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Much Ado About...???

I’ve had an exciting couple of days. A babysitter in Texas took three children to the library recently and one of them checked out my My Mom’s Having a Baby. The babysitter was “shocked.” You can read the story and watch the video here.

Interestingly enough, she didn’t file a complaint with the library or ask the library to remove the book; she took her complaint right to the media. To a local Fox TV station. The library in question (The Carrollton Public Library) never heard about it until they were contacted by the media.

Yesterday the story went National. I appeared on Fox and Friends this morning. You can see that video clip here.

She got to do a lot more talking than I did. And every time I tried to make a point, I was interrupted. But I sort of expected that. My goal was to remain calm and to not engage. I think I accomplished that.

Here is what I would've liked to have said if given the chance:

1. There's no "debate" here. There's no reason to debate. Ms. Schifferdecker believes the book is "wrong." It clearly IS wrong for her children. And that's fine. Nobody, least of all me, is forcing her or her charges to read it.

2. Despite what Ms. Schifferdecker thinks, there are people out there who want to read this book. There are even people who would go so far as to say it's a good book. Booklist gave it a starred review. It was also a Booklist Editor's Choice Book for 2005 and a Top Ten Sci-Tech award winning book. This book needs to be available to those who want to have access to it.

3. Children are naturally curious about where babies come from. When Mom's "stomach" is getting bigger and there's talk about a new baby coming, some children become even more curious. And some of those children are ready for more information. My Mom’s Having a Baby was written to help those children and their parents talk openly and honestly about where babies come from, what happens during pregnancy, and how the baby grows inside the uterus from month to month.

4. This is NOT a book about sex. It's a book about a close-knit, loving family, and the joy and anticipation prior to the birth of a new baby. It just happens to include that one piece of the puzzle that many other books leave out: how did that baby get inside Mom in the first place?

5. I believe in giving children accurate information. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents talk with their children about their bodies and about sexuality, using proper terminology, from the time they are preschoolers on up. This book helps parents do that. It's not up to me to decide when any child other than my own is ready for this information. But it's not up to Ms. Schifferdecker to make that decision for anyone other than her own children, either. Parents must make those decisions for themselves.

6. Parents/caregivers have a responsibility to pay attention to what their children are doing and what they are reading. I checked the Carrollton Public Library's catalog. They shelve My Mom’s Having a Baby in the nonfiction section...in the 618s. That's where you find the books about childbirth and sex. I don't know whether Ms. Schifferdecker's charges were roaming the 618s or not, but let's give her the benefit of the doubt and say the book was just lying on a table somewhere and one of the children happened to pick it up. If Ms. Schifferdecker had opened the cover and read the jacket copy, she would have seen this: "Elizabeth learns all about the baby's development, and she traces his growth, month by month. She learns how the baby got inside Mom, too." If this is not information Ms. Schifferdecker wanted her charges to have (and she has every right to make that decision), she should not have allowed those children to check out the book.

7. To any question that began, "What do you think..." or "Do you REALLY think...", I would've responded: What I think is nowhere near as important as what the parent who is holding the book thinks. Only YOU can decide whether this book is right for your family.

Ultimately, I stand behind my book. I stand behind the words; I stand behind the illustrations (even though they're not mine...one of the people who e-mailed me today also chastised me for drawing such obscene pictures!). It may not be the right book for everyone. No book is. But I know without a doubt that it's the exact right book for some people. And I've got a bunch of mail to prove it.

Before I close this entry, I want to say something about some of the mail I've received today. First of all, I feel like I've made a lot of new friends! And for that I am grateful. I've also heard from a few crazy people: people who saw a 3-minute clip on Fox News and think they know me; people who haven't even seen my book, but just "know" it's wrong etc. And I've heard from a number of people who want me to know that it's not MY fault; it's the librarian's fault.

To those people I want to say this: I appreciate your attempt to support me, but it's not "the librarian's fault," either. Librarians have a responsibility to serve ALL members of the community. That doesn't mean everything in a library (or even in the children's section of a library) is right for everyone.

A library is not a day care center. It's not the librarian's responsibility to supervise the children who come in. It's not the librarian's responsibility make sure every child only picks up books that are "appropriate" for them. How could it be? What's appropriate for one child is not appropriate for another child.

I know librarians make careful decisions about where to shelve books. Should My Mom’s Having a Baby be shelved in a restricted area? I'm not a librarian; that's not my decision to make. I probably wouldn't be upset if they put it in a restricted area. I don't think it's necessary to do that, but it wouldn't bother me to find out a library had done that. I WOULD be upset if they removed it from the library altogether. Ultimately, it's the parent/caregiver's responsibility to monitor their children in the library and guide their children's reading choices.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 25th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
You were very brave to do this interview, Dori, and you handled it well.

What's wrong with people that they have to send nasty-grams? They need to find something useful to do.
Feb. 25th, 2011 04:22 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

The hate mail is actually pretty funny.
Feb. 25th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
Oh, Dori! This is a beautiful, thoughtful post. You have handled this whole thing with such grace, humility and professionalism. I can feel my blood pressure zooming when I hear about those negative emails. Disagreement is fine, but how can anyone disagree with a book they've never seen or read? Moreover, who are they to criticize and lecture the author about it? It's frustrating to me that people act out of such willful ignorance, and speaking of that: Children need accurate information about human sexuality. It is not wrong or bad or perverted or evil. I could go on and on, but I'm just grateful that your wonderful book is available for so many parents and children who need and enjoy it. As you say, when a new baby is joining a family, it is a joyous event that naturally raises lots of interesting, important questions.

Feb. 25th, 2011 05:51 pm (UTC)
I'm still laughing about the really evil one I read to you guys at breakfast yesterday. I even sent it to my editor and marketing director.

What else can you do but laugh at the ignorance some people so proudly display?

Thanks again for coming yesterday!
Feb. 25th, 2011 09:07 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad I was there! And I'm so glad at least one of us can laugh!
Feb. 25th, 2011 09:57 pm (UTC)
We're never going to change their minds. Can you TRY to laugh? Please? For me? (You've already proven time and time again that you're willing to do A LOT for me!)
Feb. 25th, 2011 09:59 pm (UTC)
okay, THIS makes me laugh. And, of course, I've been laughing at the general absurdity...it's harder when people are mean to you. But I will try. For you.
Feb. 25th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC)
Thank you! :)
Sally Lockner
Feb. 25th, 2011 08:36 pm (UTC)
Your Fox appearance
Good job in the enemy camp! I must admit, that is one of the rare times that I ever allowed Fox news to pollute my space with their hate filled commentary, but I had to watch and was very proud of the way you handled them. I knew they would be biased, and could see it in the subtle and not so subtle ways (letting that woman start the so-called debate (anything but) and letting her get the last vile words. It is very curious that this so-called childcare provider immediately called fox, and got her few minutes of fame from them.

Sally Lockner
Feb. 25th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Your Fox appearance
Isn't it, Sally? Very curious indeed.

Thanks for the support...and your willingness to sit through a little Fox News just for me. I've heard from MANY people who have said exactly the same thing.
Feb. 25th, 2011 09:49 pm (UTC)
A very gracious response
Good for you for not screaming and losing your cool!

The only thing that's really sad? The child who wanted to read your book was interested. The fear of the parent should not stop a child from learning what they want to know.

Feb. 25th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
Re: A very gracious response
Dori, this is my great friend I've told you about from New Hampshire (although we know each other from Vermont). Sarah, that's a great point! She says she was "disgustified." She also, clearly, was curious, and, come on, by age 9 I would imagine she's already heard plenty of misinformation.
Feb. 25th, 2011 10:01 pm (UTC)
Re: A very gracious response
cross-posted with you, Kellye!
Feb. 25th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC)
Re: A very gracious response
I agree! Her comment that the child "knew she was looking at something SHE WASN'T SUPPOSED TO BE LOOKING AT" was very telling, wasn't it?

BTW, I LOVE your book, Head Case!

Thanks for the comment! (You're good friends with Kellye...I'm good friends with Kellye...that means you and I should be good friends, too!)
Feb. 25th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
Re: A very gracious response
Thanks! That comment WAS telling.

And yes! Any friend of Kellye's is a friend of mine!
Feb. 28th, 2011 05:05 pm (UTC)
Restricted Area
Public Libraries are free and open access to information. There is no "restricted areas" just appropriate areas for different age groups. It all seems like such a non issue. It amazes me that after 300 years some have not evolved from our puritan roots!
Mar. 3rd, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Restricted Area
I agree on the non issue!

As for evolving, in some ways it seems like we're going backwards. I think a hundred years ago, kids who lived and worked on farms understood exactly how babies were made.
Jerri Garretson
Mar. 1st, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
Your book censorship response
Congratulations on both your book and your handling of this ridiculous censorship attempt, Dori. Bravo to you and the library who ordered your book. If I were still a children's librarian, I would have ordered it, and I would also have expected some shocked patrons and maybe complaints . . . and many grateful patrons glad to have a book that helped them explain the process of conception and birth. It would have stayed on my library shelves.
Mar. 3rd, 2011 08:33 pm (UTC)
Re: Your book censorship response
I hope it remains on the shelf in Texas!
Mar. 3rd, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
I watched the video today (it was in one of my many newsletters!) and I loved the way you handeled yourself-I don't think I could have done that!

What made me so mad about the whole thing is that she claims everything in the children's department of the library is safe. Obviously, she hasn't explored the children's section much or read many books there-if she would, she would realize that there is actually a very large variety of books in the children's department and children's is not synonyms with conservative Christian ideas. Also, it's not even her child that she's saying can't read this, she's saying her baby-sitting charge, which is someone else's child, can't read it. It's the parents job to decide what a child can and can't read and if the child's parents want to talk about babies, they have every right to do that and it's really not her place as a baby-sitter to come in and say someone else's child can't learn something. She's forcing her ideas onto someone else's children. I also found her ending comment to be just so strange and stupid. Really, where does this woman think babies come from, anyway? And you're right, the book is shelved in non-fiction (same with my library) and she should have looked at the books before she even checked them out.

And thank you for your support of libraries. No, it's not your fault and it's not the librarian's fault. As a librarian, I serve a large community of people with a wide variety of needs and there are books for everyone.
Mar. 4th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
I would argue that the libraries ARE safe, regardless of where you are. Since when is information NOT safe?

As a librarian, it's your responsibility to serve ALL members of your community. As a parent, it's my responsibility to steer my own children toward material that's right for them and away from material that's not right for them.

What's right for one isn't necessarily right for all...and what's wrong for one is absolutely not wrong for all.
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
EXACTLY! I just got so frustrated with her use of "safe" and making it mean everything is safe for me and fits into my ideals and morals, which is not true. There are a wide variety of materials available at the library and not everything fits in with what you believe.

And again, major kudos for not lashing out at her-I wouldn't have been as nice!:)
Mar. 4th, 2011 10:33 pm (UTC)
Yes, I took issue with the word "safe," too! If you are a kid with a severe peanut allergy and you sit down at a table in the library where someone has just eaten a peanut butter sandwich and nobody cleaned up afterward, THEN we can talk about "safe." But to use it to describe books? No.

Lashing out would not have been productive. I'm sure Fox WANTED me to lash out...I refused to give them the satisfaction.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )