Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The One With the Offensive Books

I love books.

I think anyone who knows me knows how I feel about books in general, libraries, reading, etc. Love it.

So today, when one of my new co-workers brought up two books that had been "challenged" in the system by people who wanted them removed, I was interested in what other people find offensive.
Book #1 was "It's a Book" by Lane Smith.

The premise of the book is that this monkey is reading a book, and this donkey (introduced in the first couple of pages, actually, as a "jackass") doesn't get that in order to read a book, you don't need all kinds of electronic gadgets.

"How do you scroll down?" asks the donkey.

The monkey replies, "I don't. I turn the page. It's a book."

"Can you make the characters fight?" asks the donkey.

Again, the monkey replies, "No. It's a book."

And on and on. Finally, at the end of the book, the monkey passes over his book to the donkey and then heads out to the library to get another one. "Don't worry!" the donkey calls out. "I'll charge it when I'm done!"

At this point, the mouse that lives under the monkey's hat says, "You don't need to. . ."

And when you turn the page, he finishes his sentence: ". . .it's a book, jackass!"

I laughed when I read that. It was a very funny, very cute, well-illustrated book. The problem? It is categorized in our Easy Reader, picture book section. Call me old-fashioned, call me too PC, say whatever you want, but I agree with whichever patron is it that brought this to our attention.

Can you imagine being up in front of a group of small elementary school-aged kids (and their parents!) and reading this out loud? Admittedly, if you're super-vigilant about what your kids read and you want to avoid profanity (even though yes, I KNOW "jackass" is another word for "donkey." I know this. But the double entendre is clearly intentional), then you should be screening the books beforehand. Sometimes, though, you just can't do that.

My vote on this one? Keep the book in the system (because it really is good), but put it in Juvenile Fiction, or even Adult Humor. Most of the story would go over young kids' heads anyway. (What little kid knows what a blog is? Or Twitter?)

Book #2 was "The Polar Bears Are Hungry" by Carol Carrick.

The story is about a mother polar bear and her cubs looking for hard-to-find food and ending up trying to break into a house to get food, being brought to "bear jail" and then being re-released into the wild. The pictures are beautiful. There is a vague liberal global warming agenda, but while it would be pretty obvious to astute parents, unless a parent wanted to say, "And all this is happening because of X, Y, and Z," kids wouldn't get it. How frightening the book would be would, in all actuality, depend on the tone of voice of the adult reading it.

The person who complained said there were pictures of bears viciously eating seals (not true. It just mentioned the bear was hunting seals. Which. . .they do.); that they "drugged" the bears and sent them to "jail" (true, but not as frightening as the lady made it out to be); and she said that it was "propegating" the "theory" of global warming, which is SO UNTRUE, because everyone smart knows that the Earth has, throughout the years, goes through periods of extreme heat and extreme cold.

I'd like to pause a moment here and comment that, um, did she not just disprove herself? She said the Earth isn't any hotter than it was 20 years ago, but then she goes on to say that the Earth continually gets hotter and colder.


She suggested that we get rid of every copy of that book in our system and send them back to the publisher, and that we then buy books about the REAL eating habits and habitats of polar bears. Which, I'm pretty sure this book has all of those things.

I guess some people just need to complain and be indignant.

One of my co-workers suggested maybe she just wants us to have copies of books about how polar bears hang out at the North Pole, where it's always frigid, with Santa and his elves.

That made me laugh.

If I haven't bored you enough yet, more about books in my next post, including offensively gay books and the cutest book I've ever read.

So what do you guys think? Should we ban profanity and books about the natural life cycle?

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