A Child's First Book of Trump and more: Playground Insults
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By M Lynx Qualey
Once upon a time, children’s books about US presidents, candidates, and spouses were a saccharine and cuddly bunch. Both Republicans and Democrats got uplifting picture-book portraits featuring their pets, children, and accomplishments. But 2016 has been a year of upending the usual—and perhaps it’s only natural that a candidate who seems at his ease trading playground insults finds his way into a different sort of kid lit.
“The beasty is called an American Trump. / Its skin is bright orange, its figure is plump. / Its fur so complex you might get enveloped. / Its hands though are, sadly, underdeveloped.”
The first week of July, comics giant Marvel unveiled a new super-villain in the all-ages Spider-Gwen Annual #1. This dastardly villain steps into an alternate Marvel universe based around Earth-65 to harry the African-American Samantha Wilson, who serves as that world’s Captain America.
The villain, who appears near the issue’s end, isn’t called Donald J. Trump. His name is M.O.D.A.A.K. (Mental Organism Designed as America's King). But readers leafing through the new issue had little trouble recognizing the Republican presidential candidate: He calls this Captain America “foreign filth” even though she was born in Waco, Texas; he focuses on his “powerful” hands; and, well, he looks exactly like a giant-headed, tiny-limbed Donald Trump.
Comics can be read by all ages, and the humor was surely directed at adult Marvel fans. But Marvel’s was not the only full-color satire of Trump released this month.
On July 5, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers published a picture book by comedian Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal. A Child’s First Book of Trump makes no bones about the name of its villain.
Like Marvel’s Jason Latour, Black jumps straight to the hand jokes: “The beasty is called an American Trump. / Its skin is bright orange, its figure is plump. / Its fur so complex you might get enveloped. / Its hands though are, sadly, underdeveloped.”
The book is categorized as humor, much like the ham-handed Trump for Principal: A Children's Book for American Grownups, a short, illustrated novel where Mexican second-graders are deported. But Trump for Principal was published by the tiny Books on a Whim, Inc.
By contrast, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers is one of the major publishers of children’s books, and they’ve also previously brought out heroic, cuddly picture books about candidates for both parties. Moreover, A Child’s First Book of Trump really can be read with one’s children, who have probably heard plenty about the 2016 GOP candidate.
Indeed, A Child’s First Book of Trump is more likely to work as giggly bedtime reading than as a laugh for adults, who might find its 32 pages a bit abrupt. The book’s also got Seussian rhyme, charming art, and a moral: that the only way to fight the Trump is to tune him out, as, “Ignoring a Trump is a Trump’s biggest fear.”
Black told the Chicago Tribune that the idea for the book came to him as he passed through the children's books section of a Barnes & Noble and saw a book about Hillary Clinton aimed at encouraging and inspiring young girls.
"It sort of made me laugh because I was wondering what possible inspirational book could you write about Trump," Black told the Tribune.
The Trump-as-star-of-kid-lit phenomenon arguably began with the candidate’s appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last December. That’s when Kimmel and his writers put together a Seuss-alike children’s book, Winners Aren’t Losers, which they by-lined Donald Trump. The former reality TV star laughed along as Kimmel read lines like: “There are two kinds of people / Which one will you be? / A loser like them? / Or a winner... / ...like ME!”
Trump seemed to like it so well that he was photographed shortly after reading the book to his granddaughter Chloe Sophia.
Elizabeth Bird, writing in the School Library Journal blog this March, noted that in 2008 Simon and Schuster put out serious children’s books about Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. This election year, by contrast, Bird expected only fresh titles about Hillary:
What I will say is that in the children’s book publishing industry few find themselves surprised when only one candidate gets a book. I’m no psychic, but I think it’s safe to say that we probably won’t be seeing a Trump or [Ted] Cruz picture book bio from a mainstream publisher in the next year. Now I could be wrong, but the difference between McCain and these two potential candidates is immense. Quite frankly, McCain was better suited to the format.
Bird updated her post a day later with evident surprise at the news of Black’s book. Apparently Trump is suited to the format after all.
Republican candidate Mitt Romney, in what was perhaps a bad sign for his 2012 presidential campaign, didn’t rate a children’s book. Amazon lists only one, and it’s from the white-nationalist StormFront Entertainment, a comic titled Political Power: Mitt Romney. It didn’t come out until 2015, three years after Romney lost to Barack Obama.