It’s a book! It’s a game! It’s got a sticker, and a token, and a secret message! There’s a map of a very special island! BRAVE Books’ new release Fame, Blame, and the Raft of Shame, by U.S. Congressman Dan Crenshaw, packs in all of that and more—promising hours of pure fun along with moments of insight as elementary-school children learn to resist the cancel culture.
Rep. Crenshaw, Republican Congressman from Texas and former Navy SEAL, was seriously injured in an explosion in Iraq in 2012, suffering the loss of his right eye and impaired vision in his left eye. Despite his massive injuries, Crenshaw remained upbeat and determined; and it is that positive outlook that he hopes to pass along to the younger generation through Fame, Blame, and the Raft of Shame.
Crenshaw has written before about the divisive mob politics that have threatened American culture. His best-seller for adults, Fortitude: American Resilience in the Age of Outrage, encourages readers to demonstrate tolerance and resilience, and to turn away from the prevailing “safety culture” of trigger warnings and safe spaces. We must all, Crenshaw insists, lighten up, toughen up, and begin treating our fellow Americans with respect and grace.
But back to the kids’ book: The citizens of Starlotte City range from Eva, a voluptuous hippopotamus who aspires to be an actress, to Swan, a famous magician with no sense of humor. When Skunk makes a joke about Mr. Mountain Lion—who happens to have one eye and wears an eye patch just like Dan Crenshaw’s—Swan wants to make an example of him to warn others not to make cruel jokes. Skunk is hurled by the community onto the Raft of Shame and sentenced to swirl in the whirlpool.
But that was not the end. One by one, the citizens of Starlotte City—the Beaver, the Chipmunk, the Antelope—each did something which Swan deemed to be offensive. The crowd on the Raft of Shame grew larger, causing the whirlpool to soak the city.
The spell is broken when, finally, Eva breaks free from Swan’s negative influence and calls on the citizens of Starlotte City to forgive one another. “If we put Swan on the raft,” Eva warns her fellow citizens, “we’re just as mean as she is. Instead of banishing animals when they say mean things, we can choose not to listen to them.”
After the story ends, children can take the BRAVE Challenge, practicing the skills of kindness and resilience they’ve learned in the pages of Fame, Blame, and the Raft of Shame by playing games.
- Game #1, “Get Me Off This Raft!” teaches how to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness, and how to understand each other’s intentions.
- Game #2, “Operation Raft Rescue,” shows how to help others by using constructive feedback instead of tearing them down.
- And Game #3, “The Big Laugh Challenge,” helps children to understand how canceling shuts down and isolates, but laughter brings joy and communion.
The hours of tabletop fun and family conversations will, Dan Crenshaw hopes, lead to years of peaceful coexistence, as children learn to get along well with friends who have opposing viewpoints. The lessons imparted in Fame, Blame, and the Raft of Shame will result in fewer statues being toppled, fewer books being removed from library shelves, fewer high school students being rejected for their conservative viewpoints, and fewer classic films being altered with a “filter” that screens out speech that is deemed offensive.
Rep. Crenshaw says:
When we show kindness in the face of cruelty, it gives us the opportunity to break down divisions. We avoid unnecessary conflict, and can even start a friendship. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stand up for yourself, but you should do so with grace and fortitude, not bitterness and contempt.