Tom Tomorrow

I’m a long time fan of his work. His instant-classic comics appear, if you are lucky,  in your local alt-weekly newspaper. Tom Tomorrow has the unmatched ability to lay bare the surrealism of our political discourse. Squeaky clean 1950’s archetypes spout mindless talking points like machines, unaware of how badly they have gone off the rails. The absurdity of it all becomes crystal clear.  It is always a wild ride with Tom Tomorrow at the helm. And yet, the weekly installments leave you feeling more grounded on earth, even as our space cadet  leaders threaten to shoot us all to deep space nine.

A couple of years ago I was excited to see that he’d put out a children’s book called, “The Very Silly Mayor.”  It says a lot about this pointed political satirist that he was able to create a book, which affirms a pro-civic-engagement message without taking any partisan political side. It doesn’t tell kids to be Democrats or Republicans or Anarchists. What it does is demonstrate the  crucial importance of being actively involved in civic matters.

The Very Silly Mayor is an update on The Emperor’s New Clothes, but much sillier and funnier.  Confronting political craziness and engaging with elected officials, making sure they aren’t losing touch with reality- these are the requirements of a functioning democracy.  The book deals with the psychology of speaking out about the silly ideas that sometimes come tumbling out of our elected officials offices. Everyone knows the mayor is full of it, but nobody wants to risk speaking up and getting laughed at. Kids can relate to that. Tom Tomorrow even demonstrates the way that the media contributes to group think, which is a tall order for a book for children, but he totally pulls it off.

So many kids’ books these days lack any point, they seem so slight and ethereal. They don’t have any words, or not the words that kids need to know.  Their main value seems to be in lulling children to sleep. A worthy goal, but surely not the most important quality in children’s lit.  I’d like to see more concrete concepts portrayed in all children’s media.  Good kids’ books should make kids think and “The Very Silly Mayor” does just that.

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