Right-wing media personality Ashley St. Clair opened her mail recently to find an advance copy of Johnny the Walrus, a children’s book written by fellow conservative pundit Matt Walsh.
In the book, Walsh, a podcast host at Ben Shapiro’s The Daily Wire, tells the story of a young boy forced to pretend that he’s a walrus—an ostensibly kid-friendly analogy for conservative fear-mongering about a liberal establishment they see as out to make children transition genders.
The message didn’t bother St. Clair. But the similarities between Walsh’s book and Elephants Aren’t Birds, her own recent children’s book about cross-species transitioning, enraged her. As Walsh’s book climbed the Amazon charts and earned Walsh appearances on Fox News, St. Clair tore into him on Twitter, accusing Walsh of stealing her book idea.
“It’s just a very obvious riff on mine,” St. Clair told The Daily Beast.
The feud between St. Clair and Walsh offers a glimpse into the booming world of conservative children’s books. Amid a panic over critical race theory and brainwashing from leftist public school teachers, pro-Trump parents have scrambled for their own books. In response, a children’s book has become the latest marker of right-wing celebrity.
The conservative book mania mirrors the boom in liberal children’s books prompted by Donald Trump’s election. At the trend’s most ridiculous heights, #Resistance personalities collectively known as the Krassenstein brothers published a children’s book reimagining special counsel Robert Mueller as a buff, shirtless “Robert Moral.”
Conservative figures have been putting their names on children’s books since at least the Obama administration, when talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s alter ego “Rush Revere” started teaching kids his version of American history. But now, everyone from Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) to Pizzagate promoter Jack Posobiec has a children’s book.
For her part, St. Clair attributes the growing interest in right-wing children’s books to a backlash against left-wing children’s books, as well as “all the CRT crap.”
St. Clair’s publisher, Brave Books, might have the most ambitious plan in the conservative children’s market. Each book in the Brave Books series fits into a larger literary universe about an archipelago populated by humanoid animals whose own disputes mirror the culture war in our world. In Crenshaw’s book, Fame, Blame, and the Raft of Shame, for example, animals battle cancel culture. Social media personalities The Hodgetwins have their own book published by Brave that promises to expose the “harmfulness of CRT.”
“What we’re seeing now is a boom in children’s books that are claiming the conservative label,” Zach Bell, Brave Books’ chief of staff, told The Daily Beast in an email. “Once conservative parents realized how many children’s books have a blatant progressive agenda, they began looking for something that openly claims traditional values and a conservative worldview.”
Like Brave’s other books, the promotion for St. Clair’s book centers on her status as a conservative celebrity—albeit one who once lost her position as a “brand ambassador” for Turning Point USA after posing for pictures with white nationalist Nick Fuentes. In St. Clair’s book, a villainous figure named “Culture the Vulture” tries to convince an elephant that he’s actually a bird because he likes singing. By comparison, in Walsh’s book, the mother of a human boy is bullied by a doctor into treating her son as a walrus, dousing him with water and making him eat worms.
Walsh didn’t respond to a request for comment.
St. Clair has plenty of complaints about Walsh’s similar books, saying its illustrations are “awful” and its execution “gimmicky.” Walsh’s walrus tale also features some harrowing imagery. At one point, a doctor tries to cut the boy’s hands into fins, looming over him with a surgical saw.
“They’re too on the nose, they’re lacking subtlety,” St. Clair said. “It’s not really palatable for kids.”
That hasn’t stopped Walsh’s book from garnering what appear to be impressive sales ahead of its March release. Walsh’s book ranked in Amazon’s top-10 after it was announced, and is around #50 as of this writing. The book also became Amazon’s top LGBTQ book, after it was mistakenly categorized in that section. Sales have been fueled in part by Walsh’s appearances on Fox News primetime shows hosted by Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson, where he compared the children’s section at a typical bookstore to an “antifa rally.”
St. Clair predicts this is just the first children’s book to come from Shapiro’s Daily Wire, given the hot reception greeting other conservative books for kids. She claims Walsh even alluded to her own book in his publication, with the child in Walsh’s book singing like a bird in its finale.
“‘Elephants are not birds’ is the whole fucking thing,” she said.