IT'S A LONG WAY FROM DICK AND JANE TO HIROSHIMA. YET check out the books at your kid's school library, and you will see how thoroughly we have traversed that distance. Curriculum "relevance" used to be the battle cry of bearded university students. It has now made its way into the picture books of seven-year-olds.

The revolt against the blandness of Dick and Jane has given us a wave of socially conscious tomes for little ones. They are to be exposed to the underside of life as soon as they can read. As if to confirm the trend, Smoky Night, a...

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