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ubiquitous childhood question “why?” Such questioning doesn’t turn out so well for little Paul in the book’s selection from Fairy Tales for Workers’ Children, titled “Why?”. As the fat matron of the poorhouse where the boy lives answers, “Everything is as it is and therefore it is right.” This sounds a lot like “because I said so,” which comes out of my own mouth now and then. And while this might be a fine response when we’re talking about staying out of the street or picking up toys, it’s not good enough when we’re talking about poverty or civil rights or war. But Paul doesn’t give in to incuriosity, even when “the question stands between me and all the other people who do not ask the question like a big wall and this makes me so lonesome” This is not what we would call a happy ending, but it’s an ending I want my kids to hear. And Paul eventually learns that other people are asking questions too, and that if he listens hard he might be able to hear them. Poet Eve Merriam is included here writing about the characters in her own Independent Voices collection: “What appealed especially was their gumptionnot hesitating to look and act like a fooland the pinch of mischief along with the high purpose and morality in each of their personalities:’ She was talking about specific historical figures, including reformers Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass, to whom her verse pays tribute, but she could also have been talking about the essence of good old-fashioned dissent, the necessary friction that comes with imagining what could be, instead of just accepting what is. I like to think she is also describing the kind of parenting this book advocates. Sure, the characters in these stories break rules, but that’s because something has been shown to be more important than rules. Like equality, clean air, peace and imagination. When I was a kid I owned a copy of The Important Book, by Margaret Wise Brown, known best for Goodnight Moon. I hated The Important Book. It presented everyday objects like spoons and trees and then defined the most important part of each. I remember thinking, but what if I don’t think that’s the important part? POETRY I ABE LOUISE YOUNG Innocuous as it seems, The Important Book staked a clear claim about what children should think about how the world works. A book in which everyone drives her own car, or every character is white, does the same thing. It says, “This is normal.” One could say that Tales for Little Rebels makes the claim that every wide range of forgotten and overlooked texts addressing progressive themes, and by provoking a closer look at what the books we already own imply, Mickenberg and Nel have done parents and kids alike a truly important service. Jenny Browne is an assistant professor of English at Trinity University and the author of three collections of poems, most recently The Second Reason \(University to 2-year-old Harriet and 5-year-old Lyda Rose, who were, respectively, a rock star and a queen for Halloween. They asked for a red fish for Christmas, and got one. REFUGE lives in books she reads while sucking chocolate and Tabasco sauce in books that scrub her clean like a boar-bristle brush in books of loofah, steel-wire, Brillo books refuge lives in books like a head of garlic, books sewn into a dress in books on the cuisine of every continent the hairstyles of tribal healers, the rituals of girl and boyhood, books with a warrant for her arrest refuge lives in books she keeps on a shelf to tell her she deserves life in books that name rape rape, books that name rape love in books that name a reason to despair then repair the souls that are broken with new books refuge lives in books she can read only with her fingers or feet books of her lover’s limbs, delivered vibrationally to her, amber, gold, saffron books she has to drop her words for, become a speechless animal refuge lives in books that are balconies, beer bottles, bric-a-brac books hanging from the antler rack of a deer on the wall of a bar in books she turns on herself like white-hot irons in a book which doesn’t begin or end a book scrolling from her mother’s flesh where she continues writing over her mother’s handwriting and sometimes she erases her mother’s words and sometimes finds a thousand-year-old woman puttering irritably in a kitchen beneath them a garden of lynchings, a riot of iris bulbs and orchid blooms a box of birds she can unlatch a box, a book, a body coming clean in the presence of your eyes Abe Louise Young lives and writes in Austin. JANUARY 9, 2009 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11