Really Big Coloring Books: “You Chose the Topic, We Make Your Book”

Really Big Coloring Books in St. Louis, Missouri aims to make your coloring book dreams come true.  Its lines include LapTop Coloring Books (panoramic flip-top books 17 x 11 inches), Power Panel Coloring Books (8 x 11 inches), Travel Tablet Coloring Books (36 pages 5.5 x 8.5 inches), Promotional-Custom Coloring Books (8 pages with 4-color covers guaranteed in 30 days or less), and the Specialty Coloring Books, which in my opinion are highly collectible.

The Speciality Coloring Book  line is topical, bi-partisan, patriotic, and not always politically correct.  Since 1988, Really Big Coloring Books  has produced pamphlets on Obama, Ted Cruz, 9/11, gun safety, coming out, international terrorism (among other things) and most recently at lightining speed, a “true to life graphic educational comic coloring book about the Coronavirus -COVID 19.”The text covers the bases,including essential information about the virus, ground zero at Wuhan, China, correct hand washing techniques and other methods of prevention, a time line of the disease’s spread between December 2019 and February 26 2020, the United States government’s efforts, and how to stay well-informed as the disease spreads.  The editorial team does a good job keeping it non-partisan and factual.Because the publication is intended for all ages, there is a generous helping of generic “fun” but educational activities that can be done with pencil and paper.  They seem very appropriate for passing time in the doctor’s waiting room.  Maybe some physicians have stocked the magazine racks with copies.Really Big Coloring Books, as the preceding publication shows, can be an excellent citizen as a publisher.  There are other times when the firm goes unapologeticaly rogue, as in this 2019 extravaganza on North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un.   Nobody can complain that It wasn’t clearly labeled as inappropriate for persons with crayons under the age of eighteen years.  The staff cartoonists seems to have relished this particular assignment because the graphics are pretty inspired for a coloring book.

The maze and connect-the-dots are the most light-hearted of all the fun activities, although others are cruder.  Dennis Rodman has to take his licks.  The back cover states emphatically that Really Big Coloring Books has no animus against the North Korean people, just the “delusional tyrant who truly believes he is a God amongst humans” who makes their lives miserable.  Are we ready to start living in less interesting times???????

Exhibition “Going Your Own Way: Alternative Children’s Book Publishing” Now on View

The research collection of the Cotsen Children’s Library contains a wealth of illustrated political propaganda from around the world, but materials have not been exhibited since the 2003 show “Brave New World: 20th-Century Children’s Children’s Books” in the main and old Milberg galleries in Firestone.

With a presidential election upon us in fall, it seemed like a good time to display some recent acquisitions of self-published children’s books.   Their author/publishers were Democrats, Republicans, community boosters, preppers (i.e. survivalists), supporters of the Second Amendment, anarchists, activist artists, the politically correct, incorrect, and self-serving.  Their picture books were not reviewed in Horn Book, they didn’t hit the New York Times Best Sellers List, they were not nominated for the Caldecott Award.  A handful have won notoriety on late night comedy shows or praise from bloggers.  They won’t be found in the local Barnes & Noble or independent bookstore.  Usually the only way to get copies it to track down the author’s website or his or her bookstore at

Some lean to the left, some to the right, others are in the center, but as a group, they reflect a great deal about the fragmentation and radicalization of American cultural values since 9/11, as well as the changes in children’s book publishing since the 1970s, as the trifecta of gatekeepers–librarians, teachers, and publishers–began breaking down.

Many thanks to Jess Landis for her help researching the elusive authors, illustrators, and publishers of the books on display. 

And to give equal time to the other side, there’s a second poster…

Since publishing this post on March 9, the University has closed the gallery of the Cotsen Children’s Library until further notice.   Visitors to the Firestone Library stays will be able to see the case of materials in the lobby, but not the books displayed in the two cases in the gallery entrance.