Friday, February 23, 2007

Much Ado About a Dog Scrotum

I’m a bit late in posting something about the recent debate over Susan Patron’s Newbery-winning novel, THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY, but since the controversy still rages on...

Admittedly, I haven’t read the book yet—I’m number six on my local library’s waiting list, but I’ve gleaned enough information to say that, IMHO, this entire thing seems a bit nuts (no pun intended).

The anatomical term—scrotum—is used on the first page of the novel. Apparently, it is not used in a vulgar context; it’s in reference to a dog being bitten on the scrotum by a rattlesnake (the image of the poor suffering dog should warrant more distress than reading the word “scrotum”). I simply do not see why this is an issue with some folks. Do they object to the use of all anatomical terms in children’s books as well? How would they handle a reference to a mother who is breast-feeding? There’s nothing more natural than that, but dare an author use the word “breast”?

The other irony I find is that the people who are objecting the loudest to the use of the term are some librarians, who find it their duty to control what goes into their libraries and hence, what children read. Ahem...the American Library Association gives the Newbery Award. Shall I say it again? The American LIBRARY Association. This makes as much sense as a librarian holding in one hand a lit torch to a pile of banned books and holding a fire extinguisher in the other hand.

However, if you want to rile up a group of kid-lit folks, this is the way. This treads beyond a dog’s nether regions, it goes to censorship issues and if one really wants to push the argument, the whole religious right movement that’s occurred in our country for the past six years. And one thing about Americans—we love our First Amendment rights and we love a good debate. No matter who gets bit in the scrotum!

I hope Ms. Patron, a writer AND librarian, benefits from this with thousands of additional book sales. She deserves it—after all, she did write a Newbery Award winner—and that’s far more important than one little word.

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