by Robie Harris
This book notes that is is for ages 10 and up, and does include nudity and sex education – it is, after all, a book explaining how bodies change during puberty, reproduction, contraception, and other sex ed topics. It is not intended to be handed to children alone — but rather a tool for parents to use with their children, to talk about these important issues.
I’m most familiar with this book as one of the recommended resources to go with the Our Whole Lives curriculum (a Lifespan Sexuality Education curriculum that was developed in a collaboration between the United Church of Christ and Unitarian Universalists).
It has been challenged a number of times throughout its history (including some fairly recent challenges). The reasons are pretty predictable: Nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
One case particularly struck me, in part because it is out of a part of Maine where I know people, and in part because it provides a good illustration of why many books end up challenged.
In 2007 a woman in Lewiston, Maine took the book out of two libraries and refused to return it. She mailed the library a check to “pay” for the book along with a letter saying “I have been sufficiently horrified of the illustrations and sexually graphic, amoral, abnormal contents. I will not be returning the books.”
The library did not cash the check (of course) and even mailed it back to her with a copy of library procedures. She mailed it back to them and mounted a protest with the city. Eventually she was summoned to trial for not returning the book (and refusing to comply with library procedure). Theoretically she could have faced jail time for this! This “standoff” lasted upwards of a year.
Because she disagreed with the book she felt it was her right to keep other people from having access to it. Part of what gets me about it is the fact that she also refused to follow proper procedure – instead of trying to challenge the book (there are proper venues through which individuals can do such a thing) for removal from the library, or relocation of where it was shelved, she physically removed the book.
What I find heartening is the community response. The library received donations replacing the book (multiple copies!) and the circulation of the title increased. There was an outcry from the community against the theft of the book and this censorship.
A few articles about this incident: