The New York Times brings the sad news that a children’s book which won the prestigious Newbery Medal is being banned in many public schools by librarians chagrined by its use of a single word, “scrotum:”
The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter.
Yet there it is on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature. The book’s heroine, a scrappy 10-year-old orphan named Lucky Trimble, hears the word through a hole in a wall when another character says he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog, Roy, on the scrotum.
“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” the book continues. “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”
The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books…
The book has already been banned from school libraries in a handful of states in the South, the West and the Northeast, and librarians in other schools have indicated in the online debate that they may well follow suit.
We like to think of librarians being among the more enlightened and open-minded members of our society. But not this fellow:
“I think it’s a good case of an author not realizing her audience,” said Frederick Muller, a librarian at Halsted Middle School in Newton, N.J. “If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldn’t want to have to explain that.”
I have a five year old son who knows what a penis and vagina are. What’s the big deal? Scrotum. There I said it. Will it turn a child’s world upside down to read it and find out what it means?
Finally, this librarian’s comment really takes the cake:
Ms. Nilsson, reached at Sunnyside Elementary School in Durango, Colo., said she had heard from dozens of librarians who agreed with her stance. “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship,” she said. “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”
“At least not for children,” she added.
But, I guess now you will. Unless Nilsson finds that a Newbery Medal-winning book is not “quality children’s literature.”
Do Patron a favor, since she’ll be losing sales from all these prudish librarians–buy her book. In buying it, tell the librarians you think they’re wrong and that it IS suitable for your child.