Hot Topic Time
Nothing like a zinging literary debate to ward off the chill February months.
You may not have noticed it, but since I posted my disappointment with those children's librarians that refuse to stock The Higher Power of Lucky on their shelves I've had at least two people speaking in defense of the move via my comment section. One, by the name of S., wrote this very interesting point:
I just read the opening couple pages of The Higher Power of Lucky to several groups: a kidlit class at a liberal arts college in middle Ameria, a group of K-4 teachers in middle America, a Creative Writing for Children class in middle America. All were hesitant about giving The Higher Power of Lucky to students.We're currently discussing whether or not a person can judge a title via the first three pages or not. The second one had a different take:
After reading it several times, it's not just the S-Word, or the anonymous 12-step programs--it's something about the tone that is set up immediately. Those things are generally offensive in Middle America, but it's the combination of them, plus the density of the text at first, that creates the strong impression. If a kid doesn't know what a 12-step anonymous program is (AA is never mentioned) then it's hard to understand what is happening. The phrase "Hard Pan Found Object Wind-Chime Museum and Visitor's Center" is a mouthful, and the rest is sometimes--well, it has a different sort of rhythm and flow. And that results in an cumulative tone that doesn't let a reader in.
I don't think it's just that word. But in Middle America, this book will not play well, from my small sampling. Like it or not, much of America is still conservative, while publishing is largely not conservative. They/we are willing to accept the different, the unusual--but this opening strikes the ear and the reader with too much of a dischordant tone.
Please remember that school libraries and public libraries have different functions, as well as financing. When a school budget is tight (and I've heard of schools that allot $500 a year to their libraries collections, where non-fiction is the priority,) the librarian has to make hard choices. Buying a book he doesn't think his patrons will read and isn't a tied into the school's curriculum becomes necessary. When three of the last five winners (Lucky may or may not join that list,) have very little young reader appeal among the librarian's patrons, not automatically buying the winner may be a valid decision.This makes a lot of sense when you consider books like Kira-Kira and Criss Cross with their 14-year-old girl bent. So then the focus switches to whether or not Lucky is appropriate for younger ages. Ho ho!
And then, of course, there was that pretty little New York Times article (which may have disappeared by now) covering the Lucky debate. Now THIS particular piece is remarkable primarily because of its ill turns of phrase. I just adored this quote in particular:
If it were any other novel, it probably would have gone unnoticed, unordered and unread. But in the world of children’s books, winning a Newbery is the rough equivalent of being selected as an Oprah’s Book Club title. Libraries and bookstores routinely order two or more copies of each year’s winners, with the books read aloud to children and taught in classrooms.Oh dear. The Newbery is now the children's equivalent of Oprah's Book Club? I guess in the sense of selling a book instantaneously, but a part of me wishes that there were a nicer adult equivalent.
Loved the end of the article as well.
Ms. Nilsson, reached at Sunnyside Elementary School in Durango, Colo., said she had heard from dozens of librarians who agreed with her stance. “I don’t want to start an issue about censorship,” she said. “But you won’t find men’s genitalia in quality literature.”And now we have the first! How lovely. Shall we nitpick the quote and point out that it is not a man's genitalia but a dog's? I don't think it's too much to ask that all the people who discount the book read it through. Then, at the very least, we'd have a better informed debate.
“At least not for children,” she added.
One more question for you as well. If anything, this debate is interesting because it brings up the listserv LM_Net which I've not heard much of before. I belong to the Pub-Yac listserv and child_lit, but what are the advantages of LM_Net? Any subscribers out there?