Books

Publisher pulls controversial children’s book parody

Amid a firestorm of criticism on social media over the publication of its parody of children’s books, “Bad Little Children’s Books: KidLit Parodies, Shameless Spoofs, and Offensively Tweaked Covers,’’ publisher Abrams announced on Sunday that it would pull the book.

In a statementon its Tumblr account Abrams explained its decision, saying that in the past few days some commentators on social media “have taken elements of the book out of context, failing to recognize it as an artistic work of social satire and comic parody. They argue that it lends credence to the hateful views that the author’s work is clearly meant to mock, demean, expose, and subvert.’’

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The book, published Sept. 6, was written by an unknown illustrator under the pen name Arthur C. Gackley. The parody book covers, done in the style of the Golden Books series, range from the more innocuous, if edgy (“Little Dysfunctional House on the Prairie’’; “Schmuckleberry Finn’’; “Even Girls Fart’’) to the potentially offensive (“Poems About Sluts,’’ “The Anti-Vaccine Kid: And the Gift of a Navajo Blanket Riddled With Smallpox,’’ “Rockets and Missiles of the Islamic State,’’ “Happy Burkaday, Timmy,’’ “The First Time Asian Driver’’).

News reports say that one of the first denouncements of the book was made on Friday by blogger Kelly Jensen in a piece titled “It’s Not Funny. It’s Racist.’’ “I am not ‘too sensitive,’ ” Jensen begins. “I’m quite dark hearted and I find dark humor to be something wildly enjoyable . . . But there comes a point when ‘funny’ becomes straight up hate and when that hate is straight-up racist.’’

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Over the weekend, criticism on social media began to mount. In response, Abrams released a statement on Saturday saying it would stand by the book and printed a statement in support of the publisher by the National Coalition Against Censorship.

One day later Abrams said it would pull the book, “respecting the author’s request.’’ The release included a note by the author who said “the book is clearly not being read by some in the way I had intended — as satire — and, more disturbingly, is being misread as the very act of hate and bigotry that the work was meant to expose, not promote.’’

When it was published the book had been favorably blurbed by Caldecott winner Chris Raschka and author David Kirk, among others. In a Aug. 24 Huffington Post piece titled “Parody of ‘Little Golden Books’ From Your Childhood Is Hilariously Twisted,’’ Andy McDonald described the book as giving “[b]eloved children’s stories . . . the awkward and mildly horrific facelift you never knew they needed’’

Paul S. Makishima can be reached at makishima@globe.com.
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