The Newbery award winning book this year — The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron who is also a librariancontains the word scrotum, not once, but a few times. Apparently this is a problem for some librarians and parents who have been challenging and/or removing the book from school library shelves according to some short discussion on LM_NET (link dead, search the archives here). I read the mailing list archives and it didn’t seem like a big brouhaha to me, but feel free to read it over yourselves. Thanks to the power of the blogonets, you can read the author’s response to the criticisms as well as a response from AS IF, young adult authors who support intellectual freedom.

Update: The New York Times has also mentioned this story, but I’m not sure how they thought was an “electronic mailing list.” They also go on to claim “Authors of children’s books sometimes sneak in a single touchy word or paragraph, leaving librarians to choose whether to ban an entire book over one offending phrase” which I have never heard of before, either the sneaking or the banning. If anyone would like to enlighten me to other examples in the comments, I’d appreciate it. Also note, if it’s unclear or maybe you haven’t been here before and don’t know the place, I think the scrotum-bashers are over the top on this.

112 Responses to “scrotum!”

  1. Dave Pattern Says:

    No problem! Simply replace the offending word with one suggested by the Sex Lexis website ( — here’s a few possibles…

    hairy-saddlebags, jewel-box, nad-bag, sack-o’-nuts, tadpole-carrier, winky-bag

  2. John Says:

    Jeez, What a bunch of sad sacks. Don’t they have anything better to do than hang around, itching for a fight?

  3. Joe Says:

    it’s a shame that a librarian has the idea that they can dictate what my child reads as well as learns, because they don’t want to approach the “word.” Shame on you for being a closeted censor and educational bigot.

  4. Steve Says:

    Never ceases to amaze me how immature, prudish and provincial grown adults—in the education field, no less—act.

    Shame on all you librarians for not stocking the book for an “offensive” word. You should all be fired.

  5. mikeasr Says:

    Want to put people to fright? Simply write a book that contains the proper word for a part of the body in it. No, it doesn’t have to be slang or dirty or anything risque–just the proper name for a body part. Now watch the bluenoses, censors, and religious right, as well as the prigs and prudes, break into a self-righteous sweat. What about the dictionaries, anatomy books, and medical texts that contain the word “scrotum”? Are you going to yank them from the shelves? Are these jabbering fools actually thinking, “He was a good kid until he saw the word “scrotum”?

  6. Sue’s Place - Controlled chaos » Scrotum Says:

    [...] Let the librarian’s banning brigade begin. Oh wait, it already has. ShareThese icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  7. Sarah Mae Says:

    Apparently this is part of a trend of censoring the proper names for body parts so that they don’t need to be explained to children. Exhibit 2, The Hoohah Monologues:

  8. jj Says:

    So is there a special library school these librarians are going to, where they graduate without much appreciation for freedom of speech?

  9. Lewis B. Sckolnick Says:

    We need some more sexy female Jewish librarians for they can put everything straight at once with two balls and a whistle.

  10. Lorie Says:

    It scares me to know that we are this petty about what we are banning from our children. Do we ever wonder what kind of kids we are raising when we can’t let them learn or read anything about the REAL world. People are so fragile now days and can not understand good reading, good poetry or good anything for that matter because we are so quick to judge and censor someone elses work. I would be happy to let my children read this book, because I am a good parent who chooses to let my children learn the realities thay lie before them in life.

  11. Kara Says:

    These so called “educated” people are having a problem with a word in a book? Why don’t all of you read Fahrenheit 451? I believe they banned books in that “perfect” society also. Let the parents decide if that book is suitable for their children. It’s not your call. Personally it’s a scientific anatomical word for a male’s sexual organ. There could have been worse words used. Maybe the problem is that these librarians feel uncomfortable with the word themselves…

  12. Lesley Anne Jett Says:

    The more information young minds have, the better decisions they will be able to make for all the inevitable situations they will find themselves in throughout their young lives. Withholding any information from them that they seek will only do harm. How cowardly of the adults to choose censorship over informing the young minds entrusted to them.

  13. Aaron Says:

    This is most certainly a tragedy of society. Children today don’t read enough as it is. They need to be provided all of the books possible and be encouraged to read. Im sure we should censor Mark Twain because of the offensive words in his books… Public teachers especially have NO right to censor this peice of art. One of the reasons America is so great is because we give this creative freedom to all, students, teachers, and authors. But I guess they have a point, there is better content on television… right?

  14. Joey Jojo Says:

    Some parts of the body are evil and should not be acknowleged. We should be thankful for the Christian librarians who show us the righteous path.

  15. Chris Says:

    Is the word scrotum in the dictionary? If so, better keep that away from the kiddies as well…

    There is nothing Christian, or innately good, about censoring children from REALITY. They are going to have to deal with it eventually.

    This book is an excellent way to ease children into the sensitive topic of ‘private’ body parts.

  16. patrick Says:

    Better get rid of the dictionary while you’re at it. Scrotum is one of the less offensive words in there…

  17. links for 2007-02-18 | A Whole Lotta Nothing Says:

    [...] » scrotum! jessamyn’s “electronic mailing list” about a controversial book (tags: nyt blogs books children) [...]

  18. Ben Saunders Says:

    I support a UK-based male cancer charity, and the yongest case of testicular cancer I’ve heard of was age 12. In that light, this kind of censorship seems not only ridiculous, but downright malicious.

  19. Simon Says:

    What is the logic behind letting your child know the medical term but not the slang?

    Please explain why one is ok and the other is not?

  20. MOR Says:

    Sent to Ms. Patron:

    “…I read your explanation in the NY Times “It’s one of those words that’s so interesting because of the sound of the word.” Bravo!

    I immediately thought of a childhood experience I had that was just like that. I had come across the word “orgasm” somehow. I don’t know how, but I thought it was the most interesting sounding word. Mostly because it sounded just like “organism” but a bit different. I remember running around the elementary school playground saying “orgasm, organism, orgasm, organism”. In the end, the only people who were offended or felt shame at my use of the word were the close minded elementary school teachers in my small rural eastern oregon town. It’s unfortunate when adults project their fears and insecurities onto children.

    After school that day I asked my mom what an “orgasm” was, she explained – very simply that it was how you “felt when you have sex, because it feels good.” Done, easy. No harm and I learned that It was not in fact a different kind of organism as I had imagined.

    I hope sharing this story helps you to fend off any worry about the absurd people who are deciding to “ban” your book. Children everywhere will be so glad to be treated like people by your book. I think I’ll order some copies and have them delivered to my old elementary school…”

  21. ADAM Says:

    The scriptures tell us that we shall not say ‘scrotum’. Technically, the author wrote scrotum and did not say it, so the book should not be burned.

  22. Paul McNamara Says:

    Once again I am thankful to live in oh-so-enlightened Massachusetts. A few more thoughts about all of this at:

  23. god Says:

    scrotum, balls, bags, nuts, hairy marbles, jewels, who the hell cares…

  24. Grace Says:

    Come one people, its a body part. It’s like they said elbow, just a body part. They’re going to find out what it really means someday, or most of them already know. Lighten up!

  25. Kathy Says:

    It’s a perfectly reasonable anatomical term, and if it has a “bathroom” connotation to it will cause many children to keep reading…which has a lot more merit than any damage done because they learned the correct name “scrotum” rather than any of it’s many slang terms. Keeping private body part names secret is the type of behavior that causes kids to forage around for information…on the internet or any number of other seedy places… wherever they can find it. In a Newberry award winning book is the right place..if they don’t know what scrotum means they’ll ask a parent or teacher, and a simple answer will demystify. Uptight adults yield stressed and confused children.

  26. Evert Says:

    There’s an awful lot of people around who simply don’t know any better or refuse to have a good and healthy look at reality, since reality will set the world as they know it completely up side down.
    Librarians of the conservative kind follow the lines set out through their own upbringing interlaced with indoctrination brought on by religion and power…nothing new there, as a matter of fact has everything to do with survival!
    It’s a bitch to be a librarian in rural America, seven letters in a book can make a huge difference when one has to rub shoulders with parents in church right?

    Knowing that these days kids get their information through many more channels than the ones we used to provide them with, we’d better pay close attention to how we bring them up as aware as humanly possible…..not just according to the rules of our community and congregation!!!

    Carpe Scrotum.

  27. Eric Keyes Says:

    I think the word “scrotum” should be banned. And while we’re at it, “penis” and “vagina” are very unpleasant, also. And perhaps we should ban the word “sex,” because it’s very hard to answer questions about that one. And “coitus” is especially troublesome. “Intercourse” could denote conversation, so let’s leave that one.

    It would be much easier if babies were neutered at birth, and we could just remove all these abhorrable words from the dictionary. And breasts, now there’s another troubling subject. There must be a way to nip them in the bud when the “anti-males” are born.

    Life would be so much more pleasant if we could just do all this correctly in the first place.

  28. Greg Says:

    Hanging out there like a dangling participle, the word, scrotum should be better contained. Seize the moment to utilize the street words for scrotum that the kids are already using to teach the kids metaphor!
    Empower the little nuts. The kids, too.

  29. Tim Says:

    If the writer had used the word “balls”, every child over the age of 5 (OK, maybe even 4) in the country would know exactly what that meant. Why can words like kill, shoot, war, and so many other words of violence be used in children’s books, but not a part of the body? Shame on all the phony teachers, parents, and yes librarians who would censor this word.

  30. Joshua Koenig Says:

    I think it is awful to remove the book based on the word; are there no anatomy books in libraries? It is just a body part, like an arm or a leg, it is not an expletive. This book can’t mention a scrotum, but yet a kid can walk two rows down to the science section and read an anatomy/physiology text and read about a penis, a vagina, or a scrotum; it makes no sense at all.

  31. naman Says:


  32. Finn Says:

    While I am not sure kids need to be pointed in that general direction, one really needs to take the entire story into context.

    Also, there can be no true harm-morally- if kids are able to understand and identify body parts in a non-sexualized way. Having that knowlege may actually futher help them understand the scientific foundation for some moral suggestions.

    Then again though, if you don’t think “Scrotum” is going to become a raging epithet among the 4th grade crowd, just wait a while. It will catch on.

  33. Steve Lawson Says:

    naman for the win!

  34. Suzanne Says:

    Well, the whole scrotum debate got me onto this site, which is a good outcome since librarians are among my most beloved people, and the blog archive entry on this site about a book blog introduced me to sculptor Barbara Yates. I did a little research on her and put a small entry on my own blog,, if anyone’s interested. (I have to say having scrotum lead to librarian lead to sculpture is one of the more bizarre associations I can think of!)

  35. dr l.ziegler Says:


  36. Philip Yorkey Says:

    Oh what a fuss… Scrotum is only a word for goodness sakes, I find the words like slice, cruxifiction and batter more subjectively violent.
    In fact, as an English Lecturer at Christ Church College, Oxford, I have one thing to say to them in the spirit of Oxford learning, education and tradition. Bollocks to the lot of them!

  37. ed Says:

    it’s funny that there was just a story about how Liberians want to be seen as relevant and not stereotyped as spinsters who wear buns and glasses(can i say buns). Liberians are file clerks possessing the lowest degree it is possible to obtain. plus the book is stupid. no kid would say scrotum when he meant balls. the author did this purposely knowing the impact would help sales.

  38. Ron Rico Says:

    This strikes me as the type of ignorant self-righteous extremism that we are waging wars against in places like Afghanistan. If you, as a parent or educator, are unable or unwilling to explain what a scrotum is, our children are in deep trouble. How can educating children to the proper name of a body part, that at least half of them are already very familiar with, be harmful? As a parent, I would like my children to feel that they could talk to or ask me about anything. I feel sorry for kids with parents who lack the ability to get beyond their own medieval prudish hang-ups. If children need “protection” from enlightenment, we’re headed in the wrong direction. Sadly, I’m certain that if the rattle snake had bitten the dog’s “peepee” all would be fine (except for the dog, of course.)

  39. Bobby Says:

    After learning (from his father) earlier in the day at the park the two dogs he saw (one with a scrotum) were making puppies. Later that night he walked in on mom and dad (another scrotum sighting) and said daddy, what are you and mommy doing? His dad replied we’re making a little baby brother or sister for you to play with. After some thought the little boy said turn mommy over I’d rather have a puppy!
    Here’s to puppies, with or without scrotums :-)

  40. Jo Manning Says:

    I just posted a perfectly good comment. Did you decide to censor it because I used these words: f-word and assholes?
    Jo Manning, librarian and writer

  41. Jo Manning Says:

    Yep, I think that’s what you did, you censored my comment. Shame on you.

  42. bishop Says:

    From the NY Times article:

    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.”

    Has ANYONE yet noticed that the context is NOT about men’s genitalia here but about an animals, specifically a dog? At what point did this become about HUMAN body parts?

    (Not to distract from already great discussions about censorship, but it seems way overblown on both sides that fail to acknowledge that this is — technically speaking — all about animal anatomy and not about human anatomy at all. I understand that they are “the same” in the big picture, but the whole debate is about pointing out human genitalia to children. Anyone thought about merely pointing out what children are going to notice about their domestic pets anyway?)

  43. Brigitte Says:

    It is time that our children learn all body parts by the correct name. What a great opportunity for a parent or librarian to talk about another body part. How many adults use “balls” instead of scrotum. It is time to learn the correct term at a young age, and it becomes a normal addition to a child’s vocabulary.

  44. A.L. Hern Says:

    I am the proud owner of a 1954-vintage scrotum (standard model). I give it little thought or attention during the course of an average day, and it’s rather dismaying to note that there are those who do, particularly when the scrotum in question isn’t even theirs (and a fictional DOG’s, at that!).

    To ban a work (even one that has not won the Newbery Medal) is not only ludicrous, but counterproductive (from the viewpoint of those who would ban it, or merely fail to purchase it for a school library in a safe and cowardly act of paternalistic omission).

    There is no more clinical word as “scrotum,” as blodless and sexless as “pericardium,” “breast” (savage, as in William Congreve’s famous phrase, or turkey, or chicken), or “vagina” (whether or not said vagina is capable of delivering a monologue). To any of these perfectly respectable words is to confer on them, in the adolescent mind, the imprimatur of essential forbidden fruit, that will, ultimately, be discussed and inevitably distorted in furtive student-only conversation.

    Better that children be apprised of their various body parts as part of a structured curriculum (including worthy works of fiction), than in gym locker rooms and under the hall stairs at lunchtime; otherwise censorious librarians, school boards and parents may just find that, due to their own unreasonable fears, the rattlesnake is taking aim on THEIR scrotums, irrespective of whether or not nature issued them one a birth.

  45. Prince Eugen Says:

    The instigator of the original affair may have been more prescient than expected:

    The Latinate scrotum has a more interesting lexical cousin; scortum: prostitute or sex-fiend (of either gender). Thus: scrotum scorti: the sex-fiend’s scrotum.

    A more complete alliterative experience will require that “smegma” be introduced into the above, but that is left as an exercise for the reader …

  46. Gillian Says:

    Anyone remember that the same thing happened with Maurice Sendak’s In The Night Kitchen because Sendak drew Mickey naked, complete with penis? Apparently there are libraries that clothed him with a diaper.

  47. Susan Says:

    Librarians, teachers and parents uncomfortable with body-part explanations should simply use the opportunity to educate the curious child about the wide variety of reference materials available, including the library catalog (mine directs scrotum-searchers to the Harvard Medical School Guide to Men’s Health), dictionaries & encyclopedias, and online sources such as MedlinePlus. Let ‘em look it up–then commend them on their newly-acquired research skills.

    Anyway, as anyone familiar with children knows, many fourth-graders are already quite practiced in finding those “forbidden” words in the dictionary (or these days, Wikipedia or Google), and are neither as sheltered nor as easily shocked as we think.

    To Jessamyn: I LOVE that you have tagged this post with “scrotum.”

  48. K. Wilson Says:

    As a teacher, I am continually amazed at the willingness of many educators to censor material for the most ridiculous reasons. I suspect that these attitudes contribute to the overall failure of this society to answer our children’s questions regarding any topic that hints of anything remotely sexual, and thanks to the commercialization of our society, that includes questions about our body parts. The human body has been objectified and sexualized to the point that even a librarian, it seems, might have a hard time explaining the word “scrotum” without going into sexual detail. How sad is that? I completely respect parent’s wishes regarding what their children read, but I have a problem with parents (or others) who feel the need to censor reading material for everyone. Censorship has been, and always will be, a slippery slope. Here’s a suggestion for the would be censors out there: Please read the whole book, at least. The image of an adult scan-ning through a book, looking for “naughty” words is far more disturb-ing than the word “scrotum” and much harder to explain to a student.

  49. jose santiago Says:

    I do not understand what the issue is all about. There is nothing immoral, illegal or improper about the word scrotum even for a 10 year old. It is the correct word to describe an anatomical part.

    My 5 year old grandson once used the word vagina to refer to the anatomical part and he did so without any malice but simply as a label. It is those who make a fuss about the use of the word scrotum in a book for 10 year olds or younger who put malice to the term.

  50. Left the Semi-Profession Says:

    I must say that this incident reminds me of daily stupidity one encounters in librarianship. I have for the very longest time thought that librarians should adopt Venus Murtia as a patron saint. Murtia was the goddess of sloth, cowardice and laziness.

    Once again — I thank my lucky stars that I’m not working in a charnel house ….er library.

  51. Michele Says:

    As a teacher and mother, I am appauled that such ridiculousness occurs, especially in the degenerative and promiscuous culture in which we live today. In concurrence with most of the other comments here, censoring this book or any other for use of a word which some consider offensive is ridiculous because it’s biased and unfair to those of us who believe otherwise, not to mention deciding for me what my child can and cannot read and learn. If censorship is to occur, then all of the books would be removed from the shelves, especially those with the word “sex” in them, which my daughter in second grade brought home one day and asked me about. Librarians and others need to consider the impact of their decisions on the future, not just the present, because there is nothing wrong with children learning such words, it broadens their vocabulary and intellect. Again, as a mother and teacher, I’d much rather have my daughter read and learn about “scrotum” than Captain Underpants! Why don’t they start censoring the useless, immoral, disrespect evident in many such children’s books, rather than those that are truly of educational value and meaning.

  52. Debra Says:

    To all of the teachers and librarians who are too uncomfortable and immature to explain a body part of a male mammal, why not simply hand the child another book… A dictionary. Or have they removed that book as well?

  53. Karen Says:

    Where am I? Who are these people? Making a body part into a voodoo word??? Wake up and face reality! There are bigger fish to fry – try watching the sexist horror the Disney Channel is presenting for our young girls!

  54. matthew Says:

    librarians, PLEASE.

    I brought it up in this morning in the office – it is sort of set up like a 1940′s news room – and some of my colleagues were like “amazing! to think in this day and age…” and TWO OF THEM actually suggested pulling the book! I didn’t realize that the scrotum could cause this much controversy! Of the two, one suggested substituting a different body part & just republishing the book – what about the authors original intent? Imagine of Rushie had changed his title to “not really satanic verses” – what is our world coming to?

    I for one have reserved the title, and plan on getting a couple more circulations on it – and I’ll cause a stink if they try to pull it.


  55. Suzanne Says:

    Parents need to start being truthful and honest with their children because, in today’s society children are learning more destructive words, destructive behavior, disrespect to self, life and other. They learn these things through such things as senseless story books, sitcoms, movies, songs, parents (themselves) fuss and fights in the present of their children, society (where adults and teenagers go around displaying adult type, behind the doors type activity openly in the parks and streets where children presents are), and the list goes on forever.
    Ask a child that is at the age to and who read this book, “Give me some naming words for the male and female organs,” and I am certain it will be many vulgar terms and they will not be appropriate words as testicles, scrotum, genitals, vulva, or vagina. So, be for real and teach these children the truth and stop having the street and entertainment devices do a more destructive job, and just maybe we will have more boys that are respectful and girls in this country. This is one country, where parents teach their children the most stupid word terms about the male and female organs, yet the kids here are more lost in the thoughts and act surrounding these two organs.
    My nine year old looked up the word scrotum, read the meaning, and said “But that is not what other people call the male testicles.” Will these critics say in this case, “stitch his mouth up or take it off his face.” Which? The world needs more writers like this author who is courageous and willing enough to teach the truth in an appropriate way. Leave her book on the shelf and remove those books that put ideas in young children head to pull pranks, tell lies, steel, cheat and focuses children to the desire of growing up too fast.

  56. osisbs Says:

    These librarians won’t be happy until they’re forced to wear Birkas and relinquish their driver’s licenses.

  57. royce Says:

    you said scrotum in my library. Shame on you :)

  58. Robin Says:

    I have just received a copy of this book to read this very day. The flap over the use of the word scrotum reminds me of when someone accused my husband of teaching his son “dirty words” including referring to a certain part of his (son’s) anatomy as a penis. Apparently euphemisms are preferable.

  59. Gilbert Adams Says:

    Thank God there are still some parents and librarians decent enough to protect our children from having to see the word “scr*tum”. We must hope that they also have the stamina to fight for legislation requiring all male dogs to wear diapers or to be castr*ted, so the poor dears (the children, not the dogs) don’t have to see what they are not allowed to know the name of. Is this a project for homeland security?

    How many times a day does the average child see a dog scr*tum these days? Do we need to deal with other animals, too? Billy goats, bulls, stallions? Little boys who don’t keep their pants on? Diapers, ch*stity belts, castr*tion? The mind boggles.




  61. Gary Says:

    As a father of a daughter, I am thankful that this is being discussed. Maybe there should be seperate shelf in the library where particular books that have questionable content are shelved or maybe some sticker that would alert a parent that there is something in this book that needs to be reviewed beforehand; of course that would just peak the kids interest more-so (cant win for losing). I don’t advocate for blanket censorship in anyway either, but, it seems reasonable to hope and be somewhat assured that a child is going to be able to pick a book up at the public library that was wrote for a child by an adult and not be exposed to certain language. I don’t think that is unreasonable at all.

    Daddy, what is a scrotum… where is a scrotum…

    give me a break–

  62. Ryan Deschamps Says:

    I don’t doubt that the author put the word in to be provocative. The bad part about all this, though, is that someone can predict with reasonable accuracy that the word “scrotum” would cause a stir in the library world! Jeeze.

    I love this part of the article:

    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.

    As if “quality” can be detemined by the use of a single word. Now “Professor Poopypants” is a definite exception to this rule. Heh.

    On a side note, does anyone remember the controversy over Judy Blume’s Deenie? In the grand scheme that was probably more “controversial” than this. Great book though.

  63. Keiron Says:

    I’m with Ben Saunders on this one…

    As a survivor of the testicular cancer and chemo game, I can only say this is crazy!!

    Over the past two years I’ve used the words scrotum and testicle to some of the least likely people ever, from my boss, to my grandma and several elderly family members!

    Some things should have no censorship, and should be more out in the open than anything.

    I have to say on the other side of it, it’s quite invigorating to not give a damn who you talk about your balls to, as more people have played with them than ever in your life!!

  64. Tom T - another "blabarian" Says:

    Sad state of affairs that “school librarians” no less are “shocked” and consider banning the book. What a bunch of woozies. (?) It’s a word you can look up in any decent dictionary. Here kids have a chance to laugh about a naughty word and yet learn the proper medical term rather than dirty street language, and immediately in this supposedly free country some complainers have to get up in arms and try to ban a book.
    How sad.
    If you ask me?
    Ban those school librarians as obstacles to learning!!!!

  65. caleb Says:

    congrats on getting linked from the #1 e-mailed story on, but re: update – book experts can’t be expected to know the difference between blogs and e-mail lists – where is your head?

  66. Ape::Tracks » Irregular Brachiation » It’s the dog’s scrotum Says:

    [...] Link: » scrotum! [...]

  67. susan o Says:

    As a newly retired middle school librarian, I would have had absolutely no problem including this book in my collection! Welcome to the real world of children and young adults. They speak and use much more graphic terms for body parts by this age. If we banned all books that dealt with the use of correct anatomical terminology most of our health and physiology sections would be bare. If nothing else, this gives parents a great opening to have a serious discussion about life issues.

  68. Sharon Allen Firebaugh Says:

    Without thinking, I was thrilled today when I read this article on web news. But, first, as a Library Specialist, let me say that we, too, are just human and have our own frailties and are biased, the same as most in certain things, even though we are supposed to be beyond that!

    And, many of us are, to the point that we allow all books that have been approved by the local school board, district mission statement, etc. Yes, we follow the Library Bill of Rights and we also, hopefully, support Intellectual Freedom, but still controversy always exists.

    Being a parent, grandparent, I found the copy of the introduction to this book, totally delightful, much less being a teacher/librarian. Most things I am comfortable with, but not all, by far, which have been enacted in our laws, whether they be national or local.

    Privately I would hold discussion on much, but publicly, I would adhere to the legal stance. With physical or sexual terminology I have always been comfortable, and having been a farm girl, I certainly could have used an even more descriptive setting, behavior, and terminology, than this one, concerning animals and their habits, habitats, needs, etc. This was smooth! (Where’s the vets?)

    But, some librarian or parent would probably be yelling about that also, even though it would be a given! Many have just been too sheltered to so many things, including young people, even those, ages 9 – 12, and cannot help themselves. ( I just cannot understand, my kindergartners are far more advanced than this! I would like for these librarians to hear their stories and language!)

    I need to share this a personal story concerning the term, SCROTUM. My friend also sent me this reaction, which I found to be classic, and wished that I add his response, too. So, to ban this current NEWBERY WINNER? No way, can’t wait to read it! And here is the my response, a little story, plus, one response:

    “This article has put me over the edge! I had taught my son all the proper terms for his body parts, thinking little about it. He and his babysitter ( who kept him from around 10 months until 5 years) had just returned from the garden, picking tomatoes when he was around 3. He fell and said, “Oh, JUDY, I have hurt my scrotum!” She looked at him and said, “What in the HELL is that?”

    (Fortunately, she was used to me and my antics!) He told her, probably showed her, and she folded in laughter, just couldn’t wait for me to get home from work so she could tell me!

    Everytime, or usually, when this term is mentioned, I so fondly remember that incident. She is gone now, and he is grown, but God bless for giving me both! Such treasures and love! Golden Moments and Memories!”

    And, from my friend: “Apparently, many of these librarians are cloistered away in the inner sanctum of their libraries and don’t hear the language that is being used by children that are 9 to 12. The closing statement in this article was interesting to me; “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”

    I thought this was about a dog’s scrotum? If teachers have a problem explaining what a scrotum is to a child, what’s the problem with telling them to “look it up in the dictionary!” Pretty soon we’ll be going back to the time when weirdo’s were trying to force owners to cover their dogs scrotum.”

  69. j a higginbotham Says:

    Your LM_Net link doesn’t work anymore. Is there a way of reading the comment without joining that mailing list (which is supposed to be just for librarians)?

    PS I’m having trouble fighting spam with this in the box:
    (lt symb)font color=”#FFFF00″(gt symb)the word(lt symb)font(gt symb)

  70. bookbk Says:

    I tried to write a comment here earlier, it got lost in the spamblocker, so I rewrote it as a post on my blog. Short version: “sneaking” naughty words into books–not so much. Banning or challenging books due to a single word or image– all the time.

  71. Mark S. Faulkner Says:

    “Old lady judges watch people in pairs
    Limited in sex, they dare
    To push fake morals, insult and stare
    While money doesn’t talk, it swears
    Obscenity, who really cares
    Propaganda, all is phony.”

    Bob Dylan: “It’s All Right, Ma, I’m Only Bleeding”

  72. MJB Says:

    I never knew the word “scrotum” could be so exciting until one day Mother and Daddy were playing a charades game with my sister and me. The game was to act out a single word instead of a title or phrase, and I gave Mother the word “scrotum” to act out for Daddy to guess. She made us leave the room before she’d do it. I know she didn’t cheat because he never guessed it. Eventually she called us back into the room and gave us the point. I remember to this day how exasperated she was that the kids knew the clinical names for his body parts and he didn’t.

  73. sarah Says:

    Depressed as I was to read about the censorship, I’m just as disturbed over the NYTime’s sloppy reportage. obviously isn’t a mailing list. And as Jessamyn pointed out, could we have an example of an author who throws in risky bits just to drum up a book banning controversy? Without an example, it just sounds like silly presumption by the journalist to fill out her story. The Times should be more careful.

  74. Sarah Chauncey Says:

    Just look up scrotum in Grolier’s Online for Kids. There are 18 entries including a definition of sexual intercourse with links to pictures of a penis and vagina … etc — “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.” — Grolier’s isn’t quality literature?

  75. Victoria Revay Says:


    I found the article on NY Times and linked through NowPublic to your site. I’d love it if you could comment on my story.

    Victoria Revay

  76. jessamyn Says:

    Here is the main page for the LM_Net archives, you can do a keyword search and read the relevant posts.

  77. jennimi Says:

    Self disclosure: I am a librarian.

    To the commenter who felt his comment was censored, it might have been the anti-spam software. I have had to deal with this too. It’s an unfortunate necessity for dealing with the nefariousness that is splommenting. Then again, I take care not to swear in others’ virtual spaces, out of consideration.

    To the librarian (mentioned in the NYTimes article) who didn’t want to deal with “that lesson plan” I am confused. I have read your welcome snippet to your school board, and I would like you to explain how you hope to inspire lifelong reading and the joy of uncovering a wonderful story if you let your own personal biases (and laziness?) affect how you do your job? You attended the same program I did. Did you not take Collection Development or Intellectual Freedom?

    To the New York Times: PLEASE get your info straight and check your facts. This is not a mailing list, it’s an interactive space where multiple opinions are represented, as well as a source for incredibly valuable information. This is a blog.

    To the rest of the world: I and the librarians and LIS faculty I have spoken to about this situation are disgusted by the lack of intellectual freedom exemplified in censoring this book. Please please do not lump us all together and succomb to the same linear thinking that started this in the first place. There are likely more librarians putting this book on the shelves than not. I just wish I had a way to prove that.

    But thank you all for speaking out and showing you care about intellectual freedom. We’ll need you with us at the public meetings, advocating FOR the books others wish to ban.

  78. Steve Lawson Says:

    Please please do not lump us all together and succomb to the same linear thinking that started this in the first place. There are likely more librarians putting this book on the shelves than not. I just wish I had a way to prove that.

    You can start by pointing out that the Newbery Medal is given out by–wait for it–librarians! And, as Jessamyn points out, the author of the book in question is a librarian.

  79. Brian Want Says:

    As others have mentioned, this part of the book is simply capturing a natural and normal part of childhood — a healthy interest in language, as well as in anatomy. This is part of the human experience, and it frustrates me that librarians of all people would insist on restricting access to it.

    As a library student, stories like this make me wonder just who my future colleagues will be and whether the “enduring values” I thought were widespread in the profession are truly so.

    In the article I read, some school librarian made a comment that really irked me. He said that the author wasn’t “realizing her audience” and that if he were a grade school teacher, he “wouldn’t want to have to explain that.” Last time I checked, it was the JOB — and professional responsibility — of a teacher to explain things to children. And that includes body parts and other things the teacher might personally find awkward or uncomfortable.

    What’s even crazier is that we’re talking about the anatomically correct term here. Sheesh. Are these the same people who insisted that the marquis for The Vagina Monologues be switched to the The Hoohaa Monologues? (That actually happened, by the way…I think in Texas?)


  80. atsg Says:

    How to compare this with that little boy using the word “vagina” in the movie “As I said so”? with actress Diane Keaton.

  81. Basement Tapes » scrotum! Says:

    [...] » scrotum! [...]

  82. Is "scrotum" a word 10 year olds should not read? « News Coctail Says:

    [...] Is "scrotum" a word 10 year olds should not read? Filed under: Uncategorized — recar @ 11:09 am Is "scrotum" a word 10 year olds should not read? With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar [...]

  83. Eilan Says:

    Only in America!
    Why are body parts evil? I do not understand. Thought we live in the 21st. century and not in the middle ages anymore.

    Being from Europe I can only shake my head about discussions like this one. But the discussion here on this site and the uproar it caused in the library world (I am a librarian, too) shows me, that luckily there are lots of normal thinking people and librarians in America. One can only hope that the minority of so called conservative Christians will not get any more power in the US than they already have. And please, leave them out of the libraries!


  84. Eilan Says:

    Only in America!
    Why are body parts evil?
    I thought we live in the 21st century and not in the middle ages anymore!

    Why is it bad if a kid asks what a scrotum is?
    @Gary: what do you tell your daughter when she asks how her parts are called? Or what do you tell her when she asks why her brother looks different then she does?

    Coming from Europe I can only wonder what kind of problems Americans are discussing.
    It’s really weird to see that there are people who rather like to use slang words or euphemisms instead of the real words. It’s also weird to see that a very conservative christian group can determine the standards of what is decent and what not. I am also a librarian and my understanding of my profession is education and not censorship. Only an educated mind can distinguish between good and evil. Not a deprived one that has been “protected” from all evil words in the world.

    But it is also good to see that there are a lot of people on this site being on the side of common sense who protest against backward opinions that some minority tries to imply on others.

    Greetings from Germany.

  85. Leigh Ann Says:

    Will Ms. Koch please explain the logic of teachers or librarians not wanting to do a vocabulary lesson? I should not be surprised, after all, schools no longer “teach” – they “inform.” I weep for the future.

    As quoted in the NY Times.
    “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”

  86. Ben Says:

    Mrs. Nilsson is one of the principal reasons that we are the pariahs of the international world. Our culture comes across as incredibly Puritanical, incredibly hypocritical, and incredibly asinine, mostly because of the “vocal minorities” of the religious right and their bureaucratic cronies.

    Mrs. Nilsson is unfit for intelligent discourse; if she reads these posts, on emay add glory-seeking and pride to her list of unmitigated shortcomings. Instead, I aim my comments at other librarians who may yet redeem them selves as independent intellectuals dedicated to the betterment of the minds of our children.
    As any book lover knows, a book is its own creature, and to fanatically silence a message in the name of propriety is ridiculous, especially when that “propriety” involves alienating children from their own bodies by teaching them that a vital part of their anatomy is somehow dirty or wrong.

    Only when people like Mrs. Nilsson themselves are silenced, metaphysically and physically, by those with less bruised and more open minds may we lose this sense of false education of which many Islamic fundamentalists would be proud.

    Sic semper tyranis

  87. Frank Says:

    Silly, simple, superstitious people should never be allowed to dictate to others including any children the may unfortunately bear.
    I was raised on a cattle ranch, we knew at a very early age what a scrotum is and many of the more colorful euphemisms.
    Get over it or move to Afghanistan.

  88. Heavy Metal Librarian » Blog Archive » Ixnay on the Otumscray Says:

    [...] See, this is what happens when I make the mistake of ignoring my RSS reader for a few days: I miss out on the latest censorship controversy. It seems that some librarians and schools are choosing not to stock the book that won the 2007 Newbery Medal winner (that’s an award for excellence in children’s literature, for you non-liberry types) because… the book contains the word “scrotum.” Yep, the Talibanization of America is now apparently so far advanced that using an anatomically correct, utterly non-sexy medical term to describe a body part induces fainting spells on the part of our self appointed Morality Police. [...]

  89. Christa Says:

    Arguments like this are interesting to me because there’s always a side demanding the other side feel ashamed and calling those who question the use of such words as prudish and censoring – or telling them to, oh, I don’t know… “move to Afghanistan” or something. Its easy to jump on the Fahrenheit 451 bandwagon and cry foul and censorship when its merely a question of typing out a few outraged lines of text. Its much different in practice.

    Somewhere, a 4th grade teacher is opening the book to read to her students. She has selected the new Newbury book and looks forward to sharing it with her class. She begins a read-aloud and says the word ’scrotum’. Some kids aren’t paying attention but some are. It isn’t glossed over in the book, at least two paragraphs are dedicated only to the word. Hands are raised, questions asked. The teacher here is in a bit of a bind. She isn’t authorized to teach sex-education (and yes, in many school systems, you have to be authorized to teach that – and many require students have parent permission slips before they can take the class) and is now worried that little Bobby is going to go home with his newfound information and tell his shocked mother who will now be calling the school and wondering why little Bobby now knows sexual information when it should be up to the parent to tell the child that information in the way they see fit. Sure, some of the parents won’t care – but some will. As a parent – if you don’t mind your child reading it, go to your public library and check it out, hand it to your kid and tell them to knock themselves out.

    Its a whole different matter when its a school setting and a teacher is responsible for doing the best he/she can to teach 150+ students a day while respecting not only every child, but also every child’s family. That means doing the best you can to teach the content while not offending someone’s religion or ethnicity or any other number of moralistic facet of our students’ lives. Does it suck? Yeah, it does. Does it limit educational opportunities? Possibly. But that is how it is. Too many groups over the years crying foul and wanting certain things omited due to offensive content to one or more groups has made the educational system jumpy and more likely to take preventative measures than risk an uproar. In these days of testing, can you not hear a group of parents at a school board meeting saying “The state assessment is in 3 months and instead of learning the skills neccessary, my child was forced into learning about sex! Is sex on the test? etc etc ” Yeah it sucks that the educational system has come down to that, but that is the way it is. It isn’t the teachers’ faults, or the librarians. Its the system as a whole responding to societal pressure over many years.

    I’m a huge advocate for freedom of speech and also for YA lit, being both a former teacher and Young Adult librarian. However, its easy to be an idealist when it comes to censorship and cry foul when you disagree with people questioning if it should be in the schools. Its harder to take a step back and attempt to see things from their point of view and at least try to understand where they are coming from before you start calling names and telling people to go move to another country. There’s an idealistic side to this , and a realistic side, and also a middle ground. Try to see all sides before you cement.

  90. bookbk Says:

    Christa–I’m a school librarian, and advise teachers to ALWAYS read a book first, or at least get some informed opinions on it, before they read it aloud to a class. There are many wonderful books that, for one reason or another, aren’t great read-alouds. That’s not a reason to keep them out of the collection.

    The teacher in your scenario above has at least three options that I can think of right off the bat:
    1) She can inform her students (and, if necessary, their parents and her supervisor) ahead of time that the book she’s going to read aloud has some words and concepts (like that of a 12-step program) that may be unfamiliar to tsome students, and introduce them ahead of time (and BTW “scrotum” is not necessarily a sexual word, and is not used sexually in the book)
    2) If she happens upon the word unexpectedly, she can either give a quick definition (“a part of the male anatomy”, say) or encourage them to look it up in the dictionary later, and then tell her supervisor and be prepared to explain the context to any parents who might inquire about it
    3) She can preview the book and decide it just won’t work as a read-aloud for her class.

    None of the above options requires that the book be kept out of the school library.

  91. Gregory Says:

    That’s just it, the supposed uproar is in the leap to it being a sexual word, outside the book’s context. Sure the body part comes into play during sex, but because it wasn’t in that context in the book, you have to ask yourself, what makes the objecting person take that leap? This is what drives the thinking person crazy about this issue. It’s like someone immediately jumping to a sexual connotation if you say you have to use the bathroom. And, who finds the word scrotum sexy?
    Prudish or not, if you’re making the leap, out of context, then you’re probably going to have a lot more unintended influenece on the kids, than if you had just explained it’s an anatomical word and moved on.

    As a young kid, a word like scrotum would have remained in my vocabulary for about a week, before I returned to the more descriptive euphanisms. But it also would have possibly opened up a whole new anatomical world to me. In fact, it did. In 6th grade, shortly after sex education class–and mind you this was a Catholic school–I asked my parents to buy me Gray’s Anatomy, which I found fascinating and actually read much of the text (many of the words I couldn’t prononounce, but I understood the contextual meaning because it’s loaded with pictures). Can you imagine how messed up my psyche would be if my parents had told me that Gray’s Anatomy was a sex book?

  92. cb Says:

    I think these last two comments by Christa and Bookbk best approximate the direction in which I’ve been mulling over this issue… personally, it pisses me off when people are so petty and ignorant as to freak out over a word like scrotum. Honestly, I don’t know how to deal with people like that, other than to say “what happened to you to make you so ignorant?” which is why I wasn’t very good at being a librarian (which I was for several years.)

    The thing that bothered me about this article, though, was that the author didn’t bother to examine what could possibly have motivated these librarians to act the way they did. As in, what Christa was saying, about school systems being jumpy. It just painted the librarians as “evil censors” which just elicits reactionary, self-righteous responses and no real constructive dialogue about what the heck is going on here.

    It also bothered me that the author left out any discussion of the Library Bill of Rights, etc., and how librarians are supposed to be champions of free speech. This rankles me especially because of all the dozens of wonderful librarians I’ve worked with, I can’t actually think of any who would side with the librarians quoted in this article.

  93. Viviane’s Sex Carnival » Blog Archive » Parents alarmed about ’scrotum’ Says:

    [...] scrotum! ( [...]

  94. Teach42 - Education and Technology, by Steve Dembo » 2007 » February » 26 Says:

    [...] Are there ‘naughty words’? Well, yes. Just like in the dictionary. What’re ya gonna do? Unfortunately, I just don’t think there’s any way to stop students from giggling when they look up what the word scrotum means. Hey, better they look it up on a dictionary, than on Technorati. If you don’t know what I’m refering to, then read this article. [...]

  95. Cubed » Blog Archive » Worsource Says:

    [...] Are there ‘naughty words’? Well, yes. Just like in the dictionary. What’re ya gonna do? Unfortunately, I just don’t think there’s any way to stop students from giggling when they look up what the word scrotum means. Hey, better they look it up on a dictionary, than on Technorati. If you don’t know what I’m refering to, then read this article. [...]

  96. Jane» Blog Archive » Should we be offended by the word scrotum!!! Says:

    [...] – [...]

  97. It Takes All Kinds « Life as I Know It Says:

    [...] I will have to add that Conservapedia does seem to avoid vulgarity. Those who agreed with the librarians and parents who wanted to ban the Newbery award winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, will be happy to know that as of today, the word scrotum does not grace the pages of Conservapedia! Your children should be safe here. This may also be the place to go if you are trying to get away from news of Anna Nicole Smith’s death or Britney Spears’s newly bald head and flight from rehab. [...]

  98. Mister X Says:

    There is another issue about this book that people seem to overlook.

    In books and on TV, both men and women are subjects of violence.

    However, when it comes to laughing at pain, it is always at the price of men.
    You can kick a man in his testicles, you can punch him there or you can push
    him so he falls on a wedge and crushes them. And it is funny. But God so help
    anyone who finds humor in commercial lit. and TV. when it comes to a
    woman’s pain.

    I doubt this book would have been equally accepted if it was about a
    female dog that was bitten by a snake on its sexual organs. I think we would
    not be having this discussion.

  99. The Unwrapped Fish Says:

    Dr. Seuss never won a Newbery Medal, but maybe, if he had, Green Eggs and Ham might have been a different story…

    Bad Words in Books

    I am Sue
    I am Sue
    Sue I am

    That Sue-I-am!
    That Sue-I-am!
    We do not like
    That Sue-I-am!

    Do you like
    Bad words in books?

    We do not like them
    We do not like
    Bad words in books

    Would you like them
    On page one?

    We would not like them
    On page one
    We’d much prefer a
    scrotal shun
    We do not like
    Bad words in books
    We do not like them,

    Would you like
    a pup’s nutsack?
    Might you like
    Some words like that?

    We do not like
    A pup’s nutsack
    We could not like
    some words like that
    We would not like them
    On page one
    We’d much prefer a
    scrotal shun
    We do not like
    Bad words in books
    We do not like them,

    Would you like
    A doggy bag?
    Might that help
    Your tails to wag?

    Not doggy bag
    Not pup’s nutsack
    Not Lassie’s purse
    Not Fido’s flaps
    We will not read them here or there
    We will not read them anywhere
    We do not like
    Bad words in books
    We do not like them,

    Would you? Could you?
    I won a prize!
    Read it! Read it!
    With your eyes.

    We will not
    Read it
    With our eyes.

    You may like it
    You will see
    Buy it for your

    We will not, can not put it there.
    We do not want it anywhere.

    We do not want your doggy bag
    We do not want your pup’s nutsack
    We do not want your Lassie’s purse
    We do not want your Fido’s flaps
    We will not read them here or there
    We will not read them anywhere
    We do not like
    Bad words in books
    We do not like them,

    Treasure chest?
    Dog Treasure chest!
    Might some words like that be best?

    We still don’t like them
    and protest.

    We do not want your doggy bag
    We do not want your pup’s nutsack
    We do not want your Lassie’s purse
    We do not want your Fido’s flaps
    We will not read them here or there
    We will not read them anywhere
    We do not like
    Bad words in books
    We do not like them,

    You don’t like them.
    So you say.
    Read my book first
    And then you may.
    Read it first, please I pray.

    If you will let us be,
    We will read it,
    Then we’ll see.

    We like scrotums in books!
    We do! We like them, Sue-I-am!
    If you write a good story
    And doggy gonads are the key
    Who are we to disagree?

    Since jewels, encased are much like books:
    Precious words, held within
    The cover’s name is not a sin.

    We do so like
    Your Lucky book

    Thank you!
    Thank you!

  100. Not only do I play one on television, I am one in real life » Larocque and Roll Says:

    [...] A group of librarians have publicly stated that they will not add a book, titled The Higher Power of Lucky, to their collections because it contains the word “scrotum.” (here’s the response from the author, who also happens to be a librarian.) [...]

  101. library+instruction+technology » There’s a lot more to “Lucky” than one word Says:

    [...] I read the 2007 Newbery Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, this weekend. I think the amount of press surrounding the controversy of a single "adult word" is unfortunate. It is a well written book. I hope parents take the time to read the book and decide if it is appropriate for their children. [...]

  102. Run! Hide! Here comes “Vagina!” (P.S. “Scrotum” is Scary Too) « Entertainment Law - LAW6126 - Randazza Says:

    [...] Here is another blog post on the topic from What is funny is that if you do a Google® search for “scrotum,” that blog entry is the second hit, after the Wikipedia entry for scrotum. Even funnier are some of the comments on the post. [...]

  103. i’m gonna be a librarian. « disremembering Says:

    [...] scrotum! (jessamyn at [...]

  104. Lionel Says:

    Of course, certain body parts are evil. Why else would the director or producer of the 1961 crucifixion movie, King of Kings, have had Jeffrey Hunter’s armpit hair shaved prior to his depiction of Christ’s ordeal on the cross? Evil scrotums! Evil pee-pees! Evil body hair!

  105. Ape::Tracks » Irregular Brachiation » It’s the dog’s scrotum Says:

    [...] Link: » scrotum! I originally rambled on here about the daftness of all this, but I’ve deleted it – Neil Gaiman has covered the whole topic very well in these three posts, so if you’re interested, read on: [...]

  106. Quick Links - 13 March 2007 Says:

    [...] – InappropriateAn article in the New Yorker about other inappropriate words that have appeared in either the titles or text of works meant from those below twelve. This is in response to the recent controversy in the US over the use of the word “scrotum” in a children’s book, Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, that was recently awarded the 2007 Newberry Medal. You can read more about it on [...]

  107. See Also… » Blog Archive » » scrotum! Says:

    [...] » scrotum! [...]

  108. Dr. Tran Says:

    It may be a little innapropriate for a book to have such content when said book is directed towards young girls. Maybe if the book were for boys, it would be more, if not completely, acceptable. I’m pretty sure every elementary school boy has seen a scrotum, but when the book is for girls, it’s a little awkward.

  109. Hats off to Tipper & the PMRC « Robotic Librarian Says:

    [...] So far the only naughtiness to appear in my blog is the word “cocaine” and that isn’t even part of a post, just a link in my blogroll. I thought drug references automatically score at least a PG-13, but I guess I can’t always believe what I read.  Plus after the controversy  over The Higher Power of Lucky I wouldn’t think I’d be given a free pass.  They must be using the 1968 era rules, by which Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 was granted the golden G.  I don’t know about you, but 2001 is one of the scariest movies I’ve ever seen…by the time HAL starts singing for Dave I start to feel like I’m in the Black Lodge.  Standards certainly have changed in my day. [...]

  110. Transfer Money WebLog » Blog Archive » All about Networking Says:

    [...] » Blog Archive » scrotum! After some thought the little boy said turn mommy over I’d rather have a puppy! … I tried to write a comment here earlier, it got lost in the spamblocker, so I rewrote it as a post on … [...]

  111. scrotum is just another word for sac « We read banned books, and other stuff too… Says:

    [...] reading many articles (New York Times Books,, American Libraries) on the hullabaloo about The Higher Power of Lucky, I finally was able to get [...]

  112. Tony Says:

    Yes, it is important to protect our children from books. We must insure they learn about their body parts from other kids…

    And people wonder why this country is in trouble…