A Political Children's Book With Universal AppealHannah Tennant-Moore
The political cartoonist Tom Tomorrow has written his first children’s book about a penguin who gets a town to stop blindly following their mayor’s “very silly ideas.” Once Sparky the Penguin starts speaking out against the insanity of forcing all the town’s residents to, for instance, paint their houses green and purple, the whole town gradually admits that they were just going along with the mayor because they didn’t want to be laughed at.
I love Tomorrow’s witty, incisive cartoons, so I expected to enjoy The Very Silly Mayor, a picture book aimed at kids four to eight years-old. What I didn’t expect was that it was actually written for four-year-olds. While adults could certainly draw some parallels between The Very Silly Mayor and the political climate of the last eight years, young kids could just as easily fall in love with the book without ever thinking it’s about anything more than a funny mayor and a cool penguin.
Sure, you could substitute George W. Bush for the “very silly mayor,” but you could also substitute anybody who people blindly follow: the school bully, a hypocritical preacher. The penguin’s calm, commonsense approach to righting wrongs teaches kids that it’s much easier to speak their minds than they may think. And the mayor’s “silly ideas”–such as fighting fires with peanut butter and making police officers wear clown suits–are sure to have kids laughing out loud.
If you’re still concerned that the book will be too political to captivate kids, take a look at this video, in which a young reader summarizes the plot. There’s lots of mention of penguins, firetrucks, and “nice dogs,” but, oddly enough, no allusion to Dubya.