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 Amazon.com.

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.