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7 Children's Books Written in Response to Other Books

Some authors write books because they have a way with words. Other people write books because they have a story they want to share with the world. And a select group of individuals write books mostly to spite the author of another book. These books were written in response to another book, some angrily and some lovingly (mostly).

1. Truax

In case you’re not familiar with The Lorax (1971), it’s widely recognized as Dr. Seuss’ take on environmentalism. The Lorax “speaks for the trees,” and let’s just say that the trees aren’t exactly thrilled with the way things have been going. Many of them have been chopped down to make Thneeds, strange little garments that everyone needs. Though many people lauded Seuss and his Lorax for being outspoken about the wanton destruction of natural resources, at least one group of people didn’t appreciate the sentiment: the logging industry.

To defend themselves against the unjust Lorax, the timber industry provided funding to Terri Birkett, a member of the National Wood Flooring Association, to write a rebuttal book. In it, an irrational, irate “protector of trees” named Guardbark berates a lumberjack who patiently explains that he replaces the trees he cuts down, that they’ve set land aside to serve as Nature Preserves, and that no one really cares about some of the species that go extinct because of logging anyway. “How far will we go? How much will we pay? To keep a few minnows from dying away?” the lumberjack asks. If you want to know more about the logging industry’s point of view, you can read Truax in its entirety here.

2. The Cat in the Hat

Speaking of Dr. Seuss, one of the reasons he wrote was in response to the mind-numbing dullness of Dick and Jane and their mundane lives that consisted mostly of watching Spot run. The director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin challenged Seuss to come up with a story children would actually want to read using some of the same basic words used in Dick and Jane. “At first I thought it was impossible and ridiculous,” Seuss later said. “I was about to get out of the whole thing; then decided to look at the list one more time and to use the first two words that rhymed as the title of the book - cat and hat were the ones my eyes lighted on.”

Years later, Dr. Seuss said, “I have great pride in taking Dick and Jane out of most school libraries. That is my greatest satisfaction.”

3. Little Eva: the Flower of the South

After Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, outraged slave owners produced a number of works called “Anti-Tom literature.” Very few of them were targeted at kids, though, which is where Little Eva stands out from the pack. In Philip J. Cozan’s Little Eva, a young girl teaches the child slaves on her father’s plantation how to read and write. When the slaves are set free, they opt to stay on the plantation with Little Eva because she was so kind and good to them.

4. Goodnight iPad

An anonymous author going by the name Ann Droyd wrote this updated version of Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, perhaps as commentary about how plugged in we are. Speaking of which, you can watch Goodnight, iPad on YouTube:

5. Pat the Husband

We’ve probably all read the original Pat the Bunny at some point in our lives. Let me jog your memory: “Judy can pat the bunny. Now YOU pat the bunny. Judy can play peek-a-boo with Paul. Now YOU play peek-a-boo with Paul.” In this parody by Kate Merrow Nelligan, Paul and Judy are married, and maybe not 100% happily. “Paul is a confident man. No one needs to tell Paul who he is, or where he is going. Except when he is lost. Can you help Paul ask for directions?”

6. The His Dark Materials trilogy

Though Pullman has never directly come out and said so, many critics and scholars think that his young adult books (The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass) were written in response to the Christian themes in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.

“I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with a deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling-away,” Pullman once said. “I realized that what [Lewis] was up to was propaganda in the cause of the religion he believed in.”

7. Go the F*** to Sleep

The short children’s book, which is really not a children’s book at all, spoofs the saccharine bedtime stories a lot of us heard as youngsters (and/or read to our kids now). The ebook was funny all on its own, but when Samuel L. Jackson was tapped to read the audio version, Go the F*** to Sleep reached a whole new level of fame. What you may not know is that the wickedly funny book is a spoof of a very specific bedtime read, not just the overall genre. The inspiration, It’s Time to Sleep, My Love, by Eric Metaxas, includes lines like, “The songbirds sing in trees above, ‘It’s time to sleep, my love, my love.’”

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15 Powerful Quotes From Margaret Atwood
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MICHAL CIZEK/AFP/Getty Images

It turns out the woman behind such eerily prescient novels as The Handmaid’s Tale and Oryx and Crake is just as wise as her tales are haunting. Here are 15 of the most profound quips from author, activist, and Twitter enthusiast Margaret Atwood, who was born on this day in 1939.

1. On her personal philosophy

 “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

2. On the reality of being female

“Men often ask me, Why are your female characters so paranoid? It’s not paranoia. It’s recognition of their situation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

3. On limiting how her politics influence her characters

“You know the myth: Everybody had to fit into Procrustes’ bed and if they didn’t, he either stretched them or cut off their feet. I’m not interested in cutting the feet off my characters or stretching them to make them fit my certain point of view.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

4. On so-called “pretty” works of literature

“I don’t know whether there are any really pretty novels … All of the motives a human being may have, which are mixed, that’s the novelists’ material. … We like to think of ourselves as really, really good people. But look in the mirror. Really look. Look at your own mixed motives. And then multiply that.”

— From a 2010 interview with The Progressive

5. On the artist’s relationship with her fans

“The artist doesn’t necessarily communicate. The artist evokes … [It] actually doesn’t matter what I feel. What matters is how the art makes you feel.”

— From a 2004 interview with The Guardian

6. On the challenges of writing non-fiction

“When I was young I believed that ‘nonfiction’ meant ‘true.’ But you read a history written in, say, 1920 and a history of the same events written in 1995 and they’re very different. There may not be one Truth—there may be several truths—but saying that is not to say that reality doesn’t exist.”

— From a 1997 interview with Mother Jones

7. On poetry

“The genesis of a poem for me is usually a cluster of words. The only good metaphor I can think of is a scientific one: dipping a thread into a supersaturated solution to induce crystal formation.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

8. On being labeled an icon

“All these things set a standard of behavior that you don’t necessarily wish to live up to. If you’re put on a pedestal you’re supposed to behave like a pedestal type of person. Pedestals actually have a limited circumference. Not much room to move around.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

9. On how we’re all born writers

“[Everyone] ‘writes’ in a way; that is, each person has a ‘story’—a personal narrative—which is constantly being replayed, revised, taken apart and put together again. The significant points in this narrative change as a person ages—what may have been tragedy at 20 is seen as comedy or nostalgia at 40.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

10. On the oppression at the center of The Handmaid's Tale

“Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here. Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” 

— From a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

11. On the discord between men and women

“‘Why do men feel threatened by women?’ I asked a male friend of mine. … ‘They’re afraid women will laugh at them,’ he said. ‘Undercut their world view.’ … Then I asked some women students in a poetry seminar I was giving, ‘Why do women feel threatened by men?’ ‘They’re afraid of being killed,’ they said.”

— From Atwood’s Second Words: Selected Critical Prose, 1960-1982

12. On the challenges of expressing oneself

“All writers feel struck by the limitations of language. All serious writers.”

— From a 1990 interview with The Paris Review

13. On selfies

“I say they should enjoy it while they can. You’ll be happy later to have taken pictures of yourself when you looked good. It’s human nature. And it does no good to puritanically say, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that,’ because people do.”

— From a 2013 interview with The Telegraph

14. On the value of popular kids' series (à la Harry Potter and Percy Jackson)

"It put a lot of kids onto reading; it made reading cool. I’m sure a lot of later adult book clubs came out of that experience. Let people begin where they are rather than pretending that they’re something else, or feeling that they should be something else."

— From a 2014 interview with The Huffington Post

15. On why even the bleakest post-apocalyptic novels are, deep down, full of hope

“Any novel is hopeful in that it presupposes a reader. It is, actually, a hopeful act just to write anything, really, because you’re assuming that someone will be around to [read] it.”

— From a 2011 interview with The Atlantic 

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China's New Tianjin Binhai Library is Breathtaking—and Full of Fake Books
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A massive new library in Tianjin, China, is gaining international fame among bibliophiles and design buffs alike. As Arch Daily reports, the five-story Tianjin Binhai Library has capacity for more than 1 million books, which visitors can read in a spiraling, modernist auditorium with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

Several years ago, municipal officials in Tianjin commissioned a team of Dutch and Japanese architects to design five new buildings, including the library, for a cultural center in the city’s Binhai district. A glass-covered public corridor connects these structures, but the Tianjin Binhai Library is still striking enough to stand out on its own.

The library’s main atrium could be compared to that of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum in New York City. But there's a catch: Its swirling bookshelves don’t actually hold thousands of books. Look closer, and you’ll notice that the shelves are printed with digital book images. About 200,000 real books are available in other rooms of the library, but the jaw-dropping main room is primarily intended for socialization and reading, according to Mashable.

The “shelves”—some of which can also serve as steps or seating—ascend upward, curving around a giant mirrored sphere. Together, these elements resemble a giant eye, prompting visitors to nickname the attraction “The Eye of Binhai,” reports Newsweek. In addition to its dramatic main auditorium, the 36,000-square-foot library also contains reading rooms, lounge areas, offices, and meeting spaces, and has two rooftop patios.

Following a three-year construction period, the Tianjin Binhai Library opened on October 1, 2017. Want to visit, but can’t afford a trip to China? Take a virtual tour by checking out the photos below.

A general view of the Tianjin Binhai Library
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People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman taking pictures at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A man visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A woman looking at books at China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

A general view of China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

People visiting China's Tianjin Binhai Library.
FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images

[h/t Newsweek]

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