A Youth Librarian Comments on The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Here’s a guest posting about The Higher Power of Lucky from the youth librarian at my local library:

As Cindy has described, over the past few weeks, the blog-o-sphere has been abuzz over The Higher Power of Lucky, this year’s winner of the prestigious 2007 Newbery Award. You may know the John Newbery Medal, the “Oscar” of juvenile fiction, is awarded “…to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” by a committee of librarians in the American Library Association (ALA). Shortly after the medal winner was announced, a few school librarians objected to the book’s use of the word ‘scrotum’ and the brouhaha was on.

As someone who HAS read the book, I don’t understand what the fuss is about. This is a sweet, humorous, and loving story about a young girl’s search for her place in the world. Lucky lives in Hard Pan, California, a small desert community of ramshackle buildings and eccentric neighbors. Since her mother died, she’s been cared for by her father’s former wife who came all the way from France to be her temporary guardian. But all Lucky wants is to find a permanent home. After eavesdropping on the community AA meetings, Lucky wonders if a “higher power,” whatever that is, could help her find a home. With the help of her dog, a good friend, and her neighbors, Lucky’s questions get answered.

So, what does this story have to do with the word scrotum? Not much. It’s a word, an anatomically correct word, which apparently pushes some people’s buttons. But in the grand scheme of this book, it was used in a humorous way to catch a child’s interest—kind of like the title of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series.

If you want to know more, Susan Patron, author of the book and a librarian with the LA Public Library, wrote a beautiful explanation, “‘Scrotum’ as a children’s literary tool,” published on Feb. 27, 2007 in the Los Angeles Times, of why she used the word scrotum.

And just so you know, I’m a youth librarian, employed by one of the best—Multnomah County Library (MCL) in Portland, Oregon. Although I know that many of my colleagues share my feelings about this book, the comments above are just that…MY feelings and should not be construed as representing the opinion of my employers. That said, I am proud to say that MCL has a long history in support of Intellectual Freedom, the right of everyone to choose what to read, including books that use the word scrotum. MCL currently owns 65 copies of the book, all of which are checked out, and as of this moment, has 71 people waiting for a chance to read it. — susansm

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