cover image Should We Burn Babar -Op/046

Should We Burn Babar -Op/046

Herbert R. Kohl. New Press, $18.95 (178pp) ISBN 978-1-56584-258-8

In a bracing critique of children's books and U.S. public schools, prolific writer and educator Kohl observes that most children's stories emphasize success and personal autonomy instead of cooperation. Using as illustrative examples Jean de Brunhoff's Babar the Elephant and Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, in which he detects tacit support for sexism, racism and colonialism, Kohl calls for a children's literature that will encourage thinking about solidarity and belonging to a caring group. Turning to civil rights leader Rosa Parks, whose heroic stance sparked the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, Kohl deconstructs children's books and texts that perpetuate the image of Parks as a poor, uneducated person who acted on impulse rather than moral conviction. He retells her story in a way that reflects the determination of the African American community. Sketching a history of progressive education in the U.S., Kohl offers stimulating suggestions for creating multicultural, humane schools that listen to the stories and needs of children and communities. (July)