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The 5 Things Kids Can Learn By Reading the Orangey-Tan

These are especially challenging times – and for parents of young children, it can be hard to watch the news (or browse social media!) and not have the gut-punch realization that we’re going to have to explain to our kids just how the world got so turned around: that they really shouldn’t follow the examples of the people entrusted to lead us, and maybe shouldn’t question basic scientific principles simply because they heard grown-ups doing so on TV! 

I’m not saying that there’s only one person responsible for the current state of our topsy-turvy world (well, not solely) –– just that it may be time to be reminded of the basic lessons we learned as kids, to help our own little ones navigate this period of time. Conveniently, there’s a book for that! 

I originally wrote the Orangey-Tan as a story that I would use to explain the past four years to my own child – but do so in a way that talks about the underlying values and why they are important. (For those who question whether we should be exposing our kids to these sorts of issues, I wrote a blog about that). As a result, the Orangey-Tan has lots of lessons you can share with your kids (aside from the sheer satisfaction of reading along as the Manimals oust their own reality-distorting, preening, orange ape and his hateful ideology from their kingdom!). And since it’s personalized, your child becomes the hero of the story and can really “live” the lessons!

1. All creatures are equal

It’s sad that we even need to remind people of this, but as His Roli-Poliness the Dally Llama says, “All creatures are born equal”. When we ignore that fundamental truth by, say, enabling the Orangey-Tan to cage or deport someone at whim (“No more bad hombres!”), we’re just making things worse for everyone. As your child says in a stirring speech (with liberal borrowings from Martin Luther King):

…I have a dream, a dream that will not fade.
That all Manimals, whatever their stripe or shade,
Will know what I hold to be absolutely true:
That all creatures are equal, just like me and you.

2. A lie, no matter how often told, is still a lie

We’ve been ensconced within a world where alternate facts have ruled and destroyed reality, but weren’t we always taught to never tell lies? Despite the sheer volume and repetition of lies coming from the mouths of our leader(ship), we can’t lose sight of that simple lesson: lying is never a good policy. Don’t be like the Orangey-Tan and live in an alternate reality, like a “Mad King George” sequestered out of view, “muttering, ‘I won. I won. I won.’ ”

3. Ask for help when you don’t know what to do

There’s always someone smarter and wiser who can help you. Don’t feel shy to ask for help when you feel like you need it. Even a king like DandyLion gets stumped from time to time, and when he did, he didn’t hesitate to consult with your child for some answers. 

4. Never be afraid to stand up and say: “No, this is not OK”

The Orangey-Tan may have had a remarkable power to electrify his followers and fill seats at his rallies, but if he hoped that all Manimals would simply fall in line behind his cruel rhetoric, he got a big surprise. Inspired by your child, the Manimals resisted his cruel moves, and eventually managed to get him out. 

This is a powerful lesson for children – and adults too, and one I passionately believe to be true: that large change happens by lots of small acts of personal courage. 

As DandyLion says in the end: 

We should never take our freedoms for granted.
It’s too easy for injustice to spread once planted.
It is our duty to stand up and say, ‘This is not OK’,
And we must all resist, each in our own way.” 

5. Non-violence is the best form of civil resistance

To the extent you are resisting, the most effective way of doing so is through peaceful protest, just like the Manimals did when repudiating the Orangey-Tan’s efforts to sow division amongst them. As your child says in the book:

“…The plan is to constantly resist!
       We must pretend like Orangey doesn’t exist.
       We’ll undo his every decision, ignore his every action.
       And we’ll keep doing it till we get a reaction!”

Civil disobedience and peaceful protest are tried and tested means of effecting change, and nothing is more powerful than seeing hundreds and thousands of people gathered together, united in a cause they all believe in. 

It can also be a fun family activity! ☺

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