Shocking children’s literature

I’m supposed to be diligently working on Entry 1 (or 2 or 3… ) for my National Board Certification for Professional Teaching Standards (and don’t you dare utter the word oxymoron unless you are one), but I could not resist entering the latest fray about the use of the word………………..scrotum.


From an article by Julie Bosman of The New York Times:

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.”

This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind,” Dana Nilsson, a teacher and librarian in Durango, Colo., wrote on LM_Net, a mailing list that reaches more than 16,000 school librarians. “How very sad.”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.” (my note: even with the following disclaimer, that quote is ripe with meaning!)

“At least not for children,” she added.

Well, want to bet Ms. Nilsson went to see the “Wee Wee Monologues”? And I pray she never forgets to space between the words “pen” and “is.”

The article goes on:“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.”

Andrea Koch, the librarian at French Road Elementary School in Brighton, N.Y., said she anticipated angry calls from parents if she ordered it. “I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson,” she said in an interview. One librarian who responded to Ms. Nilsson’s posting on LM_Net said only: “Sad to say, I didn’t order it for either of my schools, based on ‘the word.’ ”

People, we’re talking about a DOG’s scrotum here. And if you’re a third or fourth grade teacher whose spine ripples thinking about uttering the word scrotum or, good gosh, having to explain it, I hope you are not teaching science.

It’s times like these when I wish I had unlimited finanacial resources. I would purchase billboards near every library that banned this book, and plaster it with this fill-in-the-blank:  “I got your_______right here.”

But for now, I’m off to order Susan’s book for my granddaughter.


5 thoughts on “Shocking children’s literature

  1. Haha I wish you were my grandmother. She would never dream of ordering me a book like that(even though I’m 17). Once when I was 4 she told me that I couldn’t wear the ring she had given me on my thumb because, “Thumb rings are for whores.” Yeah, so anyway we’re living in a time period were 5th graders say the f-word and one could learn to curse like a sailor from basic cable. Besides seeing as she got published and won the Newberry Medal I’m pretty sure she had some kind of target audience in mind. What caves are these teachers living in?

    God I have way too much time on my hands.

  2. I just realized I did not clarify who “she” is. She is my alcoholic, cigarette smoking, gambling, grandmother… Personally,I think that’s the humor behind it.

  3. This is much ado about a perfectly normal body part called by it real name.
    There is also a really good story attached. I would bet that 99% of the people objecting have not even read the book. Reminds me of a librarian I worked with (I am one, too) who would not buy the children’s book “Snot Stew” because of the title … didn’t bother to read the great story or find out why it was called that … just would not buy it because it was called that. Then there were the librarians I worked with who pasted diapers on the naked little baby boy in “In the Night Kitchen” before they would put it on the shelf. Little minds just keep on breeding … and reproducing … and getting jobs in libraries.

  4. No wonder our children don’t like to read. Too many adults are spending too much time censoring what they read. I have no problem mentioning any word in a book when I am reading it to my class OR MY GRANDCHILDREN. I also have no problem explaining it. If teachers would just let the kids read, life would be so much better. I suppose these teachers mentioned in your blog would never use Psycho Butts from Uranus to read to the class, (I have).
    My one true feeling of censorship is, IF YOU DON’T LIKE IT PUT IT DOWN,…but let everyone make up their own mind.
    I see I have another book to order for classroom and grandchildren 🙂

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