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Terrorist-themed coloring books for kids: instructive or inflammatory?

Subjects of new coloring books from Really Big Coloring Books include ISIS and the Boston Marathon bombings.

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    'We Shall Never Forget 9/11 – Vol. II' is one of the titles released by Really Big Coloring Books.
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Just in time for the new school year, a St. Louis-based publisher is re-releasing a series of coloring books. Kids won’t be coloring in farm animals, superheroes, or princesses. They’ll be coloring in terrorists. 

Yes, you read that right. Really Big Coloring Books, which published the much-publicized 9/11 coloring book “We Shall Never Forget 9/11: The Kids’ Book of Freedom,” is releasing updated coloring books reflecting new terrorist threats the world is facing.

The new coloring books feature threats and incidents like ISIS, the Boston Marathon bombings, and the release of Taliban prisoners for the freedom of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. 

“[Our books] tell the truth, they tell it often, and they tell the children,” Wayne Bell, founder of Really Big Coloring Books, said in a video statement. “These are books that actually explain what’s going on today…. We’re trying to educate the country on these animals, these brutal people, these terrible humans on the planet called ISIS, these terrorists.”

The company issues coloring books on fairy tales, princesses, superheroes, and farm animals as well as more political topics like one about Sen. Ted Cruz, President Obama’s 2008 inauguration, the Tea Party, and the US Constitution.

But it made headlines when it released its first terrorism coloring book in 2011, the “We Shall Never Forget 9/11,” coloring book, followed in 2012 by “The True Faces of Evil – Terror,” as well as terrorist trading cards.

Both books will now come with “The Terror Update on Global Jihad” supplement.

The supplement includes a graphic picture of a public crucifixion by ISIS. 

“This is what ISIS wants to bring to America and its people,” the page reads. “What are you going to do when they come for you?”

(Helpfully, the coloring books come with a warning recommending parental guidance.)

It also includes pictures of the “Talibani 5,” the five Taliban detainees who were released in exchange for Sgt. Bergdahl.

“Obama administration broke the law by freeing 5 Taliban terrorists,” the page reads. “Back to the battlefield.”

The 9/11 coloring books were particularly bold, with pictures of a burning World Trade Center, including a picture of a Navy SEAL aiming at Osama bin Laden, who is hiding behind a veiled woman. A message next to the image reads, "Children, the truth is, these terrorist acts were done by freedom-hating Islamic Muslim extremists. These crazy people hate the American way of life because we are FREE and our society is FREE."

Not surprisingly, Bell has received plenty of pushback on his terrorism coloring books.

Critics have called them anti-Muslim propaganda and “disaster porn.”

Change.org has started a petition entitled “Stop selling the anti-Islamic coloring book, ‘Rock him and Stone him.’" 

Even the White House has weighed in on the debate, according to the publisher. 

Although Really Big Coloring Books has sent copies of its terrorism series to the Departments of Education of all 50 states and the US government asking that the books be part of schools' curricula, the White House appears unimpressed. 

“Recently we even got a letter from the White House telling us that they were not very happy that we're teaching children the word terror," Bell said in his video statement.

Still, he insists the coloring books are instructional teach positive values.

“This is important for people in the US,” Bell told The Daily Beast. “They don’t understand, they don’t have pictorials to show children…. It’s a delicate topic, and … it needs to be explained in black-and-white. This is happening overseas, not here. But it could happen here…. So that’s why we’re making them.”

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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