Children’s books seem to be the center of controversy lately. First there was the 9/11 coloring book that depicted scenes from 9/11 and the killing of Osama bin Laden. Then there was “Maggie Goes on a Diet,” which encouraged young girls to diet.
“A Rule is to Break: A Child’s Guide to Anarchy,” by husband-and-wife team John Seven and Jana Christy, has some readers up in arms, with one Tea Party publication calling its publication “downright shocking.”
Published by Manic D, a small San Francisco press specializing in anarchist and fringe publications including “The Civil Disobedience Handbook,” and “The International Homosexual Conspiracy,” this 44-page picture book for children ages 4 and up is the press’s first foray into children’s book publishing, according to Publisher’s Weekly.
Its colorfully-illustrated pages contain such advice as “Don’t look like everybody else! Be you,” “Think for Yourself!” “No Baths Ever Again!” and “Give Away Stuff for Free,” along with the more eyebrow-raising “When Someone Says, ‘Work!’ You Say Why?” and “Do What You Want!...Or do nothing, if you prefer.”
And while some see it as “gently humorous,” like the UK’s Guardian, and showing “the softer side of anarchy, with an emphasis on fun and independence, but also community and kindness,” like Publishers Weekly, others aren’t so amused.
A report in the Tea Party publication Liberty News Network calls the book “horrendous” and “downright shocking.”
“But it gets even worse,” continues the write-up, “when we realize Bill Ayers, radical terrorist leftist and friend of Obama, not only endorsed it through his twitter account, his comments in support of the book are listed on the actual Amazon.com book page… Wow... If a person can be read by the company he keeps, what does this say about Obama?”
In his blurb, Ayers calls the book “a delight to read” and says that “a children’s book on anarchy seems somehow just right: an instinctive, intuitive sense of fairness, community, and interdependence sits naturally enough with a desire for participatory democracy, feminism, queer-rights, environmental balance, self-determination, and peace and global justice.” Beneath the blurb, Ayers is identified with a wink and a nod, as an “author… teacher, Barack Obama’s alleged terrorist pal, and grandpa.”
Not surprisingly, publisher Manic D approached this firestorm with a sense of humor and doesn’t seem bothered by the attacks. Sales are “pretty good,” marketing manager Jennifer Swihart Voegele told Publishers Weekly, and the controversy will likely only drum up more interest and sales. Incidentally, Manic D also sent early Christmas presents to rightwing pundit Bill O’Reilly and comedian Stephen Colbert: copies of the book with a ‘Happy holidays” card.
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.