Marxists Internet Archive: Subjects: Marxism and Art: Literature: Children's Literature


“Acquaintance with books must also begin with reading aloud and later, even when the child can read well, reading aloud should continue, should be part of the general family program and should become a habitual and constant part of both leisure and work days. If parents do the reading at first, the task will be taken on by the children later. Reading aloud should not be done especially for the child but for the family circle, to stimulate collective opinion and expression of ideas. Only with the help of such collective study may we direct the reading taste of the child and develop in him the habit of reading critically. In addition to reading aloud one must inoculate the child with a desire to sit down by himself with a book....".

Anton S. Makarenko, Lectures to Parents, 1937

This is the start of an ongoing broad bibliography of children's literature for MIA with title first, divided by age range and fiction/non-fiction. Some of these books were written to be expressly radical, and others need a stretch to find political implications. Compiled by Sally Ryan.

Children’s picture books that have a common theme of organizing/ collective struggle, compiled by Karen Saunders

Picture books - ages 2-8

Picture books, fiction, novels - ages 9 and up

Non-fiction - ages 5 and up


Picture books - ages 2-8

Abiyoyo, Pete Seeger, illus. by Michael Hays, Macmillan, 1963, ages 4-8

A Seeger storysong adapted from a South African folktale. In the introduction, Seeger writes that this story was put together during the time he was blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee. This is a story about a boy and his father, banned from their community, destroy the town beast.

Abiyoyo Returns, Pete Seeger and Paul DuBois Jacobs, illus. by Michael Hays, Simon and Schuster, 2001, ages 4-8

The town is vulnerable to flood and drought since they destroyed their trees. The monster, Abiyoyo, is brought back to help the town build a dam and they learn to peacefully co-exist.

A Giant Love Story, (Ástarsaga úr fjöllunum), Gudrún Helgadóttir, (Ástarsaga úr fjöllunum), trans. by Christopher Sanders, Vaka-Helgafell, 1999, ages 8-12

Bling Blang, Woody Guthrie, illus. by Vladimir Radunsky, Candlewick, 2000, ages 2-4

A picture book based on the 1954 folk song about building a home for a new baby.

Brave Potatoes, Toby Speed, illus. by Barry Root, Putnam, 2000, ages 4-8

Humorous and fun. The prize potatoes at the County Fair sneak out at night to try the carnival rides, but Chef Hackemup wants them in his soupy main dish with the other vegetables. However, he underestimates the power of--potatoes unite! The illustrations show the kitchen as a workplace hell, with huge boiling vats steaming and industrial devices sweeping passive vegetables to their unhappy fate.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, Doreen Cronin, illus. by Betsy Lewin, Simon and Schuster, 2000, ages 2-6

Farmer Brown's cows use an old typewriter to write notes demanding better working conditions, go on strike and then support the hens. A duck is the mediator.

Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton, illus. by Judith Sutton HarperCollins, 1996, ages 4-8

A mother helps her daughter cope with their poverty by storytelling and compassion. Based on Parton's country-western song. See also, Howard Fast's The Coat of Many Colors: The Story of Joseph, illus. Bernard Springsteel, Hebrew Publishing Co., 1954.

Conrad, the Factory-Made Boy, Christine Nostlinger, Chivers North America, 1991, ages 6-12

annotation in progress

Dust for Dinner (An I Can Read Book), Ann Warren Turner and Robert Barrett (Illustrator), HarperTrophy, 1997, Ages 4-8

When the rains cease and the crops die, Jake's family are forced to sell their farm and travel to California to look for work.

Farmer Duck, Martin Wadell, illus. by Helen Oxenbury, Candlewick, 1991, ages 2-6

The farm duck does all the work while the lazy farmer sleeps, eats and gives orders. Exhausted and fed up with the drudgery and injustice, the duck--with the aid of the other animals--drives out the farmer and collectively run the farm. A distant Animal Farm for the younger set.

Fairy Tales and Fables from Weimar Days, ed. and translated by Jack Zipes, University of Wisconsin Press, 1997 (first published 1989)

A fine collection of 32 fairy tales written during the Weimar Republic in Germany, 1919 to 1933, for raising class consciousness of youth. This book also contains an important introduction to German youth movements of the time as well as a bibliography.

Flumbra: an Icelandic Folktale (Ástarsaga úr fjöllunum), Gudrún Helgadóttir, Illus. by Brian Pilkington, trans. by Christopher Sanders, Carolrhoda Books, 1986, ages 8-12

Flumbra, a giant, travels with her children in search of their father. One of only two English translations thus far from Helgadóttir, Iceland's writer of more political children's picture books and novels.

Fly Away Home, Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler (Illustrator), Clarion Books, 1993 (reprint)

A homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father, moving from terminal to terminal trying not to be noticed, is given hope when a trapped bird finally finds its freedom.

Grandpa's Corner Store, DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan, HarperCollins, 2000, ages 4-8

When a giant new supermarket moves into the neighborhood, Lucy's grandpa plans to sell his store. But with the help of friends and neighbors, Lucy is determined to keep this from happening. A tribute to local economy.

Home Is Where We Live: Life at a Shelter Through a Young Girl's Eyes, B. L. Groth (Photographer) and Jane Hertensten (Editor), Cornerstone Press Chicago, 1995, ages 4-8

The trouble and the comfort a child feels in a Chicago homeless shelter is movingly expressed in collage photos and a simple story, based on the experience of a 10-year-old girl.

How Georgie Radbourn Saved Baseball, David Shannon, Blue Sky Press, 1994, ages 4-10

Boss, a fallen baseball hero, becomes a ruthless businessman who sets out to destroy baseball forever by creating a totalitarian state. His Factory Police even arrest those that use baseball slang, creating conditions so spiritually bleak that the country stays in perpetual winter. Georgie confronts the Boss and ends his reign of terror. Note that Boss bears a striking resemblance to Stalin in Shannon's typical fabulous illustrations.

Here Comes the Cat, Frank Asch, Vladimir Vagin, Scholastic, 1989, ages 2-8

A collaborative work between an American and Russian authors, published both places and later performed by the Moscow Circus. Written in both English and Cyrillic, the nearly wordless book is an allegory for propaganda and fear about the Cold War. A mouse serves as a lookout and Town Crier for a looming cat, who turns out not to be the threat the town imagined.

Hey, Al, Arthur Yorinks, illus. by Richard Egielski, Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1986, ages 4-8

An exploited city janitor and his dog companion are taken from his dingy apartment and flown by a huge colorful bird to a paradise, where their comfortable and work-free existence threatens to make them cross lines and turn them into birds as well.

Horton Hears A Who, Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1976, ages 4-8

A parable of the American occupation of Japan.

It Takes A Village, Jane Cowen-Fletcher, Scholastic, 1994, ages 2-6

The title is reportedly an African proverb, which fits the setting of this story of a young boy who is cared for by various village comrades in Benin while his mother sells fruit on market day.

John Henry, Julius Lester, illus. by Jerry Pinckney, Dial Books, 1994, ages 4-8

A picture book version of the folktale about man versus machine. With his two sledgehammers a blazin, John Henry races a steam drill tunneling through a mountain. The story of John Henry has been a protest anthem about deplorable working conditions--such as the ones the freed slaves found during the Reconstruction-sung without facing punishment by the bosses. To the thousands of railroad hands and other workers through the decades, he was a hero, a man just like they who worked in a deplorable, unforgiving atmosphere but managed to make his mark. Only subtly political.

Mr. McGill Goes to Town, Jim Aylesworth, illus. by Thomas Graham, Henry Holt, 1989, ages 2-4

One farmer's initiation of collaboration with his neighbors makes everyone's work easier, faster, and builds community. Folksy and cheerful. Out of print.

Peppe the Lamplighter, Elisa Bartone, illus. by Ted Lewin, Mulberry Books, 1997, ages 4-8

A young immigrant boy in New York's Little Italy who desperately wants to get work to help with his struggling family, led by a single father, finally finds employment lighting the streetlamps by hand. His father is bitterly disappointed at the lowly job, but comes to realize the importance of his son's work. The light and dark in the illustrations are striking.

Piggybook, Anthony Browne, Knopf, 1990, ages 4-8

Mrs. Piggott's unpaid domestic labor is taken for granted so she leaves her husband and sons to fend for themselves. Good use of irony and visual humor.

Pink and Say, Patricia Polacco, Philomel, 1994, ages 4-8

An anti-war story in which two young Union soldiers experience the Civil War differently due to their races. The black soldier heroically saves another's life but is hanged at prison almost immediately after being captured and turned over to the Confederates, while his white counterpart is eventually released.

Pumpkin Soup, Helen Cooper, Doubleday, 1998, ages 2-6

Duck challenges the status quo in their division of labor when making soup. When not allowed to stir the pot, he leaves in protest.

Rebel, Allan Baillie, illus. by Di Wu, Ticknor and Fields, 1994, ages 6-10

A General aims to take over a small village in Burma with his troops and tanks, but the town humiliates him with a simple act and he leaves. The bookjacket claims that this is taken from an incident that happened in Rangoon.

Richard Wright and the Library Card, William Miller, illus. by Gregory Christie, Lee and Low, 1977, ages 6 and up

A softened fictionalized version of an incident in the life of Richard Wright from his 1945 autobiography, Black Boy. It is the story of a young, poor, black man's struggle for the right to read in the segregated south of the 20s. Though his reading stimulates his imagination, it also confirms his oppression.

Sami and the Time of Troubles, Barry Heide and Judith Heide Gilliland, illus. by Ted Lewin, Clarion, 1992, ages 6-10

A story of a family in war-torn Beirut captures the horrors of life in war. Stark color contrasts evoke sounds and sights. Portrays children as war victims without sentimentality.

Sitting Ducks, Michael Bedard, Puffin, 2001, ages 2-6

A fine art, but cartoon-like storybook in which a worker alligator at the duck factory stows away an errant hatchling. He saves the duckling from his assembly line trip to get fattened up en masses for alligator dinner intending to the do the job himself, but then becomes fond of the amusing little duck. The duck, learning of the alligator scheme, leads the other ducks to liberation when the opportunity arises.

Strike!, Maureen Bayless, illus. by Yvonne Cathcart, PEI: Ragweed, 1994, ages 2-6

When Molly’s mother is on strike at the factory, she and her teddy bear go with her mom to the picket lines and get some publicity by helping to stop delivery trucks.

Swimmy, Leo Lionni, Pantheon, 1963, ages 2-6

A small fish who teaches a school of intimidated and similarly small fish the power of working together to overcome their fear of being eaten by the big fish. Contrastingly colored black in a school of red fish, Swimmy declares, "I'll be the eye."

Telephone, Jamey Gambrell, illus. by Vladimir Radunsky, North-South Books, 1996, ages 4-8

Based on the children's nonsense poem "Telephone", by Soviet writer, Kornei Chukovsky, about a phone that won't stop ringing. Bright, bold and complimentary whimsical illustrations.

The Araboolies of Liberty Street, Sam Swope, illus. by Barry Root, 1989, ages, 4-8

The self-appointed militaristic leaders of Liberty Street continuously threatened to call out the army for any behavior (fun) from the citizenry that bothers them. The eccentric and colorful Araboolies move in and ignore the General's terroristic threats. The neighborhood children conspire to fool the army and get rid of their oppressors. Deals with diversity, tolerance and community as well as the role of military regimentation in modern neighborhoods.

The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1984, ages 4-8

The Yooks and the Kook's feud escalates from simple weaponry to absurd power that can end the world. Satire of the Cold War.

The Cucumber King, Christine Nostlinger, Bergh, 1985, ages 8-12

annotation in progress

The Dust Bowl, David Booth and Karen Reczuch (Illustrator), Kids Can Press, 1997, ages 7-10

A drought is plaguing a farm family, and Matthew's grandfather looks out the window and tells him about the Big Dry of the 1930s. Readers follow along a slow-moving narrative, hearing of dust and dirt everywhere, learning of towels stuffed in the cracks of doors, of children walking to school backwards to keep the wind from stinging their faces, and of clearing the dust from the nostrils of cows.

The Fast Sooner Hound, Arna Wendell Bontemps and Jack Conroy, illus. by Virginia Lee Burton, Houghton Mifflin, 1942, ages 6-10

A humorous working-class hero tall tale. A railroad man gets his demand from the Roadmaster when his dog outruns the trains and makes even the fastest train look slow. Bontemps collaborates with WPA colleague Jack Conroy. Out of print.

The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes, illus. by Louis Slobodkin, Harcourt Brace, 1944, ages 6-12

Estes's classic about two girls, one middle and working-class, who identify with the plight of a very poor immigrant girl who is taunted at school.

The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back, Carl Sandburg, illus. by David Small, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1999, ages 4-8

A great introduction to the radical poet Sandburg, who had some involvement with the IWW and the SP in the early part of the 20th century. This story is taken from his 1923 Rootabaga Stories, but is set during the Depression for this current artistic interpretation. Done in the style of the Midwestern artists of that era and is a fun read-aloud American tall tale. Political only in that it suggests the struggles of farmers of the era. See the text from the original.

The Lady in the Box, Ann McGovern and Marni Backer (Illustrator), Turtle Books, 1999, ages 4-8

Ben and his sister begin sneaking food for a homeless women (Dorrie), until their mother catches on. All Dorrie really wanted was the right to sleep by the grate near a local Deli, which is restored after the children's mother protest to the owner. The experience transforms the kids consciousness in that they begin serving food in a neighborhood soup kitchen.

The Little Tailor, William Gropper, Dodd Mead, 1955, ages 6-10

A black and white picture book developed out of Gropper's experience in a garment sweatshop in New York's Lower East side. Deals with worker alienation in regimented industry. Gropper is well-known for his paintings and editorial cartoons in radical publications. Hard to find.

The Little Weaver of Thai-Yen Village, Trân-Khánh-Tuyêt, trans by Christopher N.H. Jenkins, illus by Minh-hoa Nancy Hom, Childrens Book Press, 1987, ages 6-12

A family and village are set upon by the Vietnam War. A young girl is hurt in the brutality and flown to the US for medical care. Vowing never to forget her suffering countrymen, she weaves beautiful blankets that she sends back every year.

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1971, ages 4-8

Environmental destruction through thoughtless expansion theme. While a cute little Lorax speaks for the trees, a Once-ler is chopping down the forest to make highly-profitable Thneeds.

The Napping House, Audrey Wood, illus. by Don Wood, Harcourt Brace, ages 2-6

A cumulative story where one small action leads to a chain of events eventually breaking the structure.

The Sneetches, Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1961, ages 4-8

Another political work from Dr. Seuss critical of anti-Semitism, is also anti-racist.

The Sweetest Fig, Chris Van Allsburg, Houghton Mifflin, 1993, ages 6-10

A sadistic, fussy dentist has his greedy dreams of riches ruined when his long-mistreated dog thwarts his plan. Poetic justice and irony; Van Allsburg's stunning art is always edgy.

The Stolen Sun, Kornei Chukovsky, illus. by Sergei Yakovlev, trans. by Dorian Rottenberg, Malysh Publishers, 1983, ages 4-8

Based on the Chokovsky's rather harsh poem for young readers, about a bear who rescues the sun from a nasty crocodile resulting in a forest celebration. It's in pop-up book format that doesn't read straight through from back to front.

The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores: A Bilingual Folktale from the Jungles of Chiapas, Subcomandante Marcos, trans. By Anne Bar Din, illus. by Domitilia Dominguez, Cinco Puntos Press, 1999, ages 4-8

More known for the controversy surrounding the NEA grant, this is a folktale of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas. It provides some perspective on the struggles of the people there as they fight to conserve their culture and vision of the world "not defined by dollars". Images of smoking and physical love-making are relatively unusual in children's books.

Tough Times, Barbara Shook Hazen and Trina Schart Hyman (Illustrator), Viking Press, 1983 (reprint), ages 4-8

A touching story about a family trying to do their best to cope with finacially difficult times.

Train to Somewhere, Eve Bunting and Ronald Himler (Illustrator), Houghton Mifflin Co, 2000, ages 4-8

Story of the Orphan Train, told in the voice of one girl. Marianne is in a group of 14 homeless children traveling with a guardian from New York to the Midwest in 1878 in search of families to adopt them.

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen, Dyanne Disalvo-Ryan, Dyanne Di Salvo-Ryan and Mira Reisberg, Mulberry Books, 1997, ages 4-8

When his nephew has a day off from school, Uncle Willie invites him to spend the day helping him at the soup kitchen. Although hesitant at first, the young boy discovers, that in Uncle Willie's eyes, that the food collected from his neighborhood is not just food, but preparation for a feast. To Uncle Willie, the soup kitchen visitors aren't strangers. They are his guests.

We All in the Dumps With Jack and Guy, Maurice Sendak, Harper Collins, 1993, ages 4-10

Sendak is often controversial in pushing the limits of what is considered appropriate for young readers, as well as being a master storyteller and artist. This is a tough book that depicts the plight of urban children at risk accompanied by the text of two Mother Goose rhymes intertwined with frightening newspaper headlines. Deals with homelessness, AIDS, starvation and the horrors of street life.

Weslandia, Paul Fleischman, illus. by Kevin Hawkes, Candlewick Press, 1999, ages 4-8

A boy who is a misfit in his suburban world creates his own bottom-up civilization as a summer project and becomes a heroic owner of his means of production.

When the Monkeys Came Back, Kristine L. Franklin, illus. by Robert Roth, Maxwell Macmillan, 1994, ages 6-10

Marta plants trees in hopes the monkeys will return. She remembers how all the monkeys in her Costa Rican valley disappeared when all the trees were cut down. Developers ruined the land and drove out the monkeys. Long-term thinking of future generations.

Working Cotton, Sherley Anne Williams, illus. by Carole Bayard, Harcourt, 1992, ages 4-8

Autobiographical, powerful story about a contemporary young girl's working day in a California cotton field with her family.

Yertle the Turtle and Other Sories, Dr. Seuss, Random House, 1958, ages 4-8

A classic from the political side of Dr. Seuss, Yertle the Turtle is anti-fascist story that cautions against dictators. ("I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down on the bottom we, too, should have rights!") Also has the story of Gertrude McFuzz, a bird trying to sport the right kind of feathers who grew so many, she became flightless.


Picture books, fiction, novels - ages 9 and up

Androcles and the Lion , George Bernard Shaw, 1916, ages 12 and up

Animal Farm, George Orwell, 1945

Angels in the Dust, Roger Essley (Illustrator) and Margot Theis Raven, Troll, 1999, ages 4 and up

This picture book captures the struggle of an Oklahoma family on a Dust Bowl farm in the 1930s. It is movingly told in the voice of Great-grandma Annie who remembers herself as a girl of 12.

Chanticleer of Wilderness Road: A Story of Davy Crockett, Meridel Le Sueur, Knopf, 1951, reprint Holy Cow!, 1990, ages 9-12

Citizen Tom Paine, Howard Fast, illus. by Ted Schroeder, Duell, Sloan Pearce, 1975, written 194? ages 9-12?

Banned as undesirably vulgar for schoolchildren in 1947, the story of Tom Paine.

Coal Camp Girl, Lois Lenski,1959 Lippincott, ages 9-12

Life focused on a child adventures related to the dangers and poverty of a 1950s mining community in West Virginia but does not question the industry or the system. Out of print, but available through libraries. See other Lenski titles as well.

Cuba Libre, Poems by Nicolás Guillén, trans. by Langston Hughes and Ben Frederic Carruthers, Anderson & Ritchie, 1948, ages 12 and up

Selected poems suitable for older children by the Afro-Cuban master, voice of the oppressed.

Dan McCann and His Fast Sooner Hound, Irwin Shapiro, illus. by Mimi Korach, Garrard, 1975, written 194? ages 9-12?

annotation in progress

Drums at Dusk, Arna Bontemps, 1939

Bontemps historical account of the 18th century black revolution on the island of Santo Domingo.

Elegy on the Death of Cesar Chavez Rudolfo Anaya, illus. by Gaspar Enriquez, Cinco Puntos Press, 2000, ages 9 and up

Anaya's intense eulogy for Chavez that mourns the loss and also acknowledges his work on behalf of farmworkers and La Causa. "Rise not against each other, but for each other."

Gentleman Jim, Raymond Briggs, 9-

Farce where a bathroom janitor tries to move up in social status, but is met bureaucratic red tape, only to find himself in the court system, charged with highway robbery. Takes jabs at the lack of imagination in public education and popular culture. Hard to Find.

Ivan Ivanych Samovar, Daniil Kharms, mirror of, 1924, ages 9-12

John Black's Body: A Story in Pictures, Ben Martin, Vanguard Press, 1939, 12 and up

A story in political cartoon-like pictures and text about how capitalism needs John Brown's body to fight its wars. Out of print--available through ILL

Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo, Bantam Books, 1939 republished in 1970, 12 and up

One time one of the "Hollywood Ten" black-listed under McCarthyism, Trumbo's anti-war novel has been a high school must since the 60's, when it was promoted by Paul Krassner. This horrific novel deals with an American youth missing in action and hideously injured in World War I--his arms, legs and face have been blown away--who can do nothing but endure his tomb-like existence and recall the memories of a family that is unaware that he has survived and relive his life before his dismemberment.

Little Brother of the Wilderness: The Story of Johnny Appleseed, Meridel Le Sueur, Knopf, 1954, reprint Holy Cow!, 1996, ages 9-12

Le Sueur, CP member from the midwestern US, wrote children's books in the 40's and 50s relating folk stories and folk heroes in an anti-capitalist interpretation.

Making Waves, Barbara Williams, Dial Books, 2000, ages 9-12

A young girl who survived the sinking of the Titanic from second-class becomes class conscious and politically active. Inspired by her Irish immigrant friend, relatives in the settlement house movement and an article in the newspaper about Mother Jones, she becomes involved in the child labor movement.

Mangali's Unfinished 'Ka', Khagendra Sangraula, tr. by Mary Des Chene, 19??, ages 9 and up

A short story translated from Nepalese that is about a lower caste young girl's struggle for literacy and education.

Music and Drum: Voices of War and Peace, Hope and Dreams, Laura Robb, illus. by Debra Hill, Philomel, 1997, ages 9-12

A collection of poems about war and peace written by children, survivors, historical figures and poets. Includes pieces by Chief Joseph, Langston Hughes, Eve Merriam, Carl Sandburg, Lucille Clifton, children from Northern Ireland, Jordan, Israel and more.

Monkey Island, Paula Fox, Dell Publishing, 1991, ages 9-12

A story of an eleven year old boy, Clay Garrity, having to survive on his own in New York city because shorty after his father leaves the family because he lost his job, his mother decides not to come back to the welfare hotel.

Nancy Hanks of Wilderness Road: A Story of Abraham Lincoln's Mother, Meridel Le Sueur, Knopf, 1949, reprint Holy Cow!, 1997, ages 9-12

Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse, 1997

A story of a young girl, Bille Jo, told through poetry of the experiences of life in the bleak landscape of Oklahoma during the 1930's.

Paul Bunyan Tricks a Dragon, Irwin Shapiro, illus. by Raymond Burns, Garrard, 1975, written 194? ages 9-12

Popo and Fifina: Children of Haiti Arna Bontemps MacMillan, 1932

Radical Red by James Duffy, Atheneum, ages 9-12, 1993

One of the many newer historical fiction titles. The title is promising but refers to the hair ribbons worn by the turn-of-the-century reformist suffragettes. A young girl and her barely literate immigrant mother fall under the influence of Susan B. Anthony and her supporters. The mother eventually takes her daughter and leaves her drunken, abusive husband, who is also a reactionary cop trying to get rid of the "crazy women" who come to the New York state capital to win supporters and congressional votes.

Rhymes of Early Jungle Folk, Mary Marcy, woodcuts by Wharton H. Esherick, Kerr, 1922, ages 9-12

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Talor, Puffin Books, 1976, ages 10 and up

A story of a black family whose warm ties to each other and the land give then the strength to defy Sounthern racism during the depression.

Sad-Faced Boy, Arna Bontemps and Langston Hughes, illus. by Virginia Lee Burton, Houghton Mifflin, 1937 ages 9-12

Three mischievous and likable young brothers from rural Alabama hop a train looking for adventure in Harlem in the 30's.

Song of the Trees, Mildred Taylor, Dial Books, 1975, ages 9-12

Set during the Depression, a rural family in Mississippi militantly defends the forest on their land from being destroyed by capitalist lumber barons.

Sam Patch, Champion Jumper, Irwin Shapiro, illus. by Ted Schroeder, Garrard, 1975, written 194? ages 9-12?

Slappy Hooper: The Wonderful Sign Painter Arna Bontemps 1946

annotation in progress

Sparrow Hawk, Meridel Le Sueur, Knopf, 1950, reprint Holy Cow!, 1987, ages 9-12

A white boy and his Indian friend during the harsh Black Hawk War.

Stories of the Cave People, Mary Marcy (Tobias), Kerr, 1917, ages 9-12

U.S. Socialist Party member, Marcy's attempt to explain historical materialsim to children.

The Birchbark House, Louise Erdich, Hyperion, 1999, ages 9-12

The first in a planned series of ten historical novels for children dealing with western expansion chronicling her Ojibwe ancestors move from Northern Wisconsin to North Dakota. A nice introduction to Native American respect for nature, family love, culture and survival, as well as the clash of the Ojibwa civilization with the chimookomanug--the white people or foreigners.

The Family Under the Bridge, Natalie Savage Carlson and Garth Williams (Illustrator), HarperTrophy, (1989 reissue) 1958, ages 9-12

Set in Paris in late December, follows a hobo named Armand, who's gruff on the outside, but reveals his inner warmth when he finds a newly homeless family living under "his" bridge.

The Tall Hunter, Howard Fast, illus. by Rafaello Busoni, Harper & brothers, 1942

A hunter avenging the kidnap of his wife by Indians, learns about peace after he meets Johnny Appleseed.

Tony and the Wonderful Door, Howard Fast, illus. by William Vigoda, Blue Heron Press, 1952

A working-class boy from New York's Lower East side in the 20s has fantasy adventures when he goes through a door in the backyard of his tenement building.

The Railway Children, E(dith) Nesbit, First published, 1906 with many reissues, ages 9-12

From Fabian Socialist Nesbit--A book about a mother and her three children who have very little money, yet persevere through exciting adventures and financial conflicts.

The Five Children and It, E(dith) Nesbit, First published, 1902 with many reissues, ages 9-12

The Story of the Treasure Seekers, E(dith) Nesbit, First published, 1899 with many reissues, ages 9-12

The Wouldbegoods, E(dith) Nesbit, First published, 1901 with many reissues, ages 9-12

The Inner City Mother Goose, Eve Merriam, Simon and Schuster, 1996, ages 12 and up

A provocative re-write of traditional Mother Goose rhymes that comment on current social, economic and political urban issues. First published in 1969, this controversial book was banned in some places. Best when it takes on substandard housing, police and government corruption and unemployment.

The Jungle, Upton Sinclair, 1906

The River Road: A Story of Abraham Lincoln, Meridel Le Sueur, Knopf, 1954, reprint Holy Cow!, 1998, ages 9-12

The Tin Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman, Raymond Briggs, Little, Brown, 1984, ages 9-

A illustrated satire on the imperialist British victory in Falklands War and its effects. Has a Wag the dog theme. Hard to find.

The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, 1895, ages 9 and up

Three Fat Men: A Revolutionary Fairy Tale, Yuri Olesha, mirror of, 1924, ages 9-12

Three Terrible Trins, Dick King-Smith, illus. by Mark Teague, reprint 1997 ages 9-12

Four groups of mice, segregated by class (Attics, Ups, Downs, and Cellarmice) live in a farmhouse. To avenge their father's murder, three mice brothers ignore the class system and organize so that they can form a united front for a campaign of terror against the house cats and the farmer.

Tuck Everlasting, Natalie Babbit, Farrar, 1975, ages 9-12

A great novel for discussion on dialectics. A story of a family cursed with everlasting life, since they can not only not truly live, but they must protect the world from finding out and capitalizing on the source.

When The Wind Blows, Raymond Briggs, Schocken Books, 1982, ages 9-

Another Briggs satire. A retired ordinary rural couple blindly follow obey arrogant governmental advice as they prepare for nuclear war and then begin to experience physical symptoms, and slowly die of radioactive fallout. Hard to find.

Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson, 1919, ages 12 and up

Yankee Thunder: The Legendary Life of Davy Crockett, Irwin Shapiro, illus. by James Daugherty, Messner, 1944, ages 9-12


Non-Fiction, ages 5 and up

A History of Us: Liberty for all?, Joy Hakim, Oxford, 1994 ages 9-12

Volume 5 of Hakim's 11 volume set of American history texts. This volume deals with events leading up to the Civil War. The closest series there is to Howard Zinn for children.

All Times, All Peoples: a World History of Slavery, Milton Meltzer, illus. by Leonard Everett Fisher, Harper, ages 9-12

This self-explanatory title briefly chronicles the history of slavery from ancient times through the present and the causes of domination-power and profit. See other Melter titles as well, including his biography of Langston Hughes.

Black Boy: (American Hunger), Richard Wright, ages, 12 and up

Wright's classic autobiography about growing up in the Jim Crow south.

Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine 1845-1850, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Houghton Mifflin - Boston, 2001, ages 12 and up

Bartoletti tells the story of the Irish Potatoe Famine through the voices of the Irish themselves.

Booker T. Washington, educator of hand, head, and heart, Shirley Graham Du Bois, Messner, 1955, ages 9-12, out of print

A Long Hard Journey: The Story of the Pullman Porter, Patricia and Frederick McKissack, Walker and Company, 1989, photos, index and bibliography, ages 10 and up

A telling of the heroic struggles of the Pullman car porters from 1829-1979 and aspects of the civil rights struggle and labor history of the first black union. Photos.

Children of the Dust Bowl : The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp, Jerry Stanley, Crown Publishers, 1992, ages 9-12

Describes the struggle of the 'Okies' as they travel from the Panhandle to California during the depression. The story revolves around the work of Leo Hart in creating a school the Okies could call their own.

Ethel and Ernest, Raymond Briggs, Knopf, 1999, ages 12 and up

Not written for children, but older ones could read this class-conscious biographical work of Brigg's parents beginning with their courtship. It is wonderful social and political commentary on Britain from the late 1920's through the 70s.

Freedom's Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories, ed. By Levine, Ellen, Avon, 1994, ages 10-

Thirty people recollect the involvement in civil disobedience they participated in as young children or teenagers in the 50's and 60's segregated South. Photos.

Free the Children: A Young Man Fights Against Child Labor and Proves that Children Can Change the World, Craig Kielburger and Kevin Major (Contributor), Harper Perennial, 1999, Age 12 and up.

The young man witnessed shocking abuse from which most middle-class Western children have been carefully shielded: he met an 8-year-old girl whose job was to recycle bloody syringes without gloves or other protection, children in a factory working with extremely hazardous materials to provide fireworks for a Hindu religious celebration, and children sold for sex on urban streets. On returning to his home in Canada, Kielburger bore witness to what he had seen and asked a simple, devastating question: "If child labour is not acceptable for white, middle-class North American kids, then why is it acceptable for a girl in Thailand or a boy in Brazil?

Free to Dream: The Making of a Poet: Langston Hughes, Audrey Osofsky, Morrow, William and Co., 1996, ages 10-16

A biography of one of the great American radical poet and writers. Gives an overview of his difficult family life, travels, role in the Harlem Renaissance, identification with radical ideas and organizations, and unflagging commitment to giving a voice to the oppressed. Sentimental and weak on his later life and sexuality. Black and white photos.

Goethals and the Panama Canal, Howard Fast, illus. by Rafaello Busoni, Messner, 1942, ages 9 and up

The building of the Panama Canal focusing on the life of the project supervisor, George Washington Goethals (1858-1928).

Growing Up in Coal Country, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1999, ages 5-9

Labor history through voices of the men, women, and children who immigrated to and worked in the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania at the turn of the century. Blunt stories horrible conditions--long hours, very little pay, and hazardous work. Photos.

Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad, Ann Petry, Crowell, 1955, ages 9-12, other editions available

Classic biography of Harriet Tubman.

Haym Salomon, Son of Liberty, Howard Fast, illus. by Eric M. Simon, Messner, 1941, ages

The story of Haym Salomon [1740-1785], a financial backer of the American Revolution.

If You Could Be My Friend: Letters off Mervet Akram Sha'Ban and Galit Fink, Mervet Akra Sha'ban Galat Fink, Litsa Boudalika, Orchard Books, ages 10-16

A series of letters written during the Palestinian intifada between 1988 and 1991 between a 12 year old Palestinian Arab girl living in a refugee camp, and a same age middle class Jewish girl living in Jerusalem ten miles away. Contains commentary about the political events surrounding the context of the letters. Both girls hope for peace but hold deep anger and suspicions of the other's people, reflected in their friendly, but fragile friendship.

Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery, Susan Kuklin, Henry Holt & Company, 1998, ages 9 and up

Kuklin roots the general issues in the personal experiences of individual people. Here the emotional center is Iqbal Masih, a charismatic Pakistani boy. Sold into slavery at age four, he was freed six years later by a human rights group. He became an activist speaker in Pakistan and Europe and came to the U.S. in 1994. On his return home, at age 12, he was murdered.

Kids on Strike!, Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Houghton Mifflin, 1999, ages 8 and up

Children fighting back against oppressive work conditions in the US in the 19th and early 20th centuries, focusing on the Eastern US. Effective use of photographs and quotes from primary sources. Includes the Lowell Mill girls struggles, the newsies, Mother Jones's involvement in the Kensington mill strike, more. Photographs.

Kids at Work: Lewis Hine and the Crusade Against Child Labor, Russell Freedman , Houghton Mifflin, 1994, 9-12

The amazing photographs taken by Lewis Hine, of child labor in the United States pre-World War I. Also chronicles the life of the Hine who was working as an investigative photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, and through his journalism, helped the effort to create child labor laws.

Lenin Nina Brown Baker, The Vanguard Press, 1945, ages 12-14

Biography of Lenin and Krupskaya.

Leon Trotsky: Portrait of a Youth, Max Eastman, Greenberg, 1925, ages 12-17

Lord Baden-Powell of the Boy Scouts, Howard Fast, illus. by Rafaello Busoni, Messner, 1941, ages

The story of the founder of the Boy Scouts activist in the peace movement with a backdrop of the growing British Empire.

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly, William Dean Myers, illus. by Leonard Jenkins, HarperCollins, 2000 ages 5-10

An introduction to Malcolm the thinker, orator, convict, revolutionary, Muslim and martyr in the context of the 60's.

Mother Jones: Fierce Fighter For Worker's Rights, Judith Pinkerton Josephson. Lerner Publications Co., 1997, ages 9-12

Mother Jones: One Woman's Fight for Labor, Betsy Harvey Kraft, Clarion, 1995, ages 9-12

Mother Jones, one of the great union organizers, as she interacts with the common worker, the management, establishment, and the government and an overview of the early U. S. labor movement.

New Russia's Primer: The Story of the Five-Year Plan, M. Mikhail Ilin, Houghton Mifflin, 1931, ages 12-14

Written for Soviet children ages 12-14 to acquaint them with the Five-Year Plan of construction, launched in October, 1928, as well as to the nature of a planned economy and social planning.

Other Victims: First-Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis, Ina Friedman, Houghton Mifflin, 1995, ages 12-17

Holocaust survivors Personal narratives of Christians, socialists, Gypsies, deaf people, homosexuals, and blacks who suffered at the hands of the Nazis before and during World War II.

Paul Robeson, citizen of the world, Shirley Lola Graham, Messner, 1946, ages 9-12, out of print

Red Scarf Girl, Ji Li Jiang, Harper Trophy, 1998, 12-16

The first person story of the author during ages at 12-14 in 1966-68. She is a schoolgirl from a black class, artistic, Muslim family during the beginning of Mao's Cultural Revolution as they aim to replace the "Fourolds" (old habits, ideas, customs and culture). Written from the perspective of someone who became disillusioned with what she had been taught to believe about the leaders or the Chinese Communist Party.

Stolen Dreams: Portraits of Working Children, David L. Parker (Photographer), Lee Engfer, Robert Conrow, Leeanne Engfer (Contributor), Lerner Publications Company, 1997, Young Adult

Uses photographs of children from many countries to open a thought-provoking discussion on child labor. Many individual children are introduced as the writers explain the kinds of work children do, the economic reasons children are drafted into sweatshop labor, and the effects of work on the lives of children.

Story of Phyllis Wheatley: The Poetess of the American Revolution, Shirley Lola Graham, illus. by Robert Burns, Messner, 1949, ages 9-12, out of print

The Picture Book History of the Jews, Howard Fast, illus. by Bette Fast, Hebrew Publish Company, 1942, ages 8 and up

The People's Songbook, Waldemar Hill ed., Boni and Gaer, 1948, ages

The Romance of a People: The History of the Jews, by Howard Fast, illus. by Rafaello Busoni, Messner, 1941

History of the Jews from ancient civilization through the time of publication.

Tituba of Salem Village, Ann Petry, Crowell, 1964, ages 9-12, later reprint by HarperCollins

The story of Tituba, a slave from Barbados, accused "witch" in the Salem 1692 witch trials.

To Be a Slave, Julius Lester, illus. by Tom Feelings, Scholastic, 1968, ages 12-

A compilation selected from various sources and arranged chronologically and by subject, of the reminiscences of U. S. slaves and ex-slaves about their experiences, from the leaving of Africa through the Civil War and into the early 20th century.

Turning Night Into Day: The Story of Lighting, M. Mikhail Ilin, J.B. Lipincott Co., 1936, ages 12-14

A materialist history of electric lighting.

Uprooted Children: The Early Life of Migrant Farmworkers, Robert Coles. University of Pittsburgh Press, 1970, ages 9-12

Scenes of migrant workers lives based on several years of interviews with children of white, black and Mexican-American laborers traveling the Eastern seaboard circuit from the 1960s. Photos.

Woody Guthrie: Poet of the People, Bonnie Christensen, Knopf, 2001, ages 8 and up

The story of Woody Guthrie focusing on the Depression and his work as a folk singer and political activist based on the anthem, This Land is Your Land.

Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo, Viking, 1994, ages 9-12, out of print

Zlata Filipovic, a Croatian, started keeping a diary at age 10 in October, 1991 and continued until she is 13. Her entries go from average activities for her age only to become a journal of the death and destruction surrounding her in Sarajevo.