Saturday, February 24, 2007


Amazing how a snake biting a dog can prompt a national furor and an editorial in The New York Times. That would be because a middle-grade children's book, The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, which just won a Newbery Award, has a dog suffering a snakebite on its SCROTUM on page one. And now, months after the book's publication, librarians nationwide are in a tizzy because they don't want to hazard exposing impressionable children to such a dangerous word.

The Times noted in an editorial, One Troublesome Word:
The arguments pro and con are bubbling on librarians’ message boards. The cons seem vastly outnumbered, though they have gotten a lot of attention. One likened the author, Susan Patron, to the shock-radio host Howard Stern. Another suggested that teachers reading the book aloud replace that word with “a clearing-throat noise,” a bleep in the form of an “ahem.”
What's troublesome to me is that I live in a nation that can send a man to the moon but can't name all his body parts...or a dog's. You can bet that any kid aged 9-12 (Lucky's suggested readership) sure as hell knows what "balls" are, and no doubt has used the word, even if not in Mom's and Dad's--or the school librarians'--hearing.

Come to think of it, this is the same nation that had front-page newspaper stories about its last president getting extramarital fellatio. I'd rather my kid had read about a dog getting bitten in the crotch than the sordid details of "presidential kneepads," etc. Which he did, courtesy of the Washington Post. And if memory serves, one of his adult guardians (possibly yours truly) was obliged to explain the sexual terms he was taking in along with his morning cereal. Blech.

But there's a silver--or rather, golden--lining to the cloud over The Higher Power of Lucky. As everyone in the publicity biz knows, controversy sells. And kids' books are no exception. "Debate Fuels Book Sales" is the heading of a graf in today's NYT Arts, Briefly column. The Higher Power of Lucky is #4 on the children's bestseller list on, and in the top 50 of all book titles. Patron, who's a librarian herself, can get the last laugh... all the way to the bank. And I sure hope she does.

By the way, I had to laugh at the pic of Patron "at work" in her home office in a Feb. 18 feature in the NYT. She was sitting ramrod-straight at her computer, primly attired in a long-sleeved top, longish skirt, dark hose and good shoes. And, of course, a demure string of pearls. To make the picture even more perfect, her dog was asleep by her side. Yeah, and I'm sure she always works at home dressed like that, though the dog probably does like to snooze nearby.


Katie said...

Well, if kids hadn't heard the word "scrotum" before, they sure have by now!

Lynne W. Scanlon said...

Yes, I loved Patron's schoolmarm look!

Great posting!

Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing