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?
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.
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.