Delayed Gratification

It has been a Twilight Zone couple of days. First? Yesterday I went to a specialist because my optometrist, bless him, thought there was something “a bit funny” with my optic nerve. The specialist, an ophthalmologist thinks I’m losing vision. Um, depressed? Perhaps! And could the examination have taken ANY LONGER!? I got there for a 4 pm appointment, and we didn’t get home to dinner until 7:15. AND I was practically blinded from all the lights flashing in my eyes. On the up side, though, who else has a color photograph of the backs of their eyeballs like me?

So, today. More tests, an hour wait, a lost chart, etc. etc. etc. Home from another grueling session of Waiting on Doctors (TM) and found the message from S.A.M. that I expected, in the voice he uses when he’s suppressing giddiness. He is so excited that we have finally sold my novel to Knopf. Well, heck, I’m excited too, somewhere in there. Of course, it’s my sister’s ridiculous shindig this weekend, so I can’t feel happy until somewhere around Sunday at 2 a.m. This should be Monday around, oh, say, 9 GMT, and I expect the world will shift, people will ask each other, “Did you hear that?” and people in my neighborhood will think someone just let all the air out of the tires of every car in a sixteen block radius. It will be me, sighing … trying to release my stress and center or something genteel and yoga-esque.

The funny thing is that S.A.M. is so nosy. “Why are you at the doctor?” he wanted to know. “Hope it isn’t something out of the routine.”

Oh, yes. Did I mention that, failing to find me at home, he actually dug out my mobile number? And called me in the middle of a doctor visit? At 6 p.m. Eastern time, after office hours? He really wanted to tell me this, folks. And then we made small talk about various ailments… turns out he has what I may have, and his partner has it, too. We’re all going blind from glaucoma. Cheers!

So, blessings on all of you who have thought positive thoughts my way… keep them coming! For me, writing is the easy bit. Talking about things — the book, why I write, doing all of the PR — that’s the hard part.

I’ll let you know how it goes. In the meantime… wait for the cheering to start on Monday-ish.

PreK Books, Anyone?

I’m thinking about preschoolers…

Now, there’s a topic which doesn’t often get broached on Writing YA, but preKindergarteners are young adults… just very, very, very wee ones. I have the opportunity to support a nonprofit Early Childhood Education Center by buying books for these wee young adults, ages 2 – 4! Buying books is my absolute favorite thing to do, and this Center, which serves low-income families, some of whom are non-English speaking or developmentally delayed, has a small operating budget and a bigger wishlist, as so many schools do. Now, here’s where you come in — I need help with some titles to pick up and research! Because the Center has purged itself of commercially related books (no Elmo, nor Clifford, nor any licensed character who has a doll, cartoon, video, or TV series, in other words), and is concentrating on multicultural books, including those about Earth Sciences, Social Studies, Physical Sciences, Numbers and Colors — all those good things kids need to help them get a grip on the world, this is going to take a little more research on my part.

If the Librarians Fabulosas and others have any thoughts on this, please reply — I’m making a list and already have: And Here’s to You, David Elliot, Candlewick Press; The Big Orange Splot, and a couple of others which have impressed me… but I don’t really know from PreK, so any input welcome!

Moaning Monday

Cranky and sore, I greet the new week! After yanking out the summer garden this weekend to prepare for the autumn kale, all I want to do is sit down with a book and a bath. Instead, I am gadding about online yet again… still trying to take in the latest information from my Secret Agent Man about a possible sale by the end of the week (cross your fingers with me, blogsphere!) Meanwhile, other things on my mind:

Ooh! Yet another online bookfair! Author interviews, new books to explore and more blogs – check it out!

You’ve likely heard by now that there’s been a new Robert Frost poem discovered! I was very excited to hear this, since memorizing Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening was a big deal to me in junior high. Take a listen!

Hilarious picture via Big A little a, which shows, of all things … a Discworld wedding cake!!! It is gloriously wacky. Apparently, this lady runs Jane’s Cakes and lives in North Hampshire, and bakes these fabulous cakes of all kinds… Now, why can’t my sister do something interesting like this!? Who needs sheet cake when you can have a universe on the back of four elephants and a gigantic turtle!?

Finally, a good discussion about SCBWI over at Fuse#8. I guess a lot of people have never heard of SCBWI, but someone is raising some questions about the whole structure and body of the group, whether or not it is non-profit or for-profit, and what the Directors get out of it. Because this group is a governing body which also gives away Golden Kite Awards each year, which may be instrumental in propelling certain authors and/or certain houses to prominence, this question is of merit to some. The prevailing attitude seems to be that one can get out of an organization what one is prepared to put into it… which means I should do a bit more networking!

Happy October! Happy Autumn!

Ah, Cherished Euphemisms

Secret Agent Man speaketh thusly:

At long last some word… The key phrase is “put something together”–this means: put together an offer!! I don’t have any more info than this, my dear, but it is looking good!! Enjoy the weekend, and we’ll talk more next week when I have more information.

All best, [S.A.M.]

From the Editor:

“As for [NOVEL TITLE: No use telling you what it is, the evil woman is going to change it, I can feel it], it still needs work, but I like it all the more and [TadMack] has much improved it. I’d like to discuss it …at our weekly meeting next week and see if we can put something together.

So, ladies and gentleman, all three of you who read this blog: it seems as if, at long last, two years after my graduate thesis, I am going to receive my first wee pay toward chipping away at my massive student debt. It seems, at some point, I may just sell a book.

All right. It’s late. I am out of squee, I am out of bounce; I’m just not as excited about this as I could be. Why? Because I was squeeing, bouncing, excited about this last November. Tonight? Think I’ll just see if I can “put something together” about it tomorrow. Or not… Really, I’m sure that once I think about it (or see a contract, or a direct letter from editor or agent, or finish up the likely LONG laundry list of what’s bloody wrong with the manuscript this time) I’ll be quite, quite glad, but tonight, the ambivalence? Kind of scary.

Are there drugs for this?

I’d better get some sleep…

Banned, Baby: So Long, Farewell, Keep Reading

Technically, this is the end of Banned Books Week, and you may wonder why such a big deal is made of the one week a year where everyone reminds us of that we should honor and strongly support our Constitutional right to read. I will egotistically state that the ALA does this week for me… because I wasn’t allowed to read everything I wanted to read when I was growing up.

Not an unusual lament; parents are the gatekeepers of their children’s reading habits, and my parents were all about nonfiction and “truth.” National Geographic: fine. Amazing Stories: not fine. But, as a high school student (see how long I was obedient?) through my undergraduate years and later as an MFA, I learned over and over again that a.) unvarnished facts don’t necessarily tell all the truth, and b.) fiction doesn’t necessarily contain no element of “the true;” even fairytales have their own truths.

Truth: it’s something we’d all like to think that we have, or know. The truth about everything. It’s also something many parents believe that they must impart to their ‘tweens and teens about the world around them, only young adults, in the way of things, think they know well enough what is true for them… and many years of their adolescence are spent being pulled one way, and pulling back the other. The problem with truth is, you don’t tell it by not speaking it. You don’t tell it by trying to force people to see only your truth. You don’t tell it by squashing it, hiding it, and not trusting it to come to the light.

I don’t want any of my books to be banned. Ever. I don’t want to be a writer whom a parent sees as an enemy to their child, nor can I imagine any author courting the banned bandwagon, nor wanting to be labelled as having “a liberal agenda” — or any agenda to peddle to children. It’s not enjoyable to be put in the place of defending oneself in any case, but to a writer, our books are close to our hearts. It is wrenching to imagine that a parent will teach a child that you — and your books — are the enemy. Thoughts divergent from our own are not our enemies. FEAR — fear of thinking, fear of listening, fear of trusting our kids to formulate their own thoughts and opinions, fear of a too-tolerant moral stance — that’s the enemy. And if parents are teaching kids to fear thoughts… how are they teaching them to listen to themselves and to learn to think?

A parent’s, a school district’s, a teacher’s or a librarian’s trusting a child to read intelligently, to be discerning and personally opinionated is a gift to that child. It teaches them that adults don’t think they’re so stupid that they must be protected, at all costs, from growing up. I know that’s not the message my parents meant to send to me. They were, after all, trying to preserve my soul , and I thank them for the love. Perhaps someday I, too, will so deeply want to protect someone’s mind. But I believe that there are other ways to go about it… ways that involve reading widely and discussing openly. Ways that involve parental bravery and hours of time, hours spent discussing what’s right with something instead of what’s wrong.

Idealistic? Probably. Well-meaning but frightened adults exist. But even they can learn and grow and change. It’s still a dream worth keeping.

Call it a new American dream – freedom of mind for every mind.
Thanks for the reminder, Banned Book Week. See you again next year.

Banned, Baby: For God's Sake?

When a YA novel with religious content is accepted for publication, I believe that somewhere a bell rings in a tiny, stuffy office deep inside an undisclosed location, and the word goes out to undisclosed parties to keep a look out. They’re not librarians… they’re people who have Opinions. Now, people know I have Opinions. I have Opinions about everything, including God, in his or her many incarnations. But, the thing about religious Opinions is that some people’s are set in cement. And if your opinions don’t jibe with their opinions: woe.

Trinity High School (what an ironic name!) is a fictitious Catholic all-boys school where protagonist Jerry Renault of the The Chocolate War spends a miserable year, bucking the system by refusing to be a good boy and chocolate to raise money for some cause or other, like everyone else. He is harassed by sadistic administrators, verbally assaulted, hassled by bullies, and in the end, physically assaulted.

Welcome to the Christian community.

This was my introduction to Robert Cormier, and it was downright scary. As a student at a private Christian school myself, the story was, to me, mindblowing. I thought, Nobody would do that at MY school. And then I thought, Would they?

I can’t say that I loved it. It bothered me. It haunted me. It taught me. And I think that’s a lot more important than “loved.”

First published in 1974, the Chocolate War still last topped the list of banned books in 2004. And though I read the book many, many years ago (in high school), what is burned into memory still is the horrific bullies and the apathetic teachers in that ostensibly Christian environment. Not the “swearing, masturbation, violence and a depressing, dismal ending” for which the book is continually challenged and banned.

I’m going to avoid making a bunch of huge statements and using titles like ‘fundamentalist,’ or ‘conservative,’ because I believe that there are people with Opinions of every stripe. They’re not all from color-coded states, in other words. But as more and more YA people explore their cultural mores by writing novels which deal with theories and positions on religious themes, it’s ironic that it’s religious people who are showing their vocal, vehement intolerance – for the sake of God. So people don’t mock Him/Her. So we can protect God.

Bizarre.

(I know that’s not the only reason, but it’s one of them.)

When we religious types use vague, inflammatory rhetoric to promote a point, we miss the point. We cannot protect everybody from everything. No teacher I know (and I know plenty) would fault a parent for determining that they are uncomfortable with their child reading a certain book or novel in a class. A teacher would respond positively, even, to a well-reasoned and mature conversation with a student who preferred not to read something in his or her English class (and if the teacher did not respond positively, students have parents and school boards, etc. to back them up), as long as the student could give solid reasons and produce an alternative reading that is on the same topic and equally challenging. But for that parent to determine that every child in the classroom — the school — the district should also be raised according to their standard of ethics? Come on.

Another book that deals with religion as part of the scope of its storyline is Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it again and again as a sort of blueprint on how to deal with major subjects in YA literature, completely blown away by the sophisticated exploration of some really deep theories. And just this month, it was challenged again in Florida for profanity and graphic sexuality. The story deals with an 18-year-old who is flunking despite his astronomically high IQ and Honor Roll status the first two years of high school. The character, Steve, is in the process of writing an 100 page English paper in order to graduate high school, and is looking back over how he’s dealt — or not dealt — with his parent’s divorce. The subject matter in the story is immense. Thomas writes about God and Dadaism, divorce, siblings, and falling in love. The book goes through the entire scope of human emotions, and the character comes out on top. The author, in defending the book, says it’s about “getting better.”

It occurs to me that in my brief reviews of many of the books on the Banned list that the phrase “the character comes out on top” recurs. This isn’t what makes a book a positive thing. I don’t believe that a ‘kernel of hope’ is what’s necessary to keep the books from the banned list, especially since specifically in the Chocolate War, that isn’t the case. I’m just maybe more surprised when those books are banned. I keep wondering, “Did they read a different ending than the one I did?”

And then I realize I’m asking if they read the book.

Never mind.


In honor and celebration of e.lockhart’s newest book, take the Boyfriend List Dating Destiny Quiz ! Bwa-ha-ha-ha to the Sex Kittens. Apparently, I will:
Live in a Apartment.
Drive a Green Rickshaw bicycle.
Marry Matthew Dwyer (Horn Dawg) and have 10 kid(s). (!!!!)
Be a English teacher at St. Sebastian’s in Oxford.

What’s your (dubious) dating destiny?

Also just found out the list of speakers for 2007 SCBWI Asilomar Conference next year. They are Linda Sue Park and Suzanne Guevara. Editorial speakers are Erin Clarke from Knopf
(Random House), Namrata Tripathi from Hyperion (Disney), and Kristen Pettit from Razorbill (Penguin). Nicole Geiger from Tricycle isn’t speaking, but is coming to critique manuscripts. Many people want to go to these things, but just a head’s up — registration is opening probably the first week in October, so if you’re even thinking of going, think fast! It’s a gorgeous place, and plenty of people want to go. I’m also just jazzed about the number of mini-conferences happening in my area. SCBWI is always cool about putting quite a few together, but this year, they’ve been even better. Check out this quarter’s Northern Cal Acorn to find out what else is going on.

Banned, Baby: For God’s Sake?

When a YA novel with religious content is accepted for publication, I believe that somewhere a bell rings in a tiny, stuffy office deep inside an undisclosed location, and the word goes out to undisclosed parties to keep a look out. They’re not librarians… they’re people who have Opinions. Now, people know I have Opinions. I have Opinions about everything, including God, in his or her many incarnations. But, the thing about religious Opinions is that some people’s are set in cement. And if your opinions don’t jibe with their opinions: woe.

Trinity High School (what an ironic name!) is a fictitious Catholic all-boys school where protagonist Jerry Renault of the The Chocolate War spends a miserable year, bucking the system by refusing to be a good boy and chocolate to raise money for some cause or other, like everyone else. He is harassed by sadistic administrators, verbally assaulted, hassled by bullies, and in the end, physically assaulted.

Welcome to the Christian community.

This was my introduction to Robert Cormier, and it was downright scary. As a student at a private Christian school myself, the story was, to me, mindblowing. I thought, Nobody would do that at MY school. And then I thought, Would they?

I can’t say that I loved it. It bothered me. It haunted me. It taught me. And I think that’s a lot more important than “loved.”

First published in 1974, the Chocolate War still last topped the list of banned books in 2004. And though I read the book many, many years ago (in high school), what is burned into memory still is the horrific bullies and the apathetic teachers in that ostensibly Christian environment. Not the “swearing, masturbation, violence and a depressing, dismal ending” for which the book is continually challenged and banned.

I’m going to avoid making a bunch of huge statements and using titles like ‘fundamentalist,’ or ‘conservative,’ because I believe that there are people with Opinions of every stripe. They’re not all from color-coded states, in other words. But as more and more YA people explore their cultural mores by writing novels which deal with theories and positions on religious themes, it’s ironic that it’s religious people who are showing their vocal, vehement intolerance – for the sake of God. So people don’t mock Him/Her. So we can protect God.

Bizarre.

(I know that’s not the only reason, but it’s one of them.)

When we religious types use vague, inflammatory rhetoric to promote a point, we miss the point. We cannot protect everybody from everything. No teacher I know (and I know plenty) would fault a parent for determining that they are uncomfortable with their child reading a certain book or novel in a class. A teacher would respond positively, even, to a well-reasoned and mature conversation with a student who preferred not to read something in his or her English class (and if the teacher did not respond positively, students have parents and school boards, etc. to back them up), as long as the student could give solid reasons and produce an alternative reading that is on the same topic and equally challenging. But for that parent to determine that every child in the classroom — the school — the district should also be raised according to their standard of ethics? Come on.

Another book that deals with religion as part of the scope of its storyline is Rats Saw God, by Rob Thomas is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it again and again as a sort of blueprint on how to deal with major subjects in YA literature, completely blown away by the sophisticated exploration of some really deep theories. And just this month, it was challenged again in Florida for profanity and graphic sexuality. The story deals with an 18-year-old who is flunking despite his astronomically high IQ and Honor Roll status the first two years of high school. The character, Steve, is in the process of writing an 100 page English paper in order to graduate high school, and is looking back over how he’s dealt — or not dealt — with his parent’s divorce. The subject matter in the story is immense. Thomas writes about God and Dadaism, divorce, siblings, and falling in love. The book goes through the entire scope of human emotions, and the character comes out on top. The author, in defending the book, says it’s about “getting better.”

It occurs to me that in my brief reviews of many of the books on the Banned list that the phrase “the character comes out on top” recurs. This isn’t what makes a book a positive thing. I don’t believe that a ‘kernel of hope’ is what’s necessary to keep the books from the banned list, especially since specifically in the Chocolate War, that isn’t the case. I’m just maybe more surprised when those books are banned. I keep wondering, “Did they read a different ending than the one I did?”

And then I realize I’m asking if they read the book.

Never mind.


In honor and celebration of e.lockhart’s newest book, take the Boyfriend List Dating Destiny Quiz ! Bwa-ha-ha-ha to the Sex Kittens. Apparently, I will:
Live in a Apartment.
Drive a Green Rickshaw bicycle.
Marry Matthew Dwyer (Horn Dawg) and have 10 kid(s). (!!!!)
Be a English teacher at St. Sebastian’s in Oxford.

What’s your (dubious) dating destiny?

Also just found out the list of speakers for 2007 SCBWI Asilomar Conference next year. They are Linda Sue Park and Suzanne Guevara. Editorial speakers are Erin Clarke from Knopf
(Random House), Namrata Tripathi from Hyperion (Disney), and Kristen Pettit from Razorbill (Penguin). Nicole Geiger from Tricycle isn’t speaking, but is coming to critique manuscripts. Many people want to go to these things, but just a head’s up — registration is opening probably the first week in October, so if you’re even thinking of going, think fast! It’s a gorgeous place, and plenty of people want to go. I’m also just jazzed about the number of mini-conferences happening in my area. SCBWI is always cool about putting quite a few together, but this year, they’ve been even better. Check out this quarter’s Northern Cal Acorn to find out what else is going on.

S.S. Supersized: Snarky, snarky, snarky…

At last, I’m coming clean.

I have to. See, all this time, through the blurry eyes of the World Outside, I have been hidden. I have been deemed Acceptable. But now, I have to Yahoo! Avatarsmove away from the wall, and expose my shambling self outside the shadows. But, once they said that A.F. was obsese, I knew I had to say, well, something. There isn’t any hiding anymore now that They have started to bring the Obese Ones out of hiding.

You know you’re one of them. If you weigh over 105 pounds, you’re one of them. Maybe you’re even a hugely obese 118, like A.F.

Darn it, you should just come clean.

Yahoo has made it easy. They’ve supplied PLUS SIZED AVATARS to make sure that you can tell the whole truth about yourself, even in cyberspace. Sure, they only come in five or six schleppy outfits, and next to the regular avatars look… alarmingly huge, with amusingly small heads. But fair’s fair, okay? Can’t let the world go around thinking that a size four? (Five? Maybe 6?) is obese, and not own up to the extra cleavage on my little avatar.

Fanny packs? Yahoo has an avatar for that. A bit of a wide-load through the hips, maybe some saddle bags? Yahoo can help. A bit more in terms of, um, upper body heft? Yahoo can help you there, too. Note the cleavage vee!

(Note also that there are no plus-sized GUY avatars.)

So, let me be the first to say it: A.F., it’s okay. We know the real you, now.

As for the rest of you? Just come clean, okay? We don’t want to have to hunt you down with the Freaky Fitness Dude and the Calipers of Doom.

Banned, Baby: Our Bodies, Our Strength

What happens when we’re growing up, with our bodies, with our souls, and with our sexuality, can change the way we look at things and who we are, forever…

Especially if that something that happens is negative, bad, and sad.

Reality and survival, in YA literature is a serious thing to explore. The truth is, stuff… happens. It’s important to know that others have survived. Period.

Many people prefer to pretend that stuff doesn’t happen, so they cultivate a community of silence — maybe in their homes, certainly in their schools, and it reflects on the bookshelves they want within their schools. Uncomfortable people trying to control reality…encouraging silence, figuring that some things are too horrible for YA readers to know about or to talk about… and so, we get true-to-reality stories being smushed away, hushed up, and put in a box.

No matter that this is important work, and that any work that says, “Hey, this happened to me, to someone I know, maybe to you. It was sucky/hard/weird/breathtaking. But I survived. So can you” is vital. It’s important to tell truths, and let in the light about the real facts of life. Yet books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou and The Beet Fields: Memories of a Sixteenth Summer by Gary Paulsen, have been challenged, taken off of reading lists, and banned.

Though it was first published in 1969, Maya Angelou’s novel received its most recent challenge from an Annapolis, MD high school in 2006 when it was removed from the freshman English reading list. The challenges for this book are because of sexual exploration by teenagers, rape and homosexuality. In 2003 it was challenged in Fairfax (VA) school libraries by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools (such a group, yes, Virginia, exists!) for “profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture.”

“Bad.” Such a thoroughly non-descriptive word. Bad books. Misbehaving storylines. Errant facts. I didn’t find this ‘badness’ morally degenerating, when I read this book. I found what happened to Maya shocking, indeed. I read of a girl becoming a woman who faced enormous setbacks to becoming an adult, a sane person, an artist, yet who endured, came away strong, and better still, walked away with her scars to be an inspiration to others. Maya Angelou did more than merely survive. She kicked butt.

The troubled boy who wakes up with his mother in his bed and flees to become an agricultural laborer is based loosely on Paulsen himself. This book has been challenged because the narrator is a runaway, has disturbing thoughts about his mother’s “wrong” need for him, graphic lustful thoughts about a sleazy carny dancer, and eventually describes intercourse with her. Though the phrase is tired, it is a coming of age novel, and is a realistic portrayal of a boy with few positive role models from which to choose. In a parallel with the first novel, this narrator, too, goes on from that precarious, hurtful time in his life to grow stronger in time. He stumbles, but he gets up and keeps on ticking. Those are the facts of life:

Stuff happens, but we can choose to survive.

To us, the YA Readers, Young, Adult, or Young Adult:
May the books you read add titanium steel to your backbone.
May they get you through a dark night.
May they let you know that someone else has been there, too.
May they tell you the whole truth when you’re ready to read it.

Celebrate the freedom to read books about things so bad it’s hard to talk about them… Celebrate being free to read!

Banned, Baby: Explorations Into Dark Elsewhere

“Putting children in jeopardy.” That was the topic of the conversation this morning between The Great Maurice Sendak and NPR affiliate Steve Inskeep on today’s Morning Edition. The conversation is fascinating, as Sendak gives his opinions on childhood, on pop-up books, and the danger in our world as a byproduct of a chat about his first pop-up book of beautiful but spooky drawings entitled, Mommy? which is being released in bookstores this month.

When he was a younger artist, many adults were unhappy with Sendak for his dark worldview, where wild things and various “monsters” lurk in night kitchens and under the bed, yet he only responded from his own imagination, which is a theme in Sendak’s work: a dark, shadowy world which children had to make it through. Fiction in the United States for children where the child was unsafe was taken poorly, as Americans were offended that their children could be unsafe in this great country. (Interestingly, Europeans seemed to have had a different worldview… The Brothers Grimm, anyone?) This was always a surprise to Sendak, but he maintains,

“All children are in jeopardy. It’s unnatural to think of such a thing as a blue-skied, white-clouded, happy childhood. Childhood is a very, very tricky business of surviving.”

And Sendak, with his newest book, is choosing again to deal with the darkness and the fearfulness of his childhood in his typically humorous and plucky way. ART ALERT! A little slideshow of Sendak’s older and most recent work can be found right here — and the show is narrated, and well worth checking out!

Darkness in children’s fiction is a great theme for today’s Banned Book rant!

I was just mentioning to Jen Robinson that I never understood why Lois Lowry’s The Giver was a challenged and banned book. Described poorly in a USA today article in 2001 as a ‘suicide book’, the Giver has been maligned and misunderstood since its 1993 publication. In Denver, parents approached the school board to challenge the book because they claimed it showed ” suicide, euthanasia and infanticide in a neutral to positive light.” In that post-Columbine community, parents felt that discussing such things should be re-evaluated. The state of Colorado at that time had the fifth highest suicide rate, and angry parents demanded to know why they had not been notified that such a controversial book was being read to their children.

Yet, when I read it, I didn’t see a suicide positive book, or a ‘Release’ positive book, in dealing with infanticide or euthanasia. If anything, I saw instead a mystical boy who had been given a huge task, which changed him, set him apart from his other peers in the Twelves, and really opened a door within him to something huge and weighty. I saw a boy whose reality changed before his eyes, who was weighed down and entrusted with so much that he had to act.

Ironically, in light of the banning, the sentences that stick out the most in my mind from Jonas are these:

“I thought there was only us! I thought there was only now!” and “We don’t dare to let people make choices of their own. … We really have to protect people from wrong choices.”

Wow.

Lowry was making a statement with this book — a statement brought on by a childhood of knowing about people who are different, and knowing about shutting people and certain thoughts out, and thinking, believing, hoping you are safe. It’s about learning that other people outside our charmed circles matter, it’s about looking outward and acting to affect the good of all. It’s a beautiful, meaningful and deep concept, and our young readers deserve to read and know and think about that. Are we coasting? Are we insulating ourselves at the expense of opening the gate to freedom and inquiry? If so, isn’t it time to change?

Timely thoughts.

And so, I leave you with the closing statement from her Newbury speech and with a few sympathetic chills and sniffles:

The man that I named The Giver passed along to the boy knowledge, history, memories, color, pain, laughter, love, and truth. Every time you place a book in the hands of a child, you do the same thing.

It is very risky.

But each time a child opens a book, he pushes open the gate that separates him from Elsewhere. It gives him choices. It gives him freedom.
Those are magnificent, wonderfully unsafe things.”


Free people read freely.
Now, wipe your nose and go celebrate the freedom to read any old book you choose!