On the place of anatomy in children’s literature

So, this year’s Newbery winner is causing a bit of controversy. Is it an edgy book? Is it potentially offensive, does it deal with political and social hot-button issues? Does it contain sex, drugs, and rock and roll?

Nope. But it DOES contain the word “scrotum.” Oh, shock! And it isn’t even a reference to human anatomy, but to where a dog was bitten by a rattlesnake.

The facts, as reported by the New York Times here: With One Word, Children’s Book Sets Off Uproar “The word ‘scrotum’ does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter. Yet there it is on the first page of he Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature.”

Is it a bad word? I don’t think so. I would argue that scrotum is perfectly acceptable in many polite conversations. It’s the proper medical term, and far less remarkable than vague, blushing references to “down there.”

Shoud it be in a kids’ book? I don’t see why not. It’s not in any way, shape or form a sexual or erotic reference. And face it, there are far more… colourful words the author could have chosen. I could go on for a while longer about how we should be teaching children that the Human Body is Not Shameful (and by extension, we should know the proper names of our parts, even when we’re talking about dogs) but it’s been said before.

 (Also, New York Times, a Newbery is much closer to a Pulitzer than an Oprah’s Book Club pick. Gah.)

Is it a gratuitous use of the word? Dunno, as I haven’t read the book yet. 

Has the word appeared in children’s literature before? You bet! Here’s a helpful list: Youth Literature is Filled with Scrotums

Now, to make sure my library has a copy, and to put myself on the hold list for when it comes in.


6 responses to “On the place of anatomy in children’s literature

  1. Stephanie Richards

    Librarians rock! Here is a link to what my librarian friend Beth thinks about the Lucky book uproar: http://blog.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendID=50765853&blogID=231630581&indicate=1

    this entry and the one afterwards “Balzac” are about this issue.

  2. Awesome–thanks for sharing! The prevailing opinion seems to be “Oh, get over it already!”

  3. Pingback: The Great Scrotum Debate « what Elisabeth is reading

  4. “The word ’scrotum’ does not often appear in polite conversation.”

    what other term would you conceivably use during polite conversation? Balls?


  5. There are so very MANY other terms that could have been used (most of which may be more authentic to the period.) Check out the first comment in this blog post for all sorts of alternatives!

  6. Pingback: Bits and bobs from around the internet « what Elisabeth is reading

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