Friday, November 30, 2007

Oh, Cr*p

Budza and I just finished reading Volume 1 of the Beyond Spiderwick series, The Nixie's Song, by Holly Black and Tony DeTerlizzi. I was taken aback to find the work cr*p in it repeatedly, used by the narrator, Nick. The first time I ran across it ...
"Nick cringed and set down another box of her crap on the canopy bed. All the boxes seemed to be labeled unicorns, fairies, or books about unicorns and fairies. A few of them had even bled glitter onto the hall rug.

...I just stopped reading, unsure of what to do, and explained to Ben there was a bad word there I didn't want him to use and I was skipping it. The next time I think I changed it to Nick's stepsister's "stuff" and the next use I changed it to "crud." But then when Jared calls Nick a "lard ass" I read that out loud and told Ben I didn't want him to use language like that. (And I seem to have total amnesia about Spiderwick books I through V. Maybe they had language on the salty side, too, but I just wasn't paying attention.)

I know kids grow up fast, and probably he's heard much worse that this on the schoolyard and at camp, and in a few PG movies that really push the envelope. But somehow it feels different coming from a book, and one clearly marked for ages 7 and up.

To me, 7 is still YOUNG. It's not the 9-12 age span of this year's Newbury award-winning The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron, which set off a firestorm earlier this year because of the word, on page one, for a portion of a male dog's anatomy.

I think I'll have to have a converation with Budza about the language in the book, and why I felt I had to change it, but say that now he's reading on his own he'll be picking his own books and will have to make his own decisions on what language he wants to use and what not. I support Holly Black's right to be true to the creative vision and voice of the characters in the book. She had every creative right to use the word, but I just keep coming back to the notation on the back of the book for ages 7 and up.

The whole situation leaves me not knowing quite what to do with my reaction. I suppose it's just another sign of the downward creep of tween-ness, language and plot elements that used to be solely the territory of YA seeping into books that are for younger and younger kids. It somehow seems wrong, to have to leave the word cr*p out of a book you're reading aloud to a seven year old who is sitting there in his shark pajamas, wiggling his loose tooth like the kid he is.

The world is full of cr*p, he'll learn that soon enough, probably he knows it already. But I couldn't stand to hear it come out of my own mouth at story hour.

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