Banned Books Week—More Banned Books We Love

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 FacebookJust 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.

A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

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.

Banned Books Week—Julie of the Wolves

In honor of Banned Books Week, our staff will be 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 FacebookJust be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry and leave the link to each one.  The contest ends on October 3.

Today’s blog post is from our editorial and production manager, Haley Berry.

When our marketing team asked us to write about a banned book, I was surprised to see one of my favorites, Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, on the list. I had to google it to see the objections to the book (marital rape scene), and I had to admit I didn’t remember that part of the story. The part that had stuck in my impressionable young brain was when the main character eats food regurgitated by a wolf. That’s hard core.

I didn’t love the book because I was shocked or felt like I was reading something I shouldn’t; I loved it because the story spoke to the independence I so craved. I was hungry to prove myself, to have my own place in the world. After reading Julie of the WolvesMy Side of the Mountain, and Hatchet, when I was eleven you could have parachuted me into the wilderness and I would have been really happy about it (for a while, anyway). Because after reading those books, I looked at myself and knew I could survive, that I was smart enough and strong enough. Whether that’s true is definitely debatable. I probably would have starved to death or fallen out of a tree or something within a week or two. Still, those books gave me confidence and fed my already independent spirit. What’s not constructive about that?

I can’t imagine what I’d be like if my parents had kept certain books from me. Neither of my parents have a college degree, so they were happy I was hoovering books and that BOOK IT! was giving me free pizzas for it. They figured if it was in the school or town library, then it was probably safe. In short, I was reading Stephen King and watching Predator at nine. That’s likely objectionable to a lot of parents, but I’m so grateful mine didn’t keep certain books and movies away from me. Living in a small town, books provided so many experiences and viewpoints that I never would have had access to otherwise. They made my world bigger and my choices more informed.

But here’s the funny part: my mother never attempted to censor any books or movies, but she was terrified about my exposure to MTV or music with “dirty” lyrics. Makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it? She almost blew a vein when I brought home Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, which drops a single F-bomb. One curse word equaled one really big fight, and I was sent to my room (sans Alanis), where I probably curled up in bed to finish Lady Chatterley’s Lover or Go Ask Alice.

Haley is the editorial and production manager at Fulcrum. Some of her favorite Fulcrum authors include Craig Barnes, Dick Kreck, Mitch Tobin, Amy Masching, Kirk Johnson, and Anita Thompson. She’s happy to spend her days working with talented designers and editors (and marketers!), and to have finally found a world that embraces word nerds. If Haley were a book, she’d be a petite paperback with matte lam, flaps, and a deckled edge.

Banned Books Week—In the Night Kitchen

In honor of Banned Books Week, our staff will be 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 FacebookJust be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry and leave the link to each one.  The contest ends on October 3.

Today’s blog post is from our special sales manager, Ingrid Estell.

In the Night Kitchen (978-0-06-026668-4) by Maurice Sendak was published in 1970 and received well-deserved honors: 1971 Caldecott Honor Book, Best Books of 1970 (School Library Journal), Best Illustrated Children’s Books, and Children’s Books of 1970 (Library of Congress), just to list a few. It also weathered protests: how could a children’s picture book depict a naked child? And from the same and other detractors, how could cake be advocated for breakfast? While I’m not sure Sendak advocates for anything but a magical expression of the world as children see it, I would have loved cake for breakfast in 1970. I was the perfect age to enjoy In the Night Kitchen then, but I didn’t have the book read to me and it certainly wasn’t in the small-town elementary school I attended.

My earliest recollection of Sendak’s work dates to 1975 when I read Where the Wild Things Are to my brother ten years younger than me. It would be another ten years before I read a copy of In the Night Kitchen. Not long after my daughter was born, I purchased a set of Maurice Sendak books for her. I was attending college and had taken children’s literature classes, had discussed various banned books, and had discovered my small-town library did not have a copy of In the Night Kitchen, nor had it ever had one.

With what lewdness had Sendak drawn his character Mickey? I was curious to see, as I had my own small child. The first time I opened In the Night Kitchen, I entered a wonderful dreamworld of a little boy in a baker’s kitchen. I happily followed along as Mickey floats from panel to panel, discovering the night kitchen. As the dream progresses, Mickey’s pajamas float here and there, and he’s left, for a page or two, tastefully and in not much detail, naked. This was it? This was what all the fuss was about?

As I mentioned before, I attended a small-town school and that small town was in a very rural area. I grew up outside that small town on a dryland farm, and most of the kids I knew grew up on farms or ranches. Without exception, we all knew what body parts went with what gender, not just for people, but for animals too. The little boy penis in Sendak’s book was a lot less “shocking and disturbing” (to use a phrase applied to In the Night Kitchen) than dairy cow propagation at the local 4-H meeting.

I still laugh to think of what the schoolteachers and librarians were trying to protect me and the other local children from. Thankfully, I finally discovered the book on my own and enjoyed it with my two children. Buy a banned book this week. Read and learn to decide for yourself!

Ingrid Estell is Fulcrum’s special sales manager and places Fulcrum’s titles with museums, state and national park stores, and many others. In her time away from the office, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and white-water rafting.