“For Young Revolutionists”
Children's Literature and the Communist Milieu, 1925–1935
This chapter explores how proletarian or revolutionary children's literature produced under the aegis of the Communist Party set precedents for popular children's literature produced in the 1940s and later by leftists. Building on models imported from the Soviet Union and Europe, as well as literature written early in the 20th century for Socialist Sunday Schools and often incorporating themes, principles, and aesthetics from progressive education, proletarian children's literature was limited in its audience because of its sectarian tone. However, it represents a conscious attempt to make children's literature part of a radical party program, and it often foregrounded scientific, historical, and anti-racist themes that would recur in later, more mainstream work by radicals. The chapter gives particular attention to the magazine of the Communist Young Pioneers, the New Pioneer, which published the work of several individuals who would later become writers or illustrators of popular books for children, among them Syd Hoff (writing here as A. Redfield), Helen Kay, Ben Appel, William Gropper, Myra Page, and Ernest Crichlow. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Popo and Fifina, Children of Haiti, by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, a book that was arguably proletarian in its subject matter but written for a popular audience.
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