September 20, 2021

"Little People, Big Dreams is series of illustrated books for kids of five and over that tells the life stories of what it considers history’s admirable men and women..."

"... Darwin, Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Malala, Elton John, RuPaul… The books imagine what these high-achieving adults were like as children: bright-eyed and bravely refusing to be cowed. The back of each book explains the conceit: 'All of [these people] achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.'... It’s just plain untrue to say that the men and women of history started out by fantasising about some great achievement. Marie Curie didn’t spend her time hankering for a Nobel Prize, she just got on with studying the science. In no possible world was John Lennon 'the boy from Liverpool who dreamed of peace.' Lennon as a child, in his own words, ‘did my best to disrupt every friend’s home.' What unites great men and women isn’t a capacity to dream big but a love of what they do and a capacity for sheer graft.... [There's a] weird 21st-century idea that childish things are especially virtuous, and that it’s noble, not deluded, to dream of greatness...."

From "Is it cruel to crush your child’s dreams?" Mary Wakefield (The Spectator).

43 comments:

rehajm said...

…by graft I’d like to think they mean hard work but I shouldn’t assume…

Misinforminimalism said...

Can't wait for the sequel when they show a bunch of four year olds in Baltimore dreaming of becoming drug dealers, splitting their time between gunning down innocent bystanders and beating up their girlfriends. Because obviously we all live out our childhood dreams.

rehajm said...

Influencer and activist seem to be the greatest career ambitions at the moment…

gilbar said...

Misinforminimalism said...
Can't wait for the sequel when they show a bunch of four year olds in Baltimore dreaming of becoming drug dealers,

Now do the Baltimore four year old girls!

h said...

Let me know when they bring one of these books about the African American who has had more influence on American culture and American history than any other: Clarence Thomas.

Enigma said...

Children are by definition immature and see the world in bright and simple comic book categories. Their brains build and rebuild themselves as their bodies grow and learn about the world.

On one hand it doesn't matter what adults tell children because they'll revert to biological norms over ideology. Dogs are dogs. Cats are cats. People are people. Teenagers are teenagers and will naturally challenge the status quo whatever it happens to be.

On the other hand, adults can imprint arbitrary standards and ways of reasoning. Sometimes these make no sense and descend into blind ideology.

This strikes me as little different than the old concepts of the Noble Savage or Rugged Individualist or an Historical Great Person or a special person Touched By God as taught over hundreds and thousands of years. The impact ranges from harmless to dysfunctional per the narrowness or inflexibility of those who focus on single concepts.

David Begley said...

RuPaul?

And who is Mailia?

Scot said...

Mahatma Gandhi is a subject in this series. We already know his social ideas were "complicated" when he lived in South Africa. If more research uncovers something "troubling" or worse, could the great man be cancelled? Maybe he called a rock a mean name.

Mike (MJB Wolf) said...

Everybody knows little Mary Wollstonecraft dreamed of writing about resurrecting her dead young husband! It’s right there in her diaries!

Howard said...

Greatness comes from the accomplishment of dreams that could not be crushed. Diamonds require pressure, pearls require the oyster to endure sand irritation.

Imagine van Gogh's childhood dreams of being a mentally ill hobo living off his brothers largesse completely obsessed with drawing and painting.

tim in vermont said...

You know how you get to be the greatest violinist in the world? You improve a tiny bit every few days and celebrate those tiny victories, not by dreaming of greatness. And your distant dreams can't get you back to practice every day, only your enjoyment of the tiny victories can keep you coming back.

A better book for kids would be a children's treatment of The Power of Habit. It might also be well to accept that great gifts are parceled out unevenly and unfairly.

Tom T. said...

I thought this was going to be the latest iteration of Little People, Big World, the reality series that has been hanging around TLC for fifteen years.

Mary Beth said...

If someone lives out a childhood dream, they are probably living their parents' dream. What child has had the chance to experience life and know himself well enough to pick out his own dream at that age?

Critter said...

The obsession with notable accomplishments can be self-defeating. How many kids will have the musical talent of Elton John? It would be far more valuable to share stories of people who grew up to live moral lives and inspired those around them. Temporal success is ephemeral and often the product of right place, right time. Madame Curie is admirable for her devotion to science more than her accomplishments. For how she lived her life. Books like these should feature people who reached the heights of the less talented but contributed to a better world in their sphere of influence. The luckiest people are those for whom their mother and/or father are their role models.

Kevin said...

From "Is it cruel to crush your child’s dreams?"

Yes, Critical Race Theory is cruel.

Kevin said...

If someone lives out a childhood dream, they are probably living their parents' dream. What child has had the chance to experience life and know himself well enough to pick out his own dream at that age?

Veterinarian and astronaut are not typical adult dreams.

Nor are princess and mermaid.

Paddy O said...

I didnt know they were all little people.

madAsHell said...

... Darwin, Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Malala, Elton John, RuPaul…

Some of these are not like the other......

I'm surprised that Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden were overlooked!!

Paddy O said...

"This is political signalling through the medium of... and it comes at a cost."

This it has always been so. The models and mediums change but every generation, maybe even every parent, has models they want their kids to emulate.

But it's a good article because it calls out the dysfunction of taking it without discernment. And some obsessions are much more helpful than others. Marie Curie is a great example, RuPaul...not as much

Paddy O said...

Mark Twain highlighted in places how Southern obsession with the writings of Sir Walter Scott led to social modeling of heroic knighthood and supposed feudalism that fed into generations primed to keep slavery and fight the Civil War as some kind of noble endeavor.

JPS said...

Critter,

"Madame Curie is admirable for her devotion to science more than her accomplishments."

Respectfully, lots and lots of people you'll never hear about are inspiringly devoted to science. It's her accomplishments that really set her apart. Her devotion to science, how she lived her life, were necessary but not sufficient.

This, from Wakefield,

"Marie Curie didn’t spend her time hankering for a Nobel Prize, she just got on with studying the science."

reminds me of a lovely xkcd in which Zombie Marie Curie shows up to impart some words of wisdom to a girl advised she could be "the next Marie Curie" if she applied herself. Among others:

"But you don't become great by trying to be great. You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process."

xkcd 896: Marie Curie

Dave Begley said...

"Malala Yousafzai, often referred to mononymously as Malala, is a Pakistani activist for female education and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. She is also the world's youngest Nobel Prize laureate, and second Pakistani. Wikipedia"

Never heard of her until today.

PM said...

... Darwin, Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Malala, Elton are worthy of attention, though Frankenstein is a little scary for 5-yos. RuPaul is just a clotheshorse, but of course, so much much more.

stlcdr said...

Blogger tim in vermont said...
You know how you get to be the greatest violinist in the world? You improve a tiny bit every few days and celebrate those tiny victories, not by dreaming of greatness. And your distant dreams can't get you back to practice every day, only your enjoyment of the tiny victories can keep you coming back.

A better book for kids would be a children's treatment of The Power of Habit. It might also be well to accept that great gifts are parceled out unevenly and unfairly.

9/20/21, 8:28 AM


An yet the Democrats keep harping on that 'you can't get ahead because of the evil republicans holding you back'.

Everything requires work. Digging a hole is work, but you have to dig it in the right place: only then, have you achieved something.

madAsHell said...

And who is Mailia?

Obama's daughter of course!!.......Don't you know ANYTHING!! /SARC

She appears to be the Pakistani Maya Angelou. Well regarded, Nobel prizes, but nobody reads that shit.

Eric said...

“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.”

― Terry Pratchett, The Wee Free Men

David53 said...

Quentin Tarantino’s Mom tried to crush his dreams to be a screenplay writer and look what happened.

Quentin Tarantino told the podcast "The Moment" that he stuck to his vow never to give his mom a "penny" of his fortune after she belittled his writing as a child…Tarantino recalled a time his mother, Connie Zastoupil, scolded him because she had a hard time about his scholastic non-ability. “OK, lady, when I become a successful writer, you will never see penny one from my success…there will be no house for you. There's no vacation for you, no Elvis Cadillac for mommy. You get nothing.” And he stuck to his word.

So if your kid isn’t doing well in school, don’t scold them, they can make it just like Quentin did and become a renowned writer, director, and jerk.

hstad said...

"...[There's a] weird 21st-century idea that childish things are especially virtuous..." Ann so true! Just look at our Colleges acquiescing to kids 17 - 22. Since when are these children mature enough to know what's going on. Hell, most of them don't even know who the Vice President of the USA is?

Interested Bystander said...

I saw a film or article some years ago that claimed if you ask ghetto teenagers what they planned to do when they grow up about half were going to professional basketball players.


Dream all you want but reality is going to rise up and bite you in the ass sooner rather than later.

Narr said...

To answer the question posed, "Depends on the kid and the dream."

I saw a Lincoln scholar on CSpan (can't recall who, exactly) make a funny observation about the Young Abe's dad and how much physical labor he demanded of his son. To paraphrase, he
gets an image of a tall, bearded, solemn, sad-faced President Abraham Lincoln glaring at his stupid old man from behind a plowhorse.



Big Mike said...

FWIW, when he was growing up the big dream of Luciano Pavarotti was to be a professional soccer player.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

madAsHell said...

I'm surprised that Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden were overlooked!!

Per the author's website there is a recent release about Michelle Obama, I'm Dr. Jill isn't far behind.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Is it cruel to crush your child’s dreams?

Depends on the dream. In some cases you'd probably be doing them a favor if you did.

effinayright said...

Tarantino's story reminds me that Jeffrey Dahmer also took revenge against his mom, who tried to prevent him from achieving his dream ... of becoming a world-class gourmet chef.

honest!

Joe Smith said...

'You know how you get to be the greatest violinist in the world?'

Speaking of which, how do you get to Carnegie Hall?

cfkane1701 said...

Another grand dream of children and young adults is to "change the world." Following on the Spectator writer's snark, most parents would do well to tell their children that many of the people who actually changed the world did so for the worse.

They might also teach them about the law of unintended consequences, which is a corollary to the rule of omelettes, i.e., you'll have to break some eggs, and some people don't want their eggs broken.

Since when did it become not enough to live a virtuous life, work so that you can be independent, age gracefully, and help the people around you?

Bunkypotatohead said...

The kids can't read so the point is moot.

Jamie said...

Veterinarian and astronaut are not typical adult dreams.

Nor are princess and mermaid.


But not many little girls (it's all girls, isn't it?) actually become vets, astronauts, princesses, or mermaids, so you don't have to worry about squashing those dreams.

By contrast - my daughter, now a sophomore in college, declared her intent to become a corporate banker at age 12. She did this by asking her dad to take her to dinner for her birthday (which, because they are the same very frugal person, involved their sharing a very nice steak) and interviewing him: what exactly did he do? How much money did he make? What were other related careers in his field? Where was the best places to get such jobs, and did he have contacts there? Where was the best place to go to college in order to get one of these jobs?

Over the years she was temporarily drawn to "change the world"... but she's now pursuing a double major in math and finance at a university with an amazingly strong alumni network and is joining every club she can think of to build connections. She looks just like me, but she is quintessentially her father's daughter. And he would never have dreamed of squelching that dream!

Leora said...

I remember a series like this from my local library when I was a kid in the 50's early 60's. It featured Marie Curie, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Elizabeth Blackwell, some woman who dressed as a man to fight in the Civil War. I remember thinking it was odd that my fellow female students seemed more interested in learning sign language and braille than learning how to fly or shoot a gun.

I was an adult before I realized the elderly librarian was a suffragette back in the day.

Leora said...

Isn't Mailia the girl who got shot in the head for going to school? Not sure I'd take that as a goal.

Lurker21 said...

I'm not sure I want kids to be too inspired by RuPaul.

In the Fifties and Sixties, The Childhood of Famous Americans series from the Bobbs Merrill publishing company ran to scores of volumes. They all had titles like John Wanamaker, Young Merchant; Juliette Low, Girl Scout; Paul Revere, Boy of Old Boston; Jessie Fremont, Girl of Capitol Hill; George Westinghouse, Young Inventor; Raphael Semmes: Tidewater Boy, and John Paul Jones: Saltwater Boy.

The books described the childhoods and later lives of American historical figures. I don't know how much of the earlier stuff was fictionalized. We know nothing about the early life of Virginia Dare, Mystery Girl or Nancy Hanks, Kentucky Girl, so those books must have been mostly made up by the authors.

The original books are probably not likely to be revived -- too many slaveowners, Confederates and Indian-fighters -- but a new series was started a few years back with more politically correct heroes. When I was ten and eleven I read dozens of the books in the original series. They were probably the only things I did read. The books got me reading and interested in history.

Bobbs Merrill was headquartered in Indianapolis, which was unusual for a major publisher then or now. They were bought out by SAMS, the computer book company that was later bought out by Macmillan.

Big Mike said...

Marie Curie didn’t spend her time hankering for a Nobel Prize, she just got on with studying the science.

As a matter of fact, young Marie Skłodowska (Madame Curie’s maiden name) couldn’t have hankered after a Nobel Prize asa little girl. She was born in 1867 and was 34 when the first Nobel was awarded in 1901.

Unknown said...

I read books about famous scientists and was inspired to become a scientist. By college, I just wanted to make a living as a scientist. The "famous" part was dropped as a "dream". I met this goal.