|Careful. Books can be dangerous!|
Today, an article on the School Library Journal web site--originally published in the SLJ newsletter Extra Helping--discussed the controversy surrounding Smith's use of the word "jackass" in the book as a double entendre.
For the curious, the characters in this book are simply referred to as the animals they are: mouse, monkey, and jackass. As you can imagine, it's the jackass who serves as the story's antagonist, quizzing the monkey about his choice of non-electronic entertainment.
"Can it blog? Can it tweet?" asks the quizzical donkey.
"No. It's a book, jackass," replies the monkey.
Smith admits his books are cheeky by design, definitely appealing to the more mischievous kids out there. But is his use of "jackass" a reason for controversy? Is it introducing young children to words their fragile ears shouldn't be exposed to? Is it forcing parents to have "uncomfortable" conversations with their kids?
More importantly, should It's A Book not be in Kindergarten classrooms, daycares, or libraries?
|Yeah, what he said.|
Credit: Roaring Brook Press
Here's my take on the matter: Words only have the power we attribute to them. I read this book to all three of my young children. They loved it! But they did ask me if "jackass" was a bad word. That's fine; I read the book in advance and expected them to.
"It depends on how it's used," was my immediate reply, and I explained to them that certain words can mean different things when they're used offensively. It doesn't make the word "bad" or "filthy", and they shouldn't ever feel ashamed for using a perfectly normal word in its proper context.
As for the people who think this book doesn't belong in classrooms or libraries, I can only shake my head in disbelief. No one parent has the right to decide what an entire classroom, or school, or community should learn. After all, child-rearing begins at home, and reasonable parents know this.
What's your opinion on the matter? Is Lane Smith over-stepping his boundaries as a KidLit author? Or are some critics just being, well, jackasses?
Sound off in the Comments area, and next week I will pick one comment at random. That guest will win a FREE copy of It's A Book, courtesy of yours truly. So spread the word!