Tuesday, 20 February 2007

The Scrotum, the Newbery Prize and the Librarian

"But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature … at least not for children"

Miffed librarian
So have you heard about the scrotum, the Newbery Prize and the librarian?

Apparently some U.S. librarians are so offended by the word “scrotum” in the first few pages of Newbery winner The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron that they’ve decided to take it off their shelves. American message boards and blogs are buzzing alternately pro and con, with indignation and bile.

You can get a good flavour of the discussion from the comments on Fusenumber8’s blog titled Oh, Doggone It (the scrotum in question belongs to a dog).

YA author Scott Westerfield writes an amusing riposte then invites his readers to propose their "favourite dorky-dirty words".

Susan Patron who was "shocked and horrified" when the controversy reared its ugly head out of a New York Times article, wrote in Publishing News:
If I were a parent of a middle-grade child, I would want to make decisions about my child's reading myself—I'd be appalled that my school librarian had decided to take on the role of censor and deny my child access to a major award-winning book. And if I were a 10-year-old and learned that adults were worried that the current Newbery book was not appropriate for me, I'd figure out a way to get my mitts on it anyway
Patron should know. Being a librarian is her day job.

And here for your reading pleasure (or otherwise), a list of children’s books with the word scrotum in it.


  1. Candy

    I love your blog - how do you find time to keep it up? You must have a HUGE pile of washing up!

    As you know, I'm writing a kids' novel about a boy who has to share his room with his Chinese granny. When she starts making his packed lunch for him and putting all sorts of odd things in it, his friends ask him why he's got a scrotum for lunch - amongst other things.

    I'm hoping it'll be published one day, in which case I'll send letters to all librarians asking them to remove it from their shelves - should do my sales no end of good.


  2. Sounds like good fodder for controversy! We have a delicacy in the philippines called Chicken Adidas - barbecued chicken claws.

    I can't even bear to to look at it!

    Thanks for the comment!


    p.s. my washing up is HUGE. someday, i'll blog about it.

  3. Reading Scott Westerfield's blog is terrific. A real goldmine for how young people think and speak. I find that this is an excellent reminder of speech patterns and the way that young people overemphasise everything : so this and so that.

    You really don't need slang and swearing, it's all about the choice of words and their positioning in dialogue. None of the kids in the blog swear, or even use particularly dirty words, but they still make a strong impact.

    'Bumface' by Morris Gleitzman has penis on the first page.

    It's a sex education lesson, but still makes a big impact. No-one made a fuss about that!

    xx Miri

  4. It's a sad thing when those who are supposed to be promoting the love of reading have such a myopic standpoint on quality. Literature has much more to do than a word check, anyway. And since when are librarians authorized to censor? I would understand for them to give recommendations or objections, that's normal and expected from anyone, but to use their position for their own personal biases is just not right.

    Incidentally, Neil Gaiman blogged about this too.

  5. Interesting stuff Candy. I see things from a teachers' perspective....accountability and all that stuff. I've followed up this post on my blog as it got me thinking.

  6. Great post. I like the list of childrens books.

    I think the hype is amazing. Talk about having a hook to hang your book on - don't really fancy hanging mine on a dog's scrotum though.

    But, the anticipation about a blog on washing up... well, it's just too much. Can't wait!


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