I’ve always thought that the Scholastic Book Fairs were pretty cool. They make kids’ books available at extremely affordable prices in a very convenient and even fun way. I imagine lots of kids have books because of Scholastic that wouldn’t have them otherwise. The company is also good to teachers, offering liberal bonuses to let teachers get books for their classrooms cheaply. Now, however, my opinion of the company is in jeopardy of changing significantly for the worse.
Lauren Myracle has written a number of books for teens and tweens, including ttyl and ttfn. Her latest book, Luv Ya Bunches, is the story of four girls whose only commonality is that they all are named after flowers. So what does this have to do with Scholastic Books, other than that it seems natural that the company would offer the tale to their teenage customers? Well, that’s just it — Scholastic isn’t including the book in their book fairs.
Scholastic refused to carry the book unless the author made some changes, such as removing a few words — “geez,” “crap,” “sucks,” and “God” (as in, “oh my God”) — and changing the family dynamics of one of the characters. You see, Milla has two moms. Myracle was okay with taking out the supposed obscenities (“with the goal — as always — of making the book as available to as many readers as possible,” she said,) but refused to change Milla’s moms.
And why should she? “A child having same-sex parents is not offensive, in my mind, and shouldn’t be ‘cleaned up,’” said Myracle. Not only is it not offensive, it’s a fact of life for many kids.
In his amazing and reasoned response to a challenge to the book Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, Colorado librarian Jamie LaRue referred to the work of psychologist Bruno Bettelheim who believed “that both the purpose and power of children’s literature is to help young people begin to make sense of the world.” LaRue goes on to explain that “there is a lot out there that is confusing, or faintly threatening, and even dangerous in the world. Stories help children name their fears, understand them, work out strategies for dealing with life.”
While LaRue was discussing a book aimed at a younger audience, these ideas apply equally well to the teen years. From Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary to Roald Dahl and Marilyn Sachs, authors have, probably as far back as there have been books, been offering awkward teens and tween guidance and support in the form of novels. Even Harry Potter offers lessons that can apply to real life. So what’s up with the censorship, Scholastic?
Photo: Amulet Books