The New York Times writes about “The Higher Power of Lucky“, a children’s book which recently won the Newbery Medal. As someone who has purchased his share of kids’ books, I assure you that the Newbery — and its companion the Caldecott Medal — signal quality to buyers.
In this case, though, some parents and librarians in the more benighted areas of our fine nation are staying away. The problem is that the book’s young protagonist overhears the word “scrotum” (as a boy relates a seemingly tragic story involving his dog and a rattlesnake [OUCH!]), and wonders what it means. This, it seems, is too much for some of the people we pay to help teach our children about books, learning, and the power of language:
I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson
said one New York school librarian,
If I were a third- or fourth-grade teacher, I wouldn’t want to have to explain that.
quoth a NJ colleague (both quoted in the Times).
The thing about great teachers — and I am lucky enough to have had my share — is that they don’t just “teach you stuff”. They teach you how to learn for yourself. So, an appropriate response to the awkward question these people fear is something as simple as “Why don’t you look it up in the dictionary?”
I bought my copy today. Ballsy writing should be rewarded.