Brown Bear, Brown Bear, Seize the Means of Production!
September 23, 2010
In honor of Banned Books Week 2010, Boardwalk Branch is doing a blog every day of the week on a different banned book. The best place to start is with what we teach our children.
Is a children's classic illustrated by Eric Carle (of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame) and written by Bill Martin Jr. banned? According to the Dallas Morning News, the book was banned by the Texas State Board of Education because the author bears the same name as a philosophy professor who wrote a book called Ethical Marxism. Presumably, the Texas State Board of Education didn't want their 3rd graders exposed to the anti-capitalist messages inherent to such lines as "Yellow Duck, Yellow Duck, what do you see? I see a blue horse looking at me." Scandalous, right?
At the heart of this scenario is the ease with which some people will ban a book--and I'm not just talking about the Texas Board of Education. Forget the fact that no one on the Board had read either Brown Bear or Ethical Marxism. Forget the fact that one of the reasons to read is to experience diverse viewpoints. Forget that even someone with a different political background than your own can produce a meaningful children's book (such as, oh, Mikhail Gorbachev's daughter).
The main point is that the book was rejected for the author's name alone. Don't read the book. Don't consider the content. Just see if the name happens to be on a blacklist, and go from there. It's frightening to see how easy it is to move from judging a person by their work to judging them by their name. I don't happen to know any Stalins living in the Kansas City area, but heaven forbid they write a children's book.
We in the library have a saying: "Don’t judge a book by its cover". Perhaps you've heard of it. We especially apply this proverb when considering books from the 1960's and '70's when cover art was often horrendous, even if the content was decent. The same principle goes for names, wouldn't you think?Tags: banned books, Books