Friday, February 16, 2007


Scrotum. It's right there on the first page of Susan Patron's newly minted Newbery Award-winning novel, THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY. Scrotum. It's not that uncommon, in fact half the people I know have them. Scrotum. Apparently this is a scary word.

Because the book includes the word "scrotum," some people do not want the book in their schools and libraries. Blogs and listservs, teachers, librarians, readers, reviewers, have been debating "scrotum."

In the novel, Ray gets bit on the scrotum by a rattlesnake. (Ray is a dog.) Never mind that there are hundreds and hundreds of wonderful words in this small gem of a story. Or that using the "scrotum" is entirely in keeping with the smart, observant protagonist, Lucky. This one word is a lightening rod.

This is a Newbery book, singled out for its literary merit, and honored by the American Library Association. It was written by a librarian. To not carry it in a library infringes upon one's intellectual freedom. It denies the reader the opportunity to choose, or not choose, to read the book.

Recently, Publishers Weekly ran an article about this uproar . . . It includes our stance on the issue, as well as comments from Susan Patron.

What do you think about this?

(Posted by Lisa Yee)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everyone who is not afraid of SCROTUM, should go to their libraries and request the book! I for one, want to make sure that my librarian is not afraid of scrotum!

I am reading this book now, and I didn't find it any big deal. Of course, I live with 4 sons and a husband which is a lot of scrotums, or is it scroti?

Anyway, the only one who objected to the book was our neutered male dog who asks..."where is my scrotum?"

5:53 AM  
Blogger mbpbooks said...

I come from a culture where an affectionate morning greeting is, "So, how was your bowel movement this morning?" Courtesy is not about particular words; it's about the HEART. And that's what Susan Patron's book is all about.

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The librarian in the PW article asserts that “the inclusion of genitalia does not add to the story one bit . . . There are so many other options that the author could have used instead.”

Having this sentiment is one thing. And expressing it is fine. But basing a decision not to carry, recommend or booktalk the book in a public library because of objection to a single word—which isn’t even one of the seven you can’t say on television!--seems to me to be in direct violation of the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights. The second article of the Bill of Rights states that “Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.”

11:58 AM  
Blogger C. K. Kelly Martin said...

Like others who have posted here, I'm having a hard time understanding why "scrotum" is being treated like a dirty word. This is just proper terminology.

Or are some body parts inherently evil? Should we be getting George Bush on the case?


1:59 PM  
Blogger coe booth said...

I agree with C.K. Scrotum is the correct term. The author isn't resorting to slang (of which there are many, many options!) Why are we so afraid to teach children what the parts of their body are called?

It reminds me of the game people play with their children when they're very young. They say to the child, "Show me your eyes. Your nose. Your mouth." They go down the body to the arm and hands. Then they SKIP over the whole torso and say, "Now show me your legs. Your knees, etc." When are the kids supposed to learn the names of their OTHER body parts?

I applaud the author for using this word. What's the big deal, anyway?

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are very open in our family and my boys know what this word means. My younger son would happily point out to all his 3rd grade classmates what it means, if they want to know or not. This is where my concern lies. I wonder what you all think about the fact that this book is geared toward a younger crowd than other recent Newberys (which are also not in my grades 3-5 library - Kira-Kira, Criss Cross) - ie, 3rd, 4th grade. Some of my students do not feel ready and feel very uncomfortable with these types of things. We don't include middle and high school level books because the content is inappropriate for the age level. Is that censorship? As school librarians we have to make decisions about what is appropriate and what our students feel comfortable reading. I recently had a student bring me a book with the word boob in it. She did not feel it was appropriate for her age level and felt uncomfortable reading it. Isn't it my job to serve her, too? With that cute picture of the girl on the cover and shiny gold medal, the 8 year old 3rd grade girls will want that book. Do they feel ready?

Trying to do the right thing by my students in New York.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe only males have a scrotum, but anyone who censors a book out of fear has no balls.

3:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I ask....why do we have to tremble at the word Censor, as if it's a bad word? Maybe a better word is 'dignity'. Have we lost track of what that word means? Can a children's book be written without any suggestive words and still be good? Why is that so hard?

8:19 PM  
Blogger coe booth said...

What DOES the word scrotum mean, anonymous? Here's how my dictionary defines it:

scrotum |ˈskrōtəm| noun ( pl. scrota or scrotums ) a pouch of skin containing the testicles.

Do you really find this "suggestive"?

Hey, maybe the word should be removed from dictionaries, too, because children have access to dictionaries EVERYWHERE -- at home, school and libraries!


9:17 PM  
Blogger coe booth said...

What DOES the word scrotum mean, anonymous? Here's how my dictionary defines it:

scrotum |ˈskrōtəm| noun ( pl. scrota or scrotums ) a pouch of skin containing the testicles.

Do you really find this "suggestive"?

Hey, maybe the word should be removed from dictionaries, too, because children have access to dictionaries EVERYWHERE -- at home, school and libraries!


9:20 PM  
Blogger coe booth said...

What DOES the word scrotum mean, anonymous? Here's how my dictionary defines it:

scrotum |ˈskrōtəm| noun ( pl. scrota or scrotums ) a pouch of skin containing the testicles.

Do you really find this "suggestive"?

Hey, maybe the word should be removed from dictionaries, too, because children have access to dictionaries EVERYWHERE -- at home, school and libraries!


9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9:54 - How does having these books in the library not serve your uncomfortable reader? When she brings you something like that, you say: "I have to stock books for everybody. If you get one that you don't feel comfortable with, put it back."

I did this when I was little - "Oh, this book is too old for me. I'll read it later." I never made this decision for anybody else. Books I specifically remember doing this for were an unabridged Uncle Remus (the N-word) and my own copy of the Bible (Oh, so much, but specifically that story about the elder who wouldn't marry his brother's widow as he was supposed to, but would visit a temple prostitute, so she disguised herself as one in order to get her rights.)

Incidentally, I don't know why anybody posts as anonymous, when Other lets you sign your name.

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so happy that I was raised in Europe where we didn't worry about such nonsense. Seems like many of those
stuffy librarians are descendents of Queen Victoria. Stop the hyprocrisy! Get real, already. One out of 4 commercials on TV is for erectile disfunction and the rest are for some kind of vaginal or rectal itch. And yes, dear librairians, the same kids who watch those commercials are the same kids who don't care about your book banning. I suggest you spend a weekend reading 451, and grow up! Aldous Huxkley and George Orwell seem to have been right in many of their predictions. If we leave it to our librairians, so will Ray Bradbury!

5:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder how all of these self-appointed, blue-nosed guardians of public decency would handle words like "teat" or "breast" or "hypocrisy," if such words appeared in books intended for pre-adolescents? If they are worried that 9-12 year olds are being exposed too quickly to sexual terms, then when do they think it appropriate to begin introducing notions about genitalia? At 15 to 17 after the first or second accidental pregnancy? Sex education should END before adolescence, not begin.

6:42 AM  
Blogger serpico said...

You've got to be kidding me! What kind of prudish, small-minded, over-protective people actually gather enough numbers to be recognized by the national news media? Please, for God's sake, keep your embarassingly self-absorbed snoots out of my business, my bed and, certainly my child's bookshelf!

10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not characterize "scrotum" as a sexual term. Can't think of a single sexy movie, novel, or story that uses it.

Now, medically speaking, sometimes it's cut off, esp. in animals, sometimes in men.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

I can't believe that would-be censors/banners are up in arms over the use of a clinical term: It had
little to do with the plot and was simply technical. The book is completely G-rated. Sigh.

3:01 PM  
Blogger SafeLibraries® said...

All, I think this scrotum issue is silly and overblown. But more importantly, many of you have truly written humorous content in this thread. I really enjoyed reading it! Like Laura's "scroti"! Ha! Say can one wear scroti in place of a neck tie?

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