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7 Children's Books Written in Response to Other Books

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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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Kyle Ely
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Dedicated Middle School Teacher Transforms His Classroom Into Hogwarts
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Kyle Ely

It would be hard to dread back-to-school season with Kyle Ely as your teacher. As ABC News reports, the instructor brought a piece of Hogwarts to Evergreen Middle School in Hillsboro, Oregon by plastering his classroom with Harry Potter-themed decor.

The journey into the school's makeshift wizarding world started at his door, which was decorated with red brick wall paper and a "Platform 9 3/4" sign above the entrance. Inside, students found a convincing Hogwarts classroom complete with floating candles, a sorting hat, owl statues, and house crests. He even managed to recreate the starry night sky effect of the school’s Great Hall by covering the ceiling with black garbage bags and splattering them with white paint.

The whole project cost the teacher around $300 to $400 and took him 70 hours to build. As a long-time Harry Potter fan, he said that being able to share his love of the book series with his students made it all pay off it. He wrote in a Facebook post, "Seeing their faces light up made all the time and effort put into this totally worth it."

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Inside of Harry Potter-themed classroom.

Though wildly creative, the Hogwarts-themed classroom at Evergreen Middle School isn't the first of its kind. Back in 2015, a middle school teacher in Oklahoma City outfitted her classroom with a potions station and a stuffed version of Fluffy to make the new school year a little more magical. Here are some more unique classroom themes teachers have used to transport their kids without leaving school.

[h/t ABC News]

Images courtesy of Kyle Ely.

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How the Rise of Paperback Books Turned To Kill a Mockingbird Into a Literary Classic
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Tim Boyle/Getty Images

If you went to middle or high school in the U.S. in the last few decades, chances are you’ve read To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee's now-classic novel (which was adapted into a now-classic film) about racial injustice in the South. Even if you grew up far-removed from Jim Crow laws, you probably still understand its significance; in 2006, British librarians voted it the one book every adult should read before they die. And yet the novel, while considered an instant success, wasn’t always destined for its immense fame, as we learned from the Vox video series Overrated. In fact, its status in the American literary canon has a lot to do with the format in which it was printed.

To Kill a Mockingbird came out in paperback at a time when literary houses were just starting to invest in the format. After its publication in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird was reviewed favorably in The New York Times, but it wasn’t the bestselling novel that year. It was the evolution of paperbacks that helped put it into more hands.

Prior to the 1960s, paperbacks were often kind of trashy, and when literary novels were published in the format, they still featured what Vox calls “sexy covers,” like a softcover edition of The Great Gatsby that featured a shirtless Jay Gatsby on the cover. According to a 1961 article in The New York Times, back in the 1950s, paperbacks were described as “a showcase for the ‘three S’s—sex, sadism, and the smoking gun.’” But then, paperbacks came to schools.

The mass-market paperback for To Kill a Mockingbird came out in 1962. It was cheap, but had stellar credentials, which appealed to teachers. It was a popular, well-reviewed book that earned Lee the Pulitzer Prize. Suddenly, it was in virtually every school and, even half a century later, it still is.

Learn the whole story in the video below from Vox.

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