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).
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
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that I can relate to this one. My almost-two-year-old sometimes says goodnight to the iPad. She also says goodnight to the dogs, goodnight to the tricycle, goodnight to her cup and goodnight to Elmo. I digress. 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.’”