Waterstones shelves are bulging with woke children's books

Waterstones shelves are bulging with woke children's books

Bedtime stories go woke! Waterstones shelves are bulging with feminist fairytales and memoirs such as ‘How To Be A Better White Person’ to teach children about white privilege and racism

  • Slew of woke children’s books are stacked on the shelves of British book retailer
  • Books include gender swapped fairy tales and guides on feminist theory for kids 
  • A memoir reflecting on white privilege is stacked alongside children’s books  


From Little House On The Prairie to Dr Seuss, bedtime reading for children is rapidly becoming a battlefield with classic stories slapped with ‘trigger warnings’ for ‘harmful content’ or popular authors such as Enid Blyton ‘cancelled’. 

But waiting on the shelves of a bookshop near you to replace them is a whole raft of suitably ‘woke’ literature for children, ranging from feminist fairytales to tomes teaching children about white privilege and subverting gender roles. 

Waterstones, for instance, is currently displaying books such as How To Be A Better White Person, Gender Swapped Fairy Tales and alternative bedtime stories, such as the tale of a gingerbread man refugee. 

Awkwardly, the retailer has mixed in the adult satire My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism – a satire on woke culture written by British comedian Andrew Doyle – with the children’s books. 

Others include an anthology of bedtime stories based on activists and politicians rather than princesses, as well as revamped feminist nursery rhymes. 

Here Femail reveals the selection of reads on offer for the woke bookshelf.  

Waterstones, for instance, is currently displaying books such as ‘How To Be A Better White Person, Gender Swapped Fairy Tales and 

Waiting on the shelves of a bookshop near you to replace tem is a whole raft of suitably 'woke' literature for children, ranging from feminist fairytales to tomes subverting gender roles

Waiting on the shelves of a bookshop near you to replace tem is a whole raft of suitably ‘woke’ literature for children, ranging from feminist fairytales to tomes subverting gender roles

Gender Swapped Fairy Tales 

Gender Swapped Fairy Tales is a collection of revised classic stories written by wife-and-husband team Karrie Fransman and Jonathan Plackett, created to challenge perceptions of gender. 

Featuring tales such as 'Cinder, or the Little Glass Slipper', in which an old queen leers over a young prince and 'Handsome and the Beast' - the authors aimed to reinvent characters rather than storylines of classic tales

Featuring tales such as ‘Cinder, or the Little Glass Slipper’, in which an old queen leers over a young prince and ‘Handsome and the Beast’ – the authors aimed to reinvent characters rather than storylines of classic tales

The 12 traditional stories were re-written using a computer algorithm that simply swapped the gendered language of the originals, for example changing ‘king’ to ‘queen’.  

Featuring tales such as ‘Cinder, or the Little Glass Slipper’, in which an old queen leers over a young prince and ‘Handsome and the Beast’ – the authors aimed to reinvent characters rather than storylines of classic tales. 

The idea for the anthology of fairy tales came from Jonathan, whose father used to swap the genders of the characters when he would read bedtime stories. 

‘The story of the book begins when I was a little boy and my dad used to read me and my sister bedtime stories and what we didn’t know was he was secretly gender swapping some of the characters in the books’, he said on the Reading Corner podcast. 

‘So that kind of made it more interesting for him but gave me and my sister a bunch of characters that didn’t conform to normal gender stereotypes.’  

The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person 

Nestled alongside the children’s book is Frederick Joseph’s memoir, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person. 

Frederick Joseph's memoir, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person speaks directly to young white people to detail the racism and mircoraggressions the author has experienced throughout his life

Frederick Joseph’s memoir, The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person speaks directly to young white people to detail the racism and mircoraggressions the author has experienced throughout his life

Written from the perspective of a friend, the book speaks directly to young white people to detail the racism and mircoraggressions the author has experienced throughout his life. 

It offers advice to young people on how they can acknowledge their white privilege and touches on subjects such as cultural appropriation and ‘reverse racism’. 

The book details his transfer to a largely white high school as a teen, sharing race-related anecdotes and explaining how they are harmful. 

In the book, Joseph says that many young people have witnessed racism even if they’re unaware of it. 

Joseph writes: ‘We all live in some sort of bubble, whether of race, gender, sexuality, religion, or other aspects of our identities or lived experience’.  

The US-born author claims: ‘Having the ability to survive without having to know or develop a level of respect for groups of people is part of the legacy of American racism and white privilege.’  

On the concept of ‘reverse racism’ in the US, he writes: ‘Racism and racist systems in America don’t adversely impact white people. This is because all aspects of racism in America are rooted in white supremacy and are designed to negatively impact everyone except white people’.

Each chapter includes the voice one artist or activist, including Moonlight Tarell Alvin McCraney, the creator of the OscarsSoWhite hashtag April Reign and Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give.  

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls 

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, published initially in 2016, is a children’s book aimed at ages six and up, which was funded through crowdfunding online.

The book, written by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, features short stories about 100 real women, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world, who can be role models to children. 

The list includes Malala Yousafzai, the Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani teenager who was shot by the Taliban in 2012 and American gymnast Simone Biles, one of the most decorated gymnasts of all time. 

Other women include experts in their filed such as American computer scientist Grace Hopper and celebrities and sports personalities like Serena Williams and Michelle Obama.  

Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different and Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different 

The release of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls inspired author Ben Brooks and illustrator Quinton Winter to write Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different – aimed at a male audience.  

The 2018 children’s book featured role models including Salvador Dali, Barack Obama, Beethoven and Stormzy. 

The duo later published a book aimed at a gender-neutral demographic containing a mixture of male and female role models titled Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different.   

The list of inspirational people included in this version of the book includes; Dr Seuss, Whoopi Goldberg, Andy Warhol, Ellen MacArthur, Greta Gerwig and Andrea Bocelli.  

The release of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (middle) inspired author Ben Brooks and illustrator Quinton Winter to write Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different (right) - aimed at a male audience and a book aimed at a gender-neutral demographic called Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different (left)

The release of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls (middle) inspired author Ben Brooks and illustrator Quinton Winter to write Stories for Boys Who Dare to be Different (right) – aimed at a male audience and a book aimed at a gender-neutral demographic called Stories for Kids Who Dare to be Different (left) 

Fearless Fairy Tales 

Written by TV presenter Konnie Huq and author James Kay, Fearless Fairytales is a collection of classic stories which have been updated for a new generation of readers. 

Characters include Trumplestiltskin, a vain and gold-obsessed man who will stop at nothing to become richer, and the princess whose only dream is to become Chancellor of the Exchequer – Sleeping Brainy. 

The Gingerbread Kid escapes persecution in his home country but struggles to fit in in his new one while Rap-Unzel gets the chance of fame by appearing on Kingdom’s Got Talent. 

Poetry book What Are Little Girls Made of? (left)  is made up of re-workings of classic nursery rhymes through a feminist lens while Fearless Fairytales (right) is a collection of classic stories which have been updated for a new generation of readers

Poetry book What Are Little Girls Made of? (left)  is made up of re-workings of classic nursery rhymes through a feminist lens while Fearless Fairytales (right) is a collection of classic stories which have been updated for a new generation of readers 

What Are Little Girls Made of?  

Poetry book What Are Little Girls Made of? is made up of re-workings of classic nursery rhymes through a feminist lens.  

Written by award-winning author Jeanne Willis with illustrations by Isabelle Follath, the book was published in 2020 and includes takes on songs including Little Bo-Peep and Humpty Dumpty. 

In Georgie Porgie, he doesn’t dare to make the girls cry, in Little Bo-Peep the protagonist wades through slime to rescue her flock, while in Humpty Dumpty the egg is saved by a female doctor.  

My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism 

Alongside the stacks of ‘woke’ children’s books, staff have bizarrely placed a copy of My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism – a satire on woke culture written by British comedian Andrew Doyle. 

Alongside the stacks of 'woke' children's books, staff have bizarrely placed a copy of My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism

Alongside the stacks of ‘woke’ children’s books, staff have bizarrely placed a copy of My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism 

The comedy book is written under the pseudonym Titania McGrath, who Doyle describes as ‘a militant vegan who thinks she is a better poet than William Shakespeare’. 

The book has received rave reviews from the likes of Piers Morgan, who said it’s the choice for you ‘if virtue-signalling wokery drives you as nuts as it drives me’. 

Doyle’s first book under the pseudonym was titled Woke: A Guide to Social Justice and was hailed as ‘beautiful classic satire’ by Ricky Gervais, while critics from the Spectator called it ‘hilarious’.  

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History  

New York Times bestseller Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History relates true stories of black men throughout history. 

Written by Vashti Harrison, the book tells the story of Jamaican-born physician Doctor Harold Moody who campaigned against racial prejudice after moving to the UK. 

Activist Paul Stephenson, who is a long-time campaigner for civil rights for the British African-Caribbean community, is also featured in the book alongside Ghanaian diplomat Kofi Annan.  

Others included in the book includes architect Sir David Adjaye who designed National Museum of African American History, comic book author Dwayne McDuffie and the musician Prince.  

Little Leaders (left) relates true stories of black men throughout history while Hey You! (middle) explores the experiences black children face growing up with systemic racism. Young, Gifted and Black (right) celebrates 'icons of colour from the past and present'

Little Leaders (left) relates true stories of black men throughout history while Hey You! (middle) explores the experiences black children face growing up with systemic racism. Young, Gifted and Black (right) celebrates ‘icons of colour from the past and present’

Hey You! An Empowering Celebration of Growing Up Black 

Hey You! An empowering celebration of growing up Black is a non-fiction book exploring the experiences black children face growing up with systemic racism. 

Published in June this year, the book was written by award-winning illustrator Dapo Adeola and features illustrations from 18 other black artists. 

Critics at the Guardian have insisted the book: ‘Distils the fierce heartache of racist injustice as well as a passionate sense of joy and hope for the future.’

Meanwhile the Evening Standard hailed: ‘An honest but largely uplifting read, aimed at children particularly.’  

Young, Gifted and Black 

Young Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson and illustrated by Andrea Pippins celebrates ‘icons of colour from the past and present’. 

The 52 icon include figures throughout history such as Mary Seacole, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor.  

Author Zadie Smith, legendary musician Louis Armstrong and A-listers including Naomi Campbell, Oprah Beyonce and Solange Knowles are all featured. 

The list of notable figures also includes sports personalities such as Muhammad Ali, Usain Bolt, Nicola Adams, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and Misty Copeland.    

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories (left) is a collection of inspirational stories from young girls and boys from across the globe while Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (right) explores inspirational women throughout history

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories (left) is a collection of inspirational stories from young girls and boys from across the globe while Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World (right) explores inspirational women throughout history

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World 

Kate Pankhurst, a descendent of pioneering suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, penned the number one best-selling children’s non-fiction title in the UK market this year.

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World explores inspirational women throughout history, including leading British women’s rights activist Emmeline. 

The book explores famous women such as Jane Austen, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Rosa Parks and Anne Frank. 

The children’s book is even set to be adapted into a pop musical stage show, created by the producer of the international hit musical Six.  

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories, by London-based writer Amanda Li, is a collection of inspirational stories from young girls and boys from across the globe. 

Entries include Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Dutch-Croatian inventor Boyan Slat, who created The Ocean Cleanup and Ugandan chess player Phiona Mutesi. 

The 29 stories are accompanied by practical life lessons for kids, from giving advice on how to be more environmentally friendly to dealing with altitude sickness.

Books like ‘Antiracist Baby’, ‘Daddy & Dada’ and ‘A is for Activist’ dominate US shelves  

Antiracist Baby 

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Among the shelves at Barnes & Noble in New York was Ibram X Kendi’s non- fiction book Antiracist Baby which is aimed at children aged 0-3. 

The book aims to help readers ‘recognise and reflect on bias in their daily lives’ and provides nine steps for readers to help achieve a more ‘equitable world’. 

Kendi, an advocate of critical race theory and author of ‘Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, is not primarily a children’s author.   

Woke Baby 

49613283 10132107 In Woke Baby Mahogany L Browne writes of a race struggle that st a 3 1635259289564

 

Woke Baby! is a book by Mahogany L. Browne which is a ‘celebration of what it means to be a baby and what it means to be woke’. 

A passage from the book reads: ‘Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world’. 

The illustrations show a black baby wearing a onesie with a panther emblem on his chest. The text alongside them reads, ‘Look at your fists. Fingers curled into a panther’s paw pointing up up up, reaching out for justice.’

 Seeing Gender

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Another example is Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression which offers an ‘investigation into how we express and understand the complexities of gender today’. 

Written by Iris Gottlieb, the book focuses on the author’s own experiences with gender.  

The book, which features colourful cartoons to illustrate their points, is aimed at ‘intelligent, curious, want-to- be woke people who care about how we see and talk about gender and sexuality in the 21st century’.

 

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Monica Greep

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