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This book is very cute. Anny Yi’s clay portraits of the bands and punk fans are adorable, it’s written in rhyme feeling like an homage it classic children’s books. It takes the reader through a history of punk starting with protopunk bands in New York like Blondie and the New York Dolls, to the Ramones, to Detroit’s Iggy and the Stooges, on to England with the Sex Pistols and The Clash, and beyond!
I do wish this book was more diverse, while it does have a page devoted to women in punk which does highlight Poly Styrene (along with The Slits, and Siouxsie) she is the only person of color mentioned besides Bad Brains. There’s even a spread on California punk that doesn’t include any Latinx punk. There is no mention of queercore, although to be fair, my favorite looks and iconic images of queercore shows and bands probably aren’t appropriate for an adorable kids book (although I do think a clay model of Martin Sorrondeguy in assless chaps for more mature consumption would be delightful).
I would recommend having some companion pieces: Suzy X’s comic about punk and inclusion would be a great thing to read along with What Is Punk. If that’s not for you, why not have pictures of the brothers in Death and talk about them as you read about NY protopunk bands, or Iggy and the Stooges in Detroit? You could also have photos of your favorite POC punk bands talk about those bands and why you love them. At the end of the book it talks about how there’s still a punk scene and culture in the reader’s town today, if you have local bands or festivals that are POC/queer/femme (and not just music: DIY/activist too) you could show them fliers and talk to them about it. If just showing them photos and talking about bands that you love that too often get left out of punk history seems less exciting then that cute little rhyming book, you could play them music from your fav bands, and teach your favorite kids different mosh pit moves.
I hope the next cute kid’s book about punk will include more (some riot grrrl please…), because punk is such a big part of many people’s lives and it would be great to have a picture book that would allow all punks to share their passion with they kids they love. I’ll accept this as a first step though, and know a lot of punks out there will be excited to read some childish rhymes about The Descendants and The Misfits.
Bob Graham is a children’s book author and illustrator who writes charming warm and fun stories for younger readers. I want to recommend him because he writes books about working class, punk, alternative families that live in cities (whose walls are quite often covered with graffiti). These are not all of his books, but my favorites so far.
Spirit of Hope tells the story of the Fairweather family, a family with seven children a stay at home mom (who wears over overalls with red high heels) and a father who works at a factory. They are a warm and loving family with minimal resources and maximum awesome playful parents. The conflict of the story arrives when imminent domain over the land where their house is, and their journey to find another place to call home.
Let’s Get a Pup is the story of Kate and her mom (who has a tattoo) and dad (who has a fairly punk hairdo), and her decision that they need to get a puppy. So they go to the pound and find a perfect dog (or two…) to take home.
Jethro Byrd, Fairy Child: Annebelle’s dad tells her she won’t find any fairies in the cement and weeds in the backyard of their city home, but that doesn’t stop her from searching. One day the Byrds, a fairy family, van break down right where Annebelle is looking for them! Annebelle and he little brother Sam get to spend the whole afternoon with the Byrds, listen to their music, and mom even makes them all a snack (even though she can’t see the Byrds).
Oscar’s half birthday tells the story of a mixed race family who travel across their graffiti covered city to a park to celebrate their youngest member’s sixth month birthday. Millie, the older sister in homemade fiary wings; mom, who has a tattoo, a belly shirt and corn rows; and dad, who wears a loose knit hat, has a scraggly goatee, and converse sneakers just couldn’t wait a whole year to celebrate Oscar!