I finally got around to reading the notorious Newbery Award winning book of the year, The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron. As the whole world now knows, that little book mentions the scrotum of a dog on its first page. SHOCK! AWE! KABOOM! A dog is bitten by a snake... there!
Lucky Trimble crouched in a wedge of shade behind the Dumpster. Her ear near a hole in the paint-chipped wall of Hard Pan's Found Object Wind Chime Museum and Visitor Center, she listened as Short Sammy told the story of how he hit rock bottom. How he quit drinking and found his Higher Power. Short Sammy's story, of all the rock-bottom stories Lucky had heard at twelve-step anonymous meetings -- alcoholics, gamblers, smokers, and overeaters -- was still her favorite.
Sammy told of the day when he had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to Johnny Cash all morning in his parked '62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car when he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
Give me a break! Children are confronted daily with seamy sex and vicious violence in nauseating "reality" shows, movies, the news, commercials,"family" sit-coms... Our society is soaked in the unseemly of all sortssssssssssssssss.
And somebody is all in a tizzy because an author uses the correct term for a reproductive organ of a dog in a kid's book!
I teach fourth grade science. I admit that I feel more apprehension than I show when a young student asks about a linked pair of insects: "Look at those dragonflies, Mr. Shaw, what are they doing?" But I try to handle it like an adult. (And it's easier now than it was in 1969 - the year I began teaching.) I try hard to be absolutely matter-of-fact when I reply, "They are mating. That's how they reproduce. You'll see lot's of those animals mating this time of year. The females will be laying their eggs soon. Their life cycle is a little different from the monarch butterflies we studied..."
I think Patron did a beautiful job of handling the topic with Lucky. Are there still parents and teachers of nine- and ten-year-olds in this sex-soaked society who pretend reproduction - even in animals - either doesn't exist, or is unmentionable?
The Higher Power of Lucky is a good little book. It is not on my list of must-reads, but I have no problem at all recommending it to a fourth-grader.
Lordy-mercy, that poor dog!
A November note:
A November note:
Several months later I have to say I may decide to move this book up a bit on my mental list of recommended books. Patron's characters have imposed themselves on my consciousness many times since June. I like Lucky, Brigette, and Lincoln and I believe many of my students will.