Work and Sing
Work and Sing
Children's Literature and the Cultural Front, 1935–1945
This chapter considers how the conditions of production and dissemination of children's literature changed beginning in the mid-1930s, and looks at the particular ways that leftists, in response to these changes, began to reshape the field and its output in the years prior to the onset of the Cold War. Beginning in the mid-1930s, especially thanks to a Popular Front effort to broaden left-wing influence in American life, members of the Communist milieu began to write children's books that were geared toward a wide audience. This effort intersected with a growing sense among librarians, teachers, and other established members of the children's literature field (including the influential Child Study Association) that children should be exposed to real-world issues and cultural diversity (“interracial books”), a theme that became especially pronounced during World War II. Following discussions of left-wing efforts through the New Masses and organizations such as the League of American Writers to expand a leftist presence in children's literature, and institutional developments among educators, librarians, and publishers (including union efforts among teachers, the formation of a Progressive Librarians Council, and the development of the 25-cent Little Golden Book). The chapter concludes with an analysis of several books that promote an anti-fascist and anti-racist sensibility in children. Among the authors discussed in this chapter are Harry Granick, Marshall McClintock, Mary Elting, Lavinia Davis, John R. Tunis, Florence Crannell Means, Doris Gates, Henry Gregor Felsen, and Emma Gelders Sterne.
Keywords: Popular Front, League of American Writers, Progressive Librarians Council, Little Golden Books, anti-fascist, New Masses, Child Study Association, interracial books, juvenile publishing, librarians
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