mrs. Voldemort link, I did my first ever spit take.

    Thanks for that.

  2. >Rock on, Roger. If you didn’t have opinions, why would anyone read your blog?

    And *that* is the perfect post for a Friday.

  3. Anonymous says:

    >From the AP story:

    “…the Bush book…according to HarperCollins, “depicts a mischievous little boy who likes to do everything but read.”

    At least the girls won’t have far to look for their source material.

  4. >Snort! Mrs. Voldemort. Too funny!

  5. Anonymous says:

    >That’s Lady Voldemort to you.

  6. >Oh – again, I should never read your post whilst in public. Loud cackling makes all heads turn.

    Mrs. Voldemort, indeed!

  7. Anonymous says:

    –Alan Colmes, co-host of Fox News “Hannity & Colmes”
    (Note: Coming from a liberal like Alan, we take that as a compliment!)

    This was a blurb on the page advertising the liberals under the bed book. Do you think the book is brainwashing? Is King and King brainwashing? Is there any way we could get people to stop writing really stupid didactic books? Can’t it be prosecuted as some kind of child abuse?


  8. >Well, we can’t prosecute them, but if somebody wants to buy me a plane ticket I’ll go out there and put somebody in a headlock.

    Though actually the smarter course of action would be to outwrite the bastards.

  9. >Mrs. Voldemort. Hah! The perfect end to a Friday evening.

    P.S. I’ve had people call me out for politics on the blog too.

  10. >When I went to the article about Laura Bush’s “book,” it was sharing space with a Bring Back Don Imus ad. Beautiful.

  11. >So, it’s late, and it took me a while to figure out who Mrs. Voldemort was, but when I did, I also did a spit take. That was the biggest laugh I’ve had all week. And love the Curious George costume too. Thanks for the giggles.

  12. Anonymous says:

    >I was recently chastised for political comments in a public children’s book thingie, so thank you for this post. The Republicans have all the power–the least we can do is speak our minds at every available opportunity.

  13. >Who’s the helpful friend, Neville Chamberlain?

  14. Kevin Moore says:

    >I suppose your helpful friend hasn’t read any Sendak lately.

    But seriously, what could be more political than Mrs. Voldemort’s bland exercises in American history non(sic)fiction for kids?

  15. Anonymous says:

    >Mr. Murdoch- The Bush’s- Harpercollins- Oh, My!

  16. a. fortis says:

    >Oh, please don’t stop with the political commentary.

    “Mrs. Voldemort” just about gave me a coffee noser. I hate hearing about this rash of books by politicians’ relatives. It makes me feel icky.

  17. >So I suppose Karl Rove will write a book now ….

  18. Anonymous says:

    >sinc Rove has just given his two-weeks notice, and didn’t say it was to spend more time with his family, we must assume that he plans to write a children’s book. I can’t wait for HC to publish it

  19. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yeah: I Don’t Just Look Like a Big Baby, I AM One, illus. by Gahan Wilson.

  20. Anonymous says:

    >The Washington Post had an op-ed this Sunday by one of its staffers on how both sides try to brainwash the young via children’s books (the liberal under the bed book was balanced by one titled “Why Mommy is a Democrat”–here’s the link to the article: ). The author’s larger point, the veracity of which would be difficult to confirm, is that the MySpace generation takes a cafeteria approach to politics, agreeing to gay rights and the need for health care coverage, but opposed to abortion rights and optimistic about our chances in Iraq. Not easily compartmentalized. Yeah, right. I don’t actually buy it.

    But back to the question of writing doctrinaire picture books, I guess from a parenting standpoint, you have a right to indoctrinate your kids any way you choose–once they get old enough, they’ll do what they want anyway.

    From a book-writing and reviewing standpoint, however, the best books are the ones that ask questions rather than give answers. That’s not to say that writers can’t have a particular viewpoint–I wouldn’t say Tobin Anderson is neutral in his Octavius Nothing book–but good writers respect the work children have to do exploring the world for themselves. The only question is whether the author will appeal to children’s more noble instincts in sorting their experiences, or will indulge the little rugrats in their selfish xenophobia. Hmmm…


  21. Anonymous says:

    I took a look at the sample pages of “Why Mommy Is a Democrat” posted online, and based on that, the book is h-h-h-h-AWFUL. So, really bad (and poorly illustrated) didactic children’s books are bipartisan.


  22. rindawriter says:

    >No parent EVER HAS a RIGHT to indoctrinate their children.

    Who said that the ability to indoctrinate was a “right” of being a parent?

    There is SUCH disrespect for children in that statement.

    I don’t dare comment on what I would really like to spout off about Republican OR Democrat picture books because I might then REALLY lose control and press the submit button unwisely too soon.

    My political leanings? Duck for President, every time, folks, Duck for President…..and I am a little more serious about that than what you might see on the surface.

  23. Anonymous says:

    >It might be disrespectful to children stating that but is doesn’t make it less true. Parents are always going to influence their children in the way the see the world (their politics) and deciding what childrens books to read is just one of many ways.

    The right of the parents comes from different places. The one I care about is the UN Convention on the right of the child, Article 14:
    1. States Parties shall respect the right of the child to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

    2. States Parties shall respect the rights and duties of the parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to provide direction to the child in the exercise of his or her right in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child.[…]

    The point I think Roger was making is that childrens books are never non-political. So choose consciously..

  24. Anonymous says:

    >Wow! A smug, bow-tied “expert” railing about them nasty Republicans!

    Original. Not.

    Though actually the smarter course of action would be to outwrite the bastards.

    Remember, kids: if someone diagrees with you, they’re bastards! Not merely wrong, but evil! (And don’t flatter yourself, cookie. If this is any indication, you couldn’t write a grocery list.)

    The Republicans have all the power–the least we can do is speak our minds at every available opportunity.

    Yeah, the GOP has all the power in academia, all right. Why, a poor ol’ liberal can’t get a word in edgewise on blogs like this!


    Hey, Roger: grow up.

  25. Roger Sutton says:

    >Yes, because scattershot, anonymous sniping is so much more mature.

  26. Anonymous says:

    >Yes, because scattershot, anonymous sniping is so much more mature.

    Oof! Torn apart by your rapier wit!Nicely played, old man, nicely played!

    Look, Rog, it’s your blog and you can fill it whatever ivory-tower notion that’s filling your head at the moment. But don’t expect not to get upbraided occasionally for your catty comments; after all, not everybody who reads the blog is going to walk in your lockstep. I mean, referring to a politician’s wife as “Mrs Voldemort”? Meow. (It’s ironic, that, considering your disdain for the Harry Potter books.)

    Wanna talk politics? Go ahead. But don’t start crying foul because someone dares to disagree with you.

  27. Roger Sutton says:

    >Who’s crying foul? You write as if you’ve made some kind of brave, lonely stand here, but disagreement, polite and otherwise, is a frequent visitor to this blog. So, ah, join the crowd. What you haven’t done, though, is advance any kind of a point–what is your point?

  28. Anonymous says:

    >I see you’re refusing to put up my previous post, Rog. Truth hurts, eh?

    Then again, it’s not really your fault. Self-absorbed academics like yourself don’t hear a lot of dissenting opinions in the ol’ echo chamber, and when they do it throws them into quite a tizzy. Take a deep breath and watch some tapes of Hillary. You’ll feel better in the morning.

  29. Roger Sutton says:

    >Huh? What previous post? This blog is unmoderated and I haven’t taken down a comment since some porn spam a few weeks ago.

    I don’t think this is a repub/democrat thing–as ALB pointed out above, that lefty-counter to Help, Mom . . . is as lame as its target, and Hillary’s Takes A Village book was no prize either. Lynne Cheney’s books for children have the virtue of supplying usable historical information but do so in a way well-trodden by nonfiction series publishers for decades.

    What exactly are you defending?

  30. Anonymous says:

    >I don’t think this is a repub/democrat thing

    Then why turn it into one with your “Mrs Voldemort” crack? Trying to impress your fellow revolutionistas? And why won’t you address any of my points, beginning with the fact you’re quoting a series of books which you clearly despise?

  31. Roger Sutton says:

    >You haven’t made any points. You’ve called me a smug, bow-tie wearing liberal, which is a more or less accurate observation but not a point. You call me an academic, not true, and, again, not a point. You think I shouldn’t make an HP allusion because I’m not a fan. If that’s your point, it’s a dumb one: did Khomeini’s calling the U.S. “the Great Satan” make him a Satanist? Otherwise, you’ve just heaped scorn on other commentors and whined about being oppressed by liberals. Ann Coulter would tell you to grow a pair.

  32. Anonymous says:

    >Ann Coulter would tell you to grow a pair.

    Nice try, Rog, but I think Ann Coulter is nuts. So are you, apparently, if this your idea of discourse.

    Why attack a politician’s wife just because you disagree with the politician in question? Who are you trying to impress?

    I’d tell you to stick to writing what you know about, but I’m not quite sure what that is. (It’s not the ability to string together coherent thoughts, certainly.)

    I weep for the Horn Book and the children’s authors who have to hew to your ideological line to get published in it. Pathetic.

  33. Roger Sutton says:

    >You weep . . . sweet Jesus. All I can tell you is to pull out a hanky, dry those tears, and read the Horn Book. THEN we’ll talk.

  34. Brian Floca says:

    >“Torn apart by your rapier wit! Nicely played, old man, nicely played!”

    Who’s writing this stuff, Captain Hook? En garde! Actually, I remember stealing that rapier wit line from a friend in high school and back then at least it worked like a charm. Glad to see that there’s still some respect for the classics! Anyway, look, the point, Anon, no pun intended, is that you may have some things to say but it’s hard to see what they are for all of the (surely gratifying) anonymous outrage. Rein it in and make an argument.

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