September 30, 2011 1 Comment
In honor of Banned Books Week, our staff is sharing their experiences with banned books, and at the end of the week, we’ll give away a copy of Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection to one of our randomly selected blog subscribers.To enter the giveaway, just subscribe to our blog via the e-mail subscription link. To enter additional times, you can blog, tweet, or update your status on Facebook with a link over to the giveaway (tag @FulcrumBooks on Twitter and @FulcrumPublishing on Facebook), or “like” Fulcrum Publishing on Facebook. Just be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry and leave the link to each one. The contest ends on October 3.
From our editor, Carolyn Sobczak:
I finally read Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War a couple of years ago, having somehow made it through my middle and high school classes without it being assigned reading. What struck me most, reading it at age 32, wasn’t how many times Jerry, the protagonist, thought about masturbation and sex, or how bad the language was (commonly cited “problems” with the book)—it was how the adults in the book ultimately fail the youngsters. (This is just my interpretation, of course. Maybe you wouldn’t read it that way…or maybe that’s the real reason the book’s been challenged so many times.)
I admit that I was upset when I closed this book, but that’s the effect a rich and complex story can have. I wondered how a teen might respond and what my then classmates would have said. There are so many great discussion topics to consider: What is the nature of the world? Can we work against the status quo? What is right and wrong? And that’s just the beginning.
I wish someone would have suggested to me that adults aren’t infallible. I wish that before I went to college I would have understood what all those bumper stickers meant that said Question Authority, and why it’s important to do so. I wish The Chocolate War had been required reading.
Carolyn is an editor at Fulcrum, where she prides herself on encouraging her authors to produce the best books possible. She enjoys projects that are both intelligent and highly readable, like Ted Gioia’s The Birth (and Death) of the Cool.
From our editorial intern, Jessica Engman:
Fahrenheit 451 is a science fiction novel about a dystopian society where books and all printed material are banned because of the fear that books create individualism and freedom of thought, enabling people to rise up against their government. The protagonist, Montag, is a fireman, but not the kind who puts out fires—he burns books. Fahrenheit 451 is the temperature at which books burn.
Fahrenheit 451 was first banned because of its use of words like damn or hell and because the Christian Bible was one of the books that was burned and destroyed. Ironically, Fahrenheit 451, a book that condemns censorship through its portrayal of it, was banned in schools because many groups feared that it advocated anti-Christianity and governmental suppression.
From our marketing intern, Diana Edmundson:
Okay, concerned mothers of America, I’ll give you the fact that Shel Silverstein was a mildly controversial figure. A man who writes for both Playboy and 2nd graders is bound to be. But, speaking as a former 2nd grader and faithful memorizer of good ol’ Shel’s poetry, I feel like I owe him a little love during Banned Books Week.
A few years ago, a mother was outraged by one of Shel’s poems, “Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony,” and tried to have it banned from the shelves of her daughter’s elementary school. She took issue with the dark outcome of poor little Abigail. (“If I don’t get that pony I’ll die,” Abigail said. And she did.) She felt that it was giving children the wrong idea, and that ultimately the poem promoted suicide and the manipulation of adult figures. (Because it would never have occurred to children to beg for ponies without Shel.)
While readers (i.e., children) may sympathize with Miss Abigail, I am happy to report that not only was I not permanently scarred as a child by the poem, I hardly remember it. Instead, I remember counting down the days until I could afford my own “Homework Machine,” only mine would know that nine plus four is not three, and fighting an internal battle whenever I had to dry the dishes after supper. (Thank you, “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes”). But I knew if a dish ever “accidently” slipped and shattered on the linoleum, my mother would be onto me. After all, she’s the one who read the poems to me before I could read them myself.
Which is why, years later as an older and wiser camp counselor, I used to read the poems to my campers. On rainy nights, we would create a tent in the cabin made of safety-pinned sheets and a roaring fire of piled up flashlights. And we would read Shel Silverstein. They now know all about how to catch a moon (“Moon-catchin’ Net”), the proper use of kitchen utensils to form their own rock ‘n roll bands (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Band”), and what happens if a whatif (“Whatif”) crawls into their ear. And you know what’s amazing? I’m sure none of them ever tried to put a brassiere on a camel (“They’ve Put a Brassiere on the Camel”).
Still, it’s amazing to see that even though Shel is only living now in the memories of children and adults who love his stories, his writing continues. Every Thing, a new book out this month, carries on his tradition for wacky words and stirring insight into the minds of the forever young.
An ode to silly poems by a man named Shel:
Beware of those hills, er, holes.