Make them wear pants!

I was not going to comment on this. Really. I was shoveling away, happy as a lark, thinking about my own books and minding my own business. But people keep blogging about IT. And emailing me about IT.

You do know what I’m talking about, don’t you?

Scrotum.

Quick background. One the first page of the most recent Newbery winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, a rather unfortunate dog is bit by a rattlesnake in a rather unfortunate place. That’s right. Fido (actually, the dog is named Roy) gets nailed in the ballsack. But the reader does not see the incident. Instead, the book’s main character, Lucky, overhears a conversation about it.

You can read an excerpt on amazon.

Lucky then ponders this strange word, scrotum, thinking it “sounded medical and secret.” (I must agree with her about that. It took me decades to figure out precisely what that word meant.)

And then the book continues.

First, a disclaimer: I have not read the book. Therefore my comments have nothing to do with the quality of it, or any of Patron’s other choices. But I do have a couple of opinions about the controversy this has stirred up. This has been argued about in the New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, various listservs and probably every writer’s group in America. The book has been banned countless places. AS IF has devoted a lot of space to it. As usual, David Lubar has a wonderful comment. Teacher Monica Edinger has some good thoughts, too.

Susan Patron, herself a librarian, has written a response to her critics. So I might as well add my two cents. I can solve the problem instantly.

I call on the President to require all male dogs to wear pants or face immediate castration. Because that’s how we solve problems, right? Cover it up, chop it off, or make it go away.

No?

OK, option #2. Thank Susan Patron for giving us the chance to talk about this. Because clearly, people have vastly different opinions about it. I think it is very, very silly to get worked up about the proper medical name of a dog’s anatomy. I also think, based on the excerpt I read, Patron used the word in context perfectly. When I was a kid, I didn’t know what it was called. I was mystified by a lot of things as a kid. That’s why I read books, to learn.

It bums me out to see the name-calling that this controversy is degenerating into. In one corner we have the radical liberals foaming with their sexuality agendas, in the other corner we have Puritanical Victorian ostriches who want to deprive children of information. Everyone is allowed an opinion, but when you start calling people names, we all lose.

The larger issue that needs to be aired out is that of “banning.” Some librarians are making the choice not to put Lucky in their collection. (Some of the quotes I read indicated it was because of the scrotum reference (should that be scrotal?), others because they didn’t think it was a great book.) Librarians face this choice every single day: lots of books to buy, very little money to buy them with.

So they makes choices. Is that banning? What do you think?

I still think we should make dogs wear pants.

27 Replies to “Make them wear pants!”

  1. Obviously the publisher COULD HAVE refused to publish the book if the author didn’t change the bitten area to say, the tushie….
    After all there are other (safer) books to publish….and there are other publishers that the author could have tried.

    Bu that didn’t happen and here we all are.

    Someone somewhere decided it was worth the risk (or backlash)to allow the book fly as is.

    But things like this (and Britney’s bald head) get paper and ink.

    It COULD be a good thing of course because now the kids will have learned something that school OR the parents may have danced around.(like sex or politics)

    It’s always a tricky issue anyway- “It’s my kid and I’ll allow them to learn delicate things if I want to.” (This could be bad because after the child is 18 they will go out in the world unprepared and they will be the only person at the Saturday night Bar-B-Q and they won’t know what you call that part of the dog and they’ll feel left out and foolish because they were deprived of proper learning from the parents and the school system at an earlier critical age.

    Actually, male dogs ARE built a bit differently ‘down there’ and kids notice this early on all by themsleves. When THIS kind of thing happens it just makes it seem ‘dirty’.

    The grown ups themselves are the ones who all seem to make such an issue of it.
    (But then, that’s my point don’t you see?)

  2. On the other hand….

    This could get out of hand since studios will be forced to start drawing pants on famous animals

    Mickey Mouse will have to get pants for Pluto

    Bugs Bunny will have to start wearing pants as will other famous male animals.
    (Funny how they’ve gotten away with running around nekked all these years)

    This subject will be very interesting to follow..
    Imagine Katie Curic having to say ‘scrotum’ on CBS
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

  3. i guess to me (a public librarian), when a book wins the newbery, it belongs on my shelf. the choices we make in terms of collection development can’t entirely be based on whether or not we personally have enjoyed a book (or found a book offensive). we are supposed to be collecting in accordance with the needs of the community. i would be shocked if there was a community in this country that wouldn’t have people interested in reading a brand new newbery medal winner, *especially* one with such controversy. if i had to remove every book from my shelf that i personally didn’t think was a great book, the shelves would be pretty bare (and dare i say i’d be missing a whole shelful of harry potters, for example). but if course i know that this isn’t how one collects material for a library.

  4. Thanks for the link, and for the rational post. Good words. As for the pants idea, this is yet more proof that great minds think alike. One of the world’s greatest hoaxsters, Alan Abel, had a good part of the country convinced his Society for the Indecency to Naked animals (S.I.N.A.) was real. So you’re in good company. Here’s a link: http://www.alanabel.com/sina.php

  5. The very word banned when said in conjunction with book sets off my “indignant outrage” button. They want to ban a book because of a medically accurate word? Come ON, people!! Librarians are choosing to skip this title when buying new books? It’s a Newbery WINNER. It belongs in libraries.

    Book banning makes me insane (and inarticulate, apparently). I was at a Superbowl party with a bunch of my college friends, and my friend’s wife proudly announced to three of us (an attorney, a long-time library employee, and me, a newly degreed librarian) that she had gotten a book banned from her kids’ school library. My friend is also a librarian – and book-banning violates everything we stand for! I was shocked and utterly disgusted. Instead of using a book as a jumping-off point to discuss issues of morality and personal beliefs with her children, she’s trying to pretend these issues don’t exist. “Protecting” her kids. Fine. Protect your kids. But you have NO RIGHT to “protect” mine.

    Sorry. I’m ranting. I’ll stop now.

  6. selection or censorship

    Gosh, I talk about this stuff all the time and it is still difficult to draw a firm line between selection and censorship. I do think some of the postings I have read are a bit disingenuous when they claim they are using selection due to limited funds. I suspect if the word scrotum was not in the book, there would be funds to purchase a NEWBERY winner (please!).

    Selection seeks to include something in the collection based upon the needs of the readers, the curriculum (if a school) and/or the community. Censorship seeks to exclude. Most of what I read has more to do about exclusion than inclusion. Will they not have HATTIE BIG SKY and RULES? HBS is for older readers (I could argue it as YA) and yet I do not see the hue and cry there.

    No more ranting, I promise. It just burns me to see someone cry foul when they wrote about their dismay over the word scrotum in an open forum.

    teri

  7. It wouldn’t work

    I, too, had pledged not to post any more on this subject, lest I become known as the “scrotum lady.” I have a post all ready to go to CCBC-Net in my “mail waiting to be sent,” but I haven’t sent it for this reason.

    That said, requiring all dogs to be castrated wouldn’t work. When my husband and I were dating, he had a Great Dane who had the biggest, um, Balzac, I’ve ever seen. When he had Rex “fixed,” the vet took out the working parts, but left the sac part. So he was still vulnerable to rattlesnake bites, and also, observant children.

    I don’t think the pants would have gone over well either. I’m thinking no.

    1. Re: It wouldn’t work

      There’s actually a product on the market called “Neuticals,” which are prosthetic dog testicles that can be placed in there after neutering. I swear this is true. (If I were making it up, it would have a sicker name.)

  8. Prude:
    ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
    Thou art thyself, though not a breast.
    What’s breast? it is nor hand, nor foot,
    Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O, be some other name!
    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    So Scrotum would, were he not Scrotum call’d,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Scrotum, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself.

  9. I think banning and selective purchasing are two separate issues — they shouldn’t be conflated, but neither should be dismissed either. My own feeling is that the purpose of a school library is to get kids excited about reading and thinking — which means that they should post the New York Times article in big type on their bulletin boards, with the controversial bits highlighted, and then stock up on copies.

  10. There are days, when my cat is circling on my lap looking for just the right angle at which to be petted and, in the process, sticking her butt almost right in my face, that I wished she wore pants.

    As for librarians making choices, I am one. I run a tiny library in a small town and have a very limited book-buying budget. But I almost always buy Newberry books and other major award-winners. So my response to this silly thing was to order the book online last night. I’m looking forward to reading it.

  11. SCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUM
    SCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUM
    SCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUM
    SCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUM
    SCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUMSCROTUM

  12. Sadly, the most upsetting thing I have read in relation this is as follows:
    “But in the world of children’s books, winning a Newbery is the rough equivalent of being selected as an Oprah’s Book Club title. “
    That was in the NY Times. I love Oprah but I hardly equate her with the Newberry. Granted they were talking about the business side of things (Oprah sure does know how to increase sales), but the context was not very clear.

  13. I think that if someone isn’t buying the book for their library collection solely because the word scrotum is in it, then they need to rethink their priorities.

    If they read the book and decided that it wasn’t that well-written or doesn’t hold up to whatever standards they have set in their collection development policy, then that’s their prerogative.

  14. Evil Body Parts

    When children are taught that body parts are evil they grow up with all sorts of issues about their own bodies. It is simply a body part, nothing evil about that. It is so much more evil to ban books. :>)

  15. I’m a bit bemused by all this. I hadn’t heard anything about it, which means that in three months time when nobody cares about it, a newspaper here will pick it up.

    There are kid books out there that regularly push the ‘ick-factor’ boundaries, and they were/I presume still are available in libraries. Page after page of poo and wee and farts. If it makes kids laugh and want to read, then we should be buying more books of the same ilk.

    If I recall correctly, Tim Winton (I’m going to be mainly citing Australian YA authors, I’m afraid) wrote a book where the main character woke up to find his bum missing. And not only his BUM, but the BUM of every person in town! Kids LOVED it. Tim Winton also wrote the ‘Lockie Leonard’ series, which dealt with… boys growing up. That was required reading in early high school.

    Paul Jennings (a favourite of mine in primary (elementary) school) dealt with a few unsavoury things as well, and his books were the ones that my teacher chose to read out to us in grade 5-6.

    When I got a bit older, I was introduced by librarians at various schools to authors John Marsden and John Larkin, who dealt with masturbation and sex. I also read Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, Lois Lowry, etc. Ooh, and Adrian Mole! I wonder if that’s been banned.

    So, by 12, I’d been exposed to sex, masturbation, farts, bums going wandering, making out, poos, wees, snot, vomit, whatever– in books that I was ENCOURAGED by my teachers and librarians to read. And I think I turned out just fine.

    So, what’s the deal with this banning thing? If explaining what a scrotum is (My definition, for kids: Boys have it, girls don’t.) makes people so uncomfortable that they have to ban it, it’s not the books that the kids need protection from. Sheesh.

  16. banna brought that up in shock at last night’s staff meeting.
    i told her we should read it at banned books week.
    bill said it was all just a marketing ploy from the publishers to sell more books.

  17. I actually did a post on this topic myself. Only when I heard this story, I missed the name of the book and why. The part I focused on was the woman who was dicussing this topic on the news, said “we get so hypersensitive about what our children watch on tv, but what we should really focus on is what they read in books” and she then went on to dicuss the evils of Babar and how when she doesn’t like something in a book that her TWO YEAR OLD shouldn’t see or read she either crosses it out with a sharpie or rips out the page!
    I’m against book banning, but I’d rather see a book ban% d then have a book with blacked and ripped out pages. At least if a book is banned, you can still find copies of it somewhere in tact.
    I think what people need to stop being so hypersensative about is aggravating other people. Nothing changes if you spend 98% of your day walking on eggshells worrying about who you might offend.

  18. I have only one thing to say about this:THEY’RE GONNA LEARN IT SOONER OR BE IT LATER ON THE BUS!! I was not the least bit offended, I live in a house with three boys, husband and a fuzzy weiner dog-the word is used enough around here that the word weinus is more offenseive (that juggly skin at the end of your elbow), see? It’s just a body part. I hope Susan Patron sells more copies of Higher Power because of the controversy, and they will realize what a great writer and wonderful book it really is…..

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