A New Wind Blowing from the Left: The Surge of Anti-Authoritarian Picturebooks in Germany after 1968

Bettina Kümmerling-Meibauer (University of Tübingen)

In the wake of the 1968 student movement, German educationalists, authors, illustrators, and publishers turned towards children’s literature as a means to disseminate anti-authoritarian ideas. Between the years of 1968 and 1974 they produced a significant number of picturebooks, story books, theatre plays, and novels for children. Conceived as radically different to traditional children’s books, they advocated a novel children’s literature that should ignite the child’s imagination as well as provide them with the analytical tools to reason on the actual political, societal, and cultural climate in Germany.

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Father Cocagnac: the psychedelic publisher priest

By Cécile Boulaire

“Certain illustrators have a spontaneity, a freshness and a freedom of invention that go hand in hand with a total mastery of their craft. These are the artists we should turn to when we seek to enlighten children’s minds through images.”

Cocagnac A.-M. « L’esprit d’enfance ». In: Enfance, tome 21, n°5, 1968. pp. 409-414.

Even before the events of 1968, a handful of publishers in France were committed to reinvigorating picture books produced for children. Some were art publishers, often in the avant-garde, such as the photography publisher Delpire. Occasionally, other innovators were to be found in more unusual places.

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Urban society challenged. Ville, Valle & Viktor at the Swedish ‘Battle of the Elms’ (1971)

By Marie Cronqvist

“Now, when we all are sitting here – they can’t cut down the trees, can they?”

Viktor, rag doll

What is a society? When the modern city grows, who should be able to decide its path? By what means could ordinary citizens make themselves be heard in the great process of modernisation? Such questions were being asked in many countries in the years around 1970. In Sweden, they crystallized in one specific event, which occurred on the 11th and 12th of May 1971. And there was a children’s television programme there to document and interpret it.  Continue reading

Julie: the girl with a boy’s shadow

By Sophie Heywood

This blog post looks at one of the best-known anti-sexist picturebooks produced in France: Histoire de Julie qui avait une ombre de garçon, written by Christian Bruel and Anne Galland, with illustrations by Anne Bozellec (1976). Produced in the aftermath of the protest movements of ’68 and the rise of second wave feminism, Julie is a fearlessly dark exploration of the emotional fallout experienced by a little girl when her parents cannot accept her for who she is.  Continue reading

Kim Dhillon, We tell ourselves stories in order to live

Kim Dhillon, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, 2016, Commissioned by CCA, Glasgow. Courtesy of the artist.

Kim Dhillon, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live, 2016, Commissioned by CCA, Glasgow. Courtesy of the artist.

Our project partner, Kim Dhillon from Invisible Spaces of Parenthood, has just opened a new installation in Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts. ‘We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live’ explores 1970s non-sexist, multi-racial children’s books published by feminist collectives, as part of the CCA’s new exhibition Forms of Action. You can read more about some of the books and collectives featured in the exhibition in Dhillon’s blog post for us here.

Dr Elsa Richardson will be running reading group sessions at the Women’s Library in Glasgow in which visitors will read and discuss together the children’s books from the exhibition. Themes explored include: representations of genders, lesbian parents, models of care, and radical and taboo subjects for children’s books.

1968 and Children’s Illustration

A guest post by artists Sarah Blair and Bill Prosser

rumpusIn her Radical Children’s Literature Kimberley Reynolds (2007) describes the vital seam connecting children’s book design and modernist creative experiment from the 1920s onwards. She quotes Esther Averill writing on French avant-garde illustration in 1930 (p.30):

The avant-garde harps on the theme of the child. It has created a kind of religion for his sensibilities and imaginative powers, in which it reads its own better moods. It believes that the dreamlike state of mind in which it specialises and which it interprets with primitive graphic signs, is part and parcel of the child’s daily routine. In creating for the child it has trusted in his being all prehistoric art plasma, and nothing of a bloodthirsty young savage. Continue reading

Coleen the Question Girl

By Kim Dhillon

coleen-2016In the early 1970s, three independent feminist collectives were organized in the US with the purpose of writing, illustrating, publishing, and distributing non-sexist children’s books. Dissatisfied with the children’s literature on offer, and mobilized by the consciousness-raising of the Women’s Liberation Movement, these do-it-yourself styled collectives of feminist mothers wanted to broaden the range of children’s books to reflect the world they wanted their children to grow up in. Continue reading

The Little Red Schoolbook (1969)

little-red-schoolbookBy Sophie Heywood

This first blog post for our new research network offers a brief introduction to one of the most notorious examples of children’s rights activism from the period: Bo Dan Andersen, Jesper Jansen and Søren Hansen’s Den lille røde bog for skoleelever (The little red schoolbook) from 1969.
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