Monday, 27 September 2010

We All Have a Bottom (Even When It's an Ass)

It's Banned Books Week, and time to remind censors, gatekeepers, and self-appointed moralists that some people hold different views to theirs, and that the young deserve to grow up fully informed and not hoodwinked and mollycoddled. The most interesting article I've read so far has to be this by Anne Rooney, perhaps because it gives a non-American perspective on the far reaching implications of decisions taken in places like Texas and Beijing.

I have frequently had to make small changes to picture book texts and illustrations to boost a book's chances of securing a US co-edition, and some rather big ones too, but the real issue here is much more serious than avoiding hedgehogs and the word 'trousers'. Let's celebrate today by reading something that someone doesn't want us to read, and revel in the extra publicity a ban brings a book while we're about it. And let's all laugh at the idea that banning Harry Potter or photoshopping out genitalia ever made any sense whatsoever.


  1. I'm all in favor of not being hoodwinked and mollycoddled. A few authors who I am so surprised to see on the banned books list-- Roald Dahl, Mark Twain, Harper Lee, and my favorite book of all-- A Day No Pigs Would Die. What??

  2. hear, hear! Can I ask, is the french market really this wonderful haven of kids books containing the taboo? Taboo stories and styles. Say that it is. It's the only reason many of us keep going, I think; to hope that one day the rest of the world will follow this 'french market', we hear so much about!

  3. Karen, it's weird, isn't it, the people who find their work challenged. I mean, Mark Twain?

    Cassia, is that what they say about the French market? I met a French illustrator once who was envious that I could work in the UK because the publishing industry was so much more vibrant over here, and the profession taken so much more seriously. The grass must be green somewhere!

    The French publishing industry is less dependant on co-eds though. This means they publish less but are more self-contained, so whether or not a subject plays badly in the States doesn't matter, and expensive printing techniques (such as whited out text on coloured backgrounds) are much more common. French picture books can be very lovely, highly designed things as a result.

    You never know, if UK publishing shrinks what remains might get itself out of being dependant on US co-eds and start focussing on the home market again.

  4. Well said Thomas - there are some incredibly fine books on that list. In fact - hey kids, need some suggestions for books to read? Start here!

  5. Thanks for the links and thought-provoking post on this subject. One of the best I've read.

    The US is so hypocritical about sex, it isn't funny. When I was a teen we had sex. Most kids here don't pay much attention to adults anyway, especially when their spouting off about moral values.

  6. Thanks, Simon. I can't help but be reminded of the Nazi's exhibition of 'decadent' art.

    Terry, yes, you're quite right that kids don't pay much attention anyway. And thanks to the internet, whether or not a book is banned in a school library isn't the problem it once was. But it does impact on what other English-speaking countries are prepared to publish because American libraries buy A LOT of books.

  7. Banning Harry Potter is absolute poppy cock! As far as banned books, they have them on display in an exclusive section at my local public library, getting checked out faster than you can say Expecto Patronum.

  8. Thomas, I've been thinking about what you said.

    People who want to ban and burn books cause a lot of trouble here in the states. I hadn't thought about how much trouble they may cause elsewhere. I thought everyone in Europe just thought we're all stupid.

    But, of course, sales. Damn. That's how America works. Threats to sales.

    Sigh. Sorry.

  9. I learned to love books by reading Enid Blyton as a child, and she spent years out of circulation after being banned in British Libraries. If I hadn't had a love of books to pass on to my children, where WOULD we be?

  10. I would laugh at the banned books list, only it isn't funny because it really exists! That has to change.

    Enid Blyton was banned? Children of Cherry Tree Farm - taboo? Bonkers!

    I'm following Simon's lead - if ever a book became more appealing...

    Oh, and now I see your face without the citron hue - hullo there, sir!

  11. Thanks, Anita. I like the sound of your local library.

    Terry, there's no need to apologize. The enormously rich literary output of the US more than compensates for the tight-bottomed behaviour of the Texas State Education Board. And British publishers have no one but themselves to blame for becoming dependant on US co-eds in the first place. But bible-belt mentality does leave many in Europe scratching their heads in bewilderment. That must be why we like NY so much.

    Hi, Rachel. Yes, I thought it was time to reveal that I'm not really orange:)


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.