It’s rare to hear the word “scrotum,” in polite conversation. Seeing it on the first page of a children’s book has some parents and teachers up in arms.
On the first page of The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, this year’s recipient of the Newbery Medal, Lucky Trimble, a scrappy ten-year-old orphan, hears the word through a hole in the wall. This happens when another character s explaining that a rattlesnake bit his dog on the scrotum.
Some school librarians, after hearing about the word being in The Higher Power of Lucky,” have vowed to ban the book from their libraries. This has reopened the debate over what is acceptable for children to read.
Many teachers and school librarians have used the internet to weigh in on this issue. It has been a hot topic on dozens of literary blogs and social networking sites. Authors, teachers and school librarians have been forced to take sides in this battle over a book for children. All over the country librarians are debating their role when selecting (or censoring, as some say) literature for children.
Dana Nilsson, a teacher and librarian in Durango Colorado, had this to say about The Higher Power of Lucky“: “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.”
A handful of school libraries in the South, West, and Northeast have already taken the book off of their shelves. Many more have indicated that they may do the same.
This topic has dominated conversation among librarians for the past ten days, ever since The Higher Power of Lucky was shipped to schools from the publisher.
Pat Scales, who at one time chaired the Newbery Award committee would be blatant censorship. When asked about the controversy she said “The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole. That’s what censors do – they pick out words and don’t look at the total merit of the book.”
Something like this would go unnoticed in most novels, but winning the Newbery Medal brings a huge amount of attention to a children’s book. Libraries and bookstores order more of these books than most novels, and they are read out loud to children in schools.
The debate over The Higher Power of Lucky will likely go on for quite some time. The line between protecting our children and censorship has long been an issue, and probably will be for years to come.
“Children’s Book Stirs Battle With Single Word”( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/18/books/18newb.html?_r=1&oref=slogin)