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Dictatorship or Democracy? A Picture Book Exploration

When I first saw this book ‘This is a Dictatorship’, on the shelves of the Tate Modern, I was intrigued. A political book amongst picture books for children!

I was drawn to the fact that it was first written in Spain soon after the end of the Franco dictatorship. The aim at the time was to explain dictatorship to the next generation. The authors and the Spanish publishers of the book believed that

“Children are interested in everything adults are interested in. You must explain things to them, even if it requires effort.”

It’s been forty years since it was first published, and I couldn’t help thinking that its message remains as relevant as ever.

My reluctance to pick it up, as I calculated the GBP-INR exchange rate, flew away when I read the afterword:

“There are countries which are said to be democratic but which nonetheless have any characteristics of a dictatorship.: countries where elections are not clean because whoever is in power plays tricks; where there isn’t clear accounting of public funds and corruption is widespread; where human rights are not respected; where laws are made behind the backs of the population; or where those who rule do not give sufficient explanations to the people they should be serving.”

Deja vu, much?

I’m going to leave the images of a few of the pages here.

Swipe left.

A wonderful book to underline what democracy is NOT, and to discuss what a democracy should be.

It has been re-illustrated with stunning images by Mikel Casal, who spent his childhood under Franco’s dictatorship.

Note the illustration on the cover…the dictator leaning onto the pillar. Note the people being crushed under the pillar.

I love the clever endpapers feature some of the most well known and notorious dictators from around the world. The front endpapers feature them in order of their birth and the back endpapers by the order of their death.

Front endpapers.

Back endpapers

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