[Libs-Or] FW: [ALACOUN:19037] Re: The "Scrotum controversy" - Newbery Medal Award
Carolyn.Rawles-Heiser at ci.corvallis.or.us
Fri Feb 23 10:55:42 PST 2007
From: owner-alacoun at ala.org [mailto:owner-alacoun at ala.org] On Behalf Of
Linda A. Perkins
Sent: Friday, February 23, 2007 10:28 AM
To: ALA Council List
Subject: [ALACOUN:19037] Re: The "Scrotum controversy" - Newbery Medal
It appears that the New York Times reporter decided to cover one half
of the story-- the half that sells newspapers. I have cut and pasted an
AP piece by their reporter who checked to see if librarians were
actually excluding the book from library collections. Unfortunately,
this type of story doesn't sell newspapers, but it does give a truer
picture of what's happening in libraries. I have underlined a few
sentences for those who prefer to skim the article, but I would hope all
councilors who read the entire NYT piece would also read this one in its
BC-Books-The 'S' Word,0841
Librarians debate use of 'scrotum' in award-winning novel
AP Photos NYET178-179
By HILLEL ITALIE
AP National Writer
NEW YORK (AP) < Yes, controversy sells. Criticism of an award-winning
book over the word "scrotum" has brought Susan Patron's "The
Higher Power of Lucky" into the top 40 on Amazon.com.
Meanwhile, a member of the judging committee that in January awarded the
Newbery prize to "The Higher Power of Lucky" defended the book against
complaints by some children's librarians. "We were impressed by the
of her language and how clearly she portrayed the environment of her
We found it a very distinguished book," Edith Ching, a librarian at the
school of the St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., told The Associated
a recent interview.
"The Higher Power of Lucky" is the story of a 10-year-old girl in rural
California and her quest for "Higher Power." The opening chapter
a passage about a man "who had drunk half a gallon of rum listening to
Cash all morning in his parked '62 Cadillac, then fallen out of the car
he saw a rattlesnake on the passenger seat biting his dog, Roy, on the
Librarians have been debating whether "scrotum" was an appropriate word
for young readers, especially from a book with the Newbery seal. Patron
is a children's librarian based in Los Angeles and the Newbery was voted
by a 15-member panel that included booksellers, teachers and librarians.
Atheneum Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, published "Higher Power'
last fall with a modest first printing of 10,000. Early reviews from
publications as School Library Journal and Booklist did not mention
< the sac holding a man's testicles < or any other possible problems.
said that Newbery judges "were aware the word was there, but were not
The controversy took off after a librarian from Durango, Colo., Dana
a complaint on LM<Net, a listserv "dedicated to school library media
worldwide," and later claimed that she had received some two dozen
of support. Her remarks were first reported on Feb. 15 by Children's
a newsletter from Publishers Weekly.
The book was in the high 600s on Amazon before Nilsson's comments were
but soon jumped into the top 40. Simon & Schuster had already ordered an
100,000 copies after the Newbery was announced.
"I don't know of any booksellers who had an issue with that word, or
carry it," says Kristen McLean, executive director of the Association of
for Children. "I do feel there's been some frustration that recent
picks have kind of come from out of the blue and haven't had tremendous
appeal. There's a sense that we're putting too much weight on this award
and that Newbery books aren't necessarily the ones customers will love."
While "Higher Power" has been defended everywhere from ABC-TV's "The
View" to The New York Times' editorial page, finding an actual librarian
<at least one by name < who has banned it can be a challenge.
The AP contacted several librarians who had criticized "Higher Power"
on LM<Net. All said they either have it or were still deciding. Even
complained of the book's "Howard Stern-type shock treatment," told
the AP that she is carrying it, although she questions whether it was
a Newbery. Nilsson also said that she didn't know of anyone who had
to stock it.
The Newbery guarantees nationwide attention, but few children's books,
or not, receive universal access. Books eligible for the Newbery are
for "persons of ages up to and including 14," making it
highly unlikely that a single book would appeal, or be right for, all
Michelle Fadlala, director of marketing for education and libraries at
Schuster, noted that some libraries did not purchase the 2005 Newbery
Kadohata's "Kira-Kira," because they felt that its subject matter
< a Japanese family's struggles in the 1950s < was too mature for some
"Librarians have these discussions all the time about books and ask each
'How are you handling this situation,'" says Kathleen Horning, president
of the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of
the American Library Association that administers the Newberys. "Even
the Newbery, I wouldn't say that every single library is going to buy
single winner. It mostly has to do with age level. An elementary school
might think the book is too old for it readers, while a middle school
think it's too young."
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