a few follow-ups regarding The Higher Power of Lucky

Just a few more links to sort of follow-up the wildly popular post about the Newbery award winning book The Higher Power of Lucky and some controversy concerning the mutliple uses of the word “scrotum.” I’ve been reading a lot of the commentary and I still can’t tell whether this is a real issue with two strong sides, or if it’s a few librarians who decided not to purchase the book for whatever reason that got blown totally out of proportion. We may never know. What we do know is that people love to flip out about librarians banning books [both in “how dare they!” and “we would never do that!” ways depending which side of the fence you’re on] and the tricky issue of censorship vs selection has no easy answers. Here is some further reading.

  • My Scrotum Week – I think this title is a take off on Harvey Pekar’s book Our Cancer Year in which case it’s even more brilliant than I first thought. It’s a blog by a teacher describing what happened when she read the book to her 4th graders and then they talked about the controversy, together.
  • four letters to the editor about the original editorial in the New York Times.
  • Neil Gaiman loves librarians unconditionally, but he is worried about some of us.
  • Last but not least, as I was looking around Technorati to see who else had been writing about this, I was amused by the ads Google decided to serve me…

what keywords are these

10 thoughts on “a few follow-ups regarding The Higher Power of Lucky

  1. Actually, I found the third letter to the editor (from one of the quoted librarians) to be very interesting. I’ve always believed that what you stock depends on the mission of your library. Her argument that she was portrayed as being overly censorious for choosing not to stock something that was above the age level of most of her reading audience may have some merit. I doubt she’s the only one. I know I wouldn’t choose to put Criss Cross in an elementary school library if it hadn’t won the Newbery because it put me to sleep repeatedly. Lucky was better, but not by much. I just didn’t see the appeal for its supposed age range.

  2. I had a similar feeling Meg. I think a lot of peopel don’t really understand what librarians do, or especially what sort of budgets they are working with (and the high price of books!) and so there are a lot of disparate reasons a book might not be deemed to fit a collection that don’t have to be censorship, but it’s all about reasoning and being able to defend your decision. I was also pleased to see that letter because I thought it was one of the more sensible approaches to the topic from the side of the people who didn’t want to stock the book.

  3. When my Cub Scout den…Webelos I believe, learned that buffalo scrotum was once used as bags for carrying things in they wrote this song
    “Scrotum, its just a piece of skin
    Scrotum, it keeps your testes in
    Scrotum, don’t overload em
    So keep your scotum, and bloat em, today.

  4. I have no experience with children’s librarianship at all, but my impression has always been that purchasing the Newbery Award winners was such a universal and automatic practice that refusing to buy a particular one is really more an act of censorship than selection. I remain skeptical that Wendy Stoll’s decision not to buy this book reflects a well-reasoned selection policy, rather than a hysterical overreaction to a mildly embarassing word.

  5. And according to Jonah Bloom, the editor of Advertising Age, (Free registration)

    Just last weekend we learned that a nationwide crew of librarians, whom I tend to think of as generally sensible folk with an interest in education and a penchant for vocabulary, are banning the award-winning children’s book, “The Power Of Lucky,” because it contains the word scrotum. Perhaps they’d prefer the playground favorite, ball bag.

    In one fell swoop, our industry professionals have been grouped in with those who protested against the two suicide oriented car advertisements that have been pulled — not to mention those who thought that a number of the other ads (run mostly during the Super Bowl) were too over the top.

    Is it even worthwhile to explain that these are apples and oranges arguments, and ‘a group’ does not mean everyone?

  6. To address John’s comment that purchasing the Newberys was automatic, I’d argue that while that is true in most libraries, I’m not certain it’s going to remain true. I grew up in libraries (and started out in a children’s room), and I viewed the Newberys as good literature. However, I do not consider the quality of the majority of the last ten years of picks to be that good, and most of the children’s librarians I’ve asked have agreed with me. If that attitude continues, maybe Wendy Stoll is simply in the forefront of the movement to spend her money where it makes the most sense. (I’d also note that she did say she hasn’t bought the past few years because they were aimed at older ages, and that’s also something that the children’s librarians in my library have complained about. The teens have the Printz award. The Newbery is supposed to be for children’s lit, and they felt several winners weren’t really in that spirit.)

  7. I just got the AL Direct email for this week, and the top headline reads “Scrotum flap raises ruckus over librarian sensibilities”. Maybe it’s just me, but “flap” seems like an unfortunate choice in this context.

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