Reached at her home in Los Angeles, Ms. Patron said she was stunned by the objections. The story of the rattlesnake bite, she said, was based on a true incident involving a friend’s dog."Scrotum" is a strange and funny word. It is oddly similar to "sputum." Why not invite readers -- the book is aimed at 9 to 12 year olds -- into the mysteries of words... and genitalia? If it's done well enough to win the Newbery Prize, isn't it awful for the librarians to object?
And one of the themes of the book is that Lucky is preparing herself to be a grown-up, Ms. Patron said. Learning about language and body parts, then, is very important to her.
“The word is just so delicious,” Ms. Patron said. “The sound of the word to Lucky is so evocative. It’s one of those words that’s so interesting because of the sound of the word.”
“This book included what I call a Howard Stern-type shock treatment just to see how far they could push the envelope, but they didn’t have the children in mind,” Dana Nilsson, a teacher and librarian in Durango, Colo., wrote on LM_Net, a mailing list that reaches more than 16,000 school librarians. “How very sad.”It seems way off the mark to compare this to what Howard Stern does, but that teacher's remark can make sense. The point is there are limits that are understood or assumed in broadcast radio and in children's literature, and one way to operate is to do things that make people notice where the line is and to divide them up about why it should be there. I can see feeling hostile to a children's author who uses this technique to get attention.
Just because in real life the snake bit the dog on the scrotum doesn't mean the writer has to keep that fact the same. If the point is a poisonous snake has bitten a dog, it could just as well be on the nose. But if the point is that a young girl hears something strange that she can only struggle to understand, that touches off imaginative thinking about all the unknown words and body parts, well, then, it really must be "scrotum."
So it doesn't seem to be a dispute about a single word, in which case, this is not about whether prudish librarians are taking something out of context. Of course, I have not read the book, and I assume it's extremely good, since it won the Newbery Award. Much as I want to support the author, I think we should also resist disparaging the librarians.