Monday, February 19, 2007

Newbery Controversy

Have you gals heard about this controversy surrounding The Higher Power of Lucky? Thoughts?

16 comments:

catherine said...

I'm guessing that anyone super fired up about Higher Power of Lucky won't be buying an anatomically correct baby doll from www.kidsandgrandkids.com?

Flusianna said...

As an academic librarian, I am fundamentally opposed to any censorship. However, I have not yet read this book so I can't tell whether the word is used in context of the book or seems out of place. We have ordered the book and I look forward to reading it when it arrives. Thinking it through a little further, scrotum might be one of the nicer words children learn for this particular body part!

Betsy said...

hahahaha...both of you make good points.

Moni said...

This quote from the article sums up my feelings:
“The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole,” she said. “That’s what censors do — they pick out words and don’t look at the total merit of the book.”

They are banning the book over a single word. How ridiculous. And it's not even a bad word. It's a freaking body part. Our society is so annoyingly uptight.

As a librarian I am also fundamentally against censorship. And these teacher librarians should be too.

Corinne said...

I don't believe in banning a book over one world - or in banning books at all. It certainly wouldn't stop ME from reading the book. I don't think it's "uptight" of me, however, if I wouldn't want to explain or talk about the word scrotum to a class of third graders. If a book is absolutely going to be read aloud to elementary aged students, why do we have to talk about male genitalia at all?

Alicia said...

My thought: Oh for Chrissake will you people [you people who are flipping out over using "scrotum" that is] chill out! Makes me want to write a picture book called "The Happy Ball Sack" or "The Prunes between your Legs."

I have no patience for hand-wringing.

Bekah said...

Well, I'd have to read the book to be able to give a reasonable opinion, but after reading the article I'd have to say that the thing is overblown. I'd really much rather my children know the proper names of their body parts, and the audience seems to be at a reasonable age to know them. I can understand that some parents might not feel the same way. It should be the parents who decide which books are appropriate for their families, not the librarians. I think in a lot of places, parents either are not willing to put forth the effort to evaluate their children's reading before passing it on to them, or have decided that other parents are not competent to do so because they've chosen differently and try to usurp others' parental authority through the school library.

Melissa said...

I totally agree. But, if you actually read the quote (it's referring to a dog getting bitten on the scrotum), you'd realize that it's completely harmless.

On related note, an article in today's paper told of a woman who was driving in her car with her 12 year old niece and got offended at a marquee for The Vagina Monologues. She complained, and they changed it to "The Hooha Monologues" until the cast complained and they changed it back.

Some people just have to complain, I guess.

Bekah said...

"Hooha Monologues"

Now THAT's hilarious!!!

Sandy D. said...

A friend of wrote about this (see http://naomikritzer.livejournal.com/144317.html ) and one of the comments perceptively noted that few banners would have even seen 'scrotum' if it wasn't on page 1 of the book.

Melissa said...

A blog I read -- Brooklyn Arden -- had a lot of interesting and insightful thoughts on the whole scrotum debacle. Including this:

"Though I have to say I'm frustrated with The Higher Power of Lucky getting all this press because of one little word, when I edited an absolutely brilliant book where God disappears and Jesus is seen as friendly but useless -- and no one has challenged it yet! This follows the general trend among book-banners where they're so obsessed with the overt content of a book that they miss the larger and much more dangerous point . . . people who go after Harry Potter before His Dark Materials, for example."

I thought that was very interesting.

Bekah said...

I find it very interesting that Pullman keeps getting referenced here. And quite so, too. I actually enjoyed (after working to ignore the blatant anti-Catholicism, since I am Catholic) the Golden Compass, but there is absolutely no way I would allow my kids to read that as a child or young adult. Maybe high school, if I'm positive they're well grounded in their faith. lol This is such a different element than a word. These are ideas that to a susceptible child could have an impact on the way I want my child to grow up, embracing the things I believe to be true.

That said, I still would not promote the banning of his books. It's my job as the parent to approve my children's reading. In the case of Harry Potter, we decided that later books were too heavily themed with death for our kids to be exposed at a young age. We've only this year allowed our oldest to begin reading the series. I'm not concerned with the "magic" elements, but more their encountering disturbing themes before they're emotionally ready to handle them.

I still remember being disturbed by Bridge to Teribithia. In fact, it strongly colored my memory of that book. With kids that are just beginning to enjoy reading, like my 9 year old, I don't want these themes to create unnecessary barriers.

'Nough rambling. ;)

Melissa said...

You have a valid point, bekah. I guess the question then, is, would you want your child's teacher reading The Higher Power of Lucky (or any other book with disturbing language, themes, etc.) out loud in class?

As for our kids being emotionally ready, I think as parents we might just tend to want to overprotect them. I fought against my now 10yo reading Goblet of Fire (and the other two) until she was older, but caved in halfway through third grade. She was a bit frightened, but managed much better than I would have guessed. She's also read the His Dark Materials series. I didn't need to worry so much about her faith -- she decided on her own that the first one was okay, but the rest were just plain dumb. (In her opinion, they got worse as they went on.) I still try and steer her away from books that she might be too young for (no Twilight, yet!) but for the most part, I'm learning to let her be her own judge. :)

Bekah said...

Well, since I homeschool, your question doesn't really apply in a practical sense. But, I wouldn't have a problem as far as "the word" goes. ;) Content is far more important to me than language.

Back to the barriers idea, this is really an individual thing with my eldest son. He's struggled to enjoy reading at all, so I'm more directive of his reading to try to capture his interest and avoid putting up further barriers. My daughter, who is 2.5 years younger, is a voracious reader and I'm not so concerned (though if it's off limits for the older, it's off limits for her too just as a practical matter). Isn't parenting fun? :)

And, yes, I'll clearly admit to being overprotective. lol

Moni said...

Corinne, my comment was my opinion that our society, in general, is uptight. (And it is. seriously. Why are we so afraid to talk about certain body parts?) I was not saying you were uptight personally. Whether you decide to read this to a 3rd grade class is your decision (but the librarian at your school shout NOT ban it from the library). The content is really not age appropriate, in my opinion, for a 3rd grade class. And not because they use the word scrotum. Frankly I'm all for Parents teaching their children the proper names of body parts. I *do* think that the focus of this one word that refers to a body part in a non-sexual manner is uptight.

And I think its kind of sad (again, speaking generally here) that one would be more worried about reading the word "scrotum" out loud to a class than the overlying themes of the book. I kind of include myself in that. If I was a teacher I would worry about parent backlash if that word was used. However, the book deals with issues much more heavy than that one word. That should be what we think about when we decide on what to read and what not to read. Not whether we will have to explain what a "scrotum" is. Bekah kind of touched on this a little bit when she said, "content is far more important than language."

I don't know. Just kind of thinking out loud here.

Oh, and Alicia, please do write a children's picture book called the "happy ball sack." That would be awesome :)

TheresaB said...

I'm adding to this a bit late, but I had to say that I am grateful for the controversy. It's free publicity for the book and the award. It also makes it easier for the ALA to get their messages out.

In addition, it reminded me that I hadn't taught my two-year-old son how to say scrotum yet. Now, it's part of his vocabulary, along with knee, ear, penis, tummy, nipples, and elbows.

I too would be interested in a copy of The Happy Ball Sack. Please also consider writing The Lovely Labia.