Friday, March 10, 2006

Oprah Gizzard Buns*

We interrupt this unintended blog silence for the following news.

The American Library Association (ALA) has released a list of the "Ten Most Challenged" books of 2005 (thanks for the news Powells). Challenged books are books that are just that - challenged....usually by parents disturbed with what they find on the shelves of their local library.

I've lifted the following from the ALA press release. This saves you the trouble of having to link through to get the goods AND it gives me the added satisfaction of laughing my ass off every time I open up my website and see the following on my screen (Banned titles followed by the challenge):
  • “It's Perfectly Normal” for homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group;
  • “Forever” by Judy Blume for sexual content and offensive language;
  • “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger for sexual content, offensive language and being unsuited to age group;
  • “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier for sexual content and offensive language;
  • “Whale Talk” by Chris Crutcher for racism and offensive language;
  • “Detour for Emmy” by Marilyn Reynolds for sexual content;
  • “What My Mother Doesn't Know” by Sonya Sones for sexual content and being unsuited to age group;
  • Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey for anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence;
  • “Crazy Lady!” by Jane Leslie Conly for offensive language; and
  • “It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families” by Robie H. Harris for sex education and sexual content.

Let's reflect for a minute on only one of the these titles (I could go on about most of them) - The Captain Underpants series (um, yes, I did just spend about five minutes pressing the button in the lower left corner. What you going to make of it?!).

Seriously? Have you all read/seen these books. They are hilarious. There is talk of poop and all things disgusting (Booger Boy is a character, Professor Poopy Pants another.) Kids eat them up. They love them. They love to read them. They READ!!! Now we could debate the philosophical ramifications of letting your children read and enjoy books that talk about poop and being a crazy kid and causing trouble. But really, why would you? These books flew off of the shelves during my stint as a Bookseller. Call me a low brow reader but I really think, at the age that's targeted here, that the fact that the kid is reading far exceeds the negative impact of a few poop phrases and other benign topics. I happen to think there are far greater threats to the American child.

I think it would be interesting to travel to your local library and take a look at the shelves. Are these titles there? What were the most challenged books at your branch? Who's buying the books at your library?

Every library has a local flavor dependent on who is buying, etc. I have a good friend (Hi Jess!) who used to worked in a library when she was a student. She weighed in pretty heavy on the music purchases. This resulted in a primo music selection. It was good stuff.

I think it would be interesting to hear from some of the librarians and library goers in the crowd (and there are a ton, which I found out when I confessed to not returning my library book for elevinity-million years - which, btw, has now been returned).

What has been your experience with challenged books? What is the general philosophy of most library's? Do political / social leanings in an area influence the content of the library's shelves?

* My silly name according to Professor Poopy Pants
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Blogger Carole said...

I hadn't seen this year's list until now but it's mostly the same as before. A lot of times these books are challenged in school libraries, not public libraries. As for my library, we have a selection policy that covers us for what we want to buy. We also have a challenged book policy which says I'll review their concerns. Then I pretty much ignore them. I've been lucky in that I haven't had to deal with this much. One thing that I found very interesting was that when audio books first started being purchased we had a lot of complaints about the language in them. These were books that had been on our shelves for years and no one cared. But people were offended by hearing the language more than by reading it. That's my 2 cents. I'll be interested to read what others think.

3/10/2006 5:15 PM  
Blogger Stitchy McYarnpants said...

I want to get one of those buttons installed on my desk! I think it would make my workday a lot more interesting! Did you try hitting it over and over really fast! It's pure, blissful cacophony!

It's amazing that some of the same books have been contested for years. When I was younger, I always looked at this as a list of books I needed to read.

3/10/2006 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Daphne said...

I wouldn't have visited the site because I've read the books and done the funny name thing and all but I HAD TO PRESS THE BUTTON. FUN!!!!

And, not being a librarian but knowing some and loving books and living in a liberal land, this is all I have to say. Read, then go push the button!

3/10/2006 5:39 PM  
Anonymous Laurie said...

I'm not sure who should get the poopy prize...the politically correct gang or the ridiculously conservative.

3/10/2006 6:34 PM  
Anonymous Buttercup Bubblefanny said...

I've given the Captain Underpants Series to many a kid who will now love me forever. Know how I heard about them? From my shrink. Yeah. That's right. My shrink. So it's good for your Mental Health to read Captain Underpants. And make sure you get the set because it comes with a free whoopie cushion!

(Dude! Did you hit the Romance button? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!)

3/10/2006 6:50 PM  
Blogger Sonya said...

I'm in a small, really conservative, rural area. I encourage my staff to buy books with a broad spectrum of views (duh), and sometimes I really nudge them on homosexuality, etc. We have never had a serious challenge to anything. Sometimes we have patrons return a book and say it was too sexual/violent/whatever for them. But they seem to get the idea that it might be OK for other people.

I did have 2 middle school teachers (!) bring in 2 copies of Mad magazine that they had confiscated from a student. They were offended by the boobies. Since no parents have complained, it never went any further.

3/10/2006 8:10 PM  
Blogger Irie said...

Thanks for recommending the button on the Captain Underpants website. Fun!

You might be able to divide your readers into two categories: those who comment on Captain Underpants, and those who comment on the intellectual, book-related content of your post.

You know which camp I'm in.

Pinky Bubbleshorts

3/10/2006 8:35 PM  
Blogger Bookish Wendy said...

Now this is interesting.

3/10/2006 10:29 PM  
Blogger Warrior Knitter said...

So glad you're back. I was beginning to think that the Knitting Olympics had done you in after all!

In the college town when I live, the library is definitely influenced by the liberal nature of the local politics. I read mostly mysteries & science fiction so their choices there don't effect me much.

But I can sure see it in the audio books & the "new / recently published" books the library purchases.

3/10/2006 10:30 PM  
Anonymous anne said...

My mom is teaches reading and writing for an elementary school, and she works the school bookstore that sells books to students for a dollar. The Captain Underpants books, as you might expect, are wildly popular. Some of the teachers and staff are scandalized, but my mom's take on it is the same as yours: Hello! They're READING. Her constant refrain is, "Put books in their hands." There are enough of them for whom Capt. U.P. is a gateway drug to even more reading, and plus, the books are funny as hell. :)

3/10/2006 10:59 PM  
Anonymous may said...

i love captain underpants! that site totally made my night :) I had to press the button (repeatedly!)

3/10/2006 11:27 PM  
Blogger Dani said...

Captain Underpants books are on the AR reading list here. My son zoomed past his goal by testing on book after book from the series.

3/10/2006 11:35 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

The BoyWonder was obsessed w/Captain Underpants the whole year he was 5. And the books are great, easy to read and for him to follow. Plus we got to make flying fart jokes all the time and play the games on the computer.

Dav Pilkey makes very clear his thoughts on traditional education....and after reading his bio you can see why. Love that he says that you can be sucessful, even if everyone tells you you are DUMB and you sit in the hall all the time.


Snotty Pizzabrains

3/11/2006 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Kim said...

I totally agree. Getting kids to read and actually enjoy it IS far more important than worrying about the poop content. I teach high school English and very few enjoy the stories we read in class. They would rather see a movie. My 8-year-old son loves Captain Underpants as well as The Magic Tree House series and I think it's all great. He lays down in bed each night and reads a chapter. I hope it's a habit he keeps forever! No matter what the subject matter.

3/11/2006 8:38 AM  
Anonymous Connie said...

As an assistant librarian in a rather conservative area of the county:( our director does a really good job of buying. I remember about 10 years ago the Goosebumps books that flew off the shelve caused a bit of a stir. When my son was young he loved Capt. U.P and we had a blast when he would read them out loud when we would travel. I say JUST READ

3/11/2006 9:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe your timing. I'm a librarian in Oklahoma and the OK house is trying to inact the most restrictive, invasive measure I've ever heard of.... it prohibits any public library from allowing access to any materials with ANY sexual content until they are 18! (no matter what their parents say) and requires libraries to have separate adult access only collections (unfunded mandate) and any library found not in compliance? they will lock the doors! Scary Scary stuff. Help us!

3/11/2006 10:12 AM  
Blogger Kathy said...

Not one of those titles can be found at my local libraray, if that tells you anything. Sad that people get so all in a tangle about .....shhhhh..... (sex) and (body parts), and yet there is little uproar over violence that is so common in the media that even small children think nothing of watching someone else get shot. Sad.

3/11/2006 3:24 PM  
Blogger maryse said...

we must related. i'm pinky gizzard buns

3/12/2006 7:20 AM  
Blogger Sandysknitting said...

I'm glad (or do I not have all the facts?) that libraries do not listen to these so called people making these so called lists. The thing about Today is that something is sure to offend someone somewhere. It's a given.
Snotty Waffle Brains.
Yes, that's a nice name that Professor Poopypants gave me, is it not?

3/12/2006 9:58 AM  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

I've never heard of our local library limiting access or turning down a book. You ask for it, they get it and loan it to you. Simple. My kids have had a bunch of the books on that list. I'll admit that "What my mother doesn't know" was definitely not a favourite of mine, but I think it's important that book access isn't censored.

3/12/2006 10:40 AM  
Anonymous Susan said...

I've used Dave Pilkey's books forever to encourage kids to read. It didn't matter whether Captain Underpants got them hooked or the "Halloweiner" or "Gargoyles".

I use our public library a lot and my mom is a librarian in her small town. I don't know my library's police or who buys books but I definately want to check it out.

Guns are threatening and wars just suck but ideas presented in books never hurt a soul. Considering a book harmful in any way is the height of ignorance.

Snotty Gizzardbrain

3/12/2006 1:14 PM  
Blogger goodkarma said...

The kids LOVE Capt. Underpants and can't get enough. Why not let them read something that really gets them excited about books? These "challenged" or "banned" book lists are great. They just give free advertising to people looking for something interesting to read. :)

3/12/2006 1:40 PM  
Blogger Lucia said...

Talk about gateway: my DD went from Frog and Toad to Captain Underpants to Harry Potter. For all their childishness the CU books actually have some fairly sophisticated vocabulary and humor.

Sincerely yours,
Booger Wafflefanny

3/13/2006 6:14 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

I ran an elementary school library in a poverty-stricken rural area for nine years, and had multiple copies of Capt. U.P. in constant circulations. Anything that will get BOYS to read is just fine by me.
I read that Dav Pilkey's teacher once told him, "You're never going to make a living by drawing funny pictures!!!" Hee hee hee! Be sure to read his books, "Dogzilla" and "Kat Kong".
My most challenged books when I worked at the school were the Harry Potter books. I used to tell parents, "When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina. I checked out ballet books from the library, put on tights and a t-shirt, and practiced my positions in front of a mirror. No matter how hard I wanted it to happen, reading about ballet did NOT make me a ballerina, and I seriously doubt that reading about wizards will make your child become one, no matter how hard they want it to happen."
By the way, thanks for returning your overdue book...;~D

Lumpy Gorillabuns (now, how did they know this without seeing me?)

3/19/2006 9:02 AM  

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