School Board might ban 10 books

The board has removed them from Nature Coast Technical's library order and wants them reviewed by a committee.

Published May 20, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - She's got only one novel to her credit. But author Maryrose Wood may soon join a select club.

On Tuesday, the Hernando County School Board decided her first book - Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love - might not be appropriate for high school readers, and removed it and nine other books from a $73,000 library order until a committee can review them.

Among the other books culled from Nature Coast Technical High School's order were Barbara Kingsolver's first novel, The Bean Trees; The Clan of the Cave Bear, by Jean Auel; Boy's Life, by Robert McCammon; and the abridged young-adult version of The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay.

Board member Sandra Nicholson led the charge against those books during the board's televised regular meeting, reading profanity-laced passages from what she said was McCammon's novel and castigating the school officials who placed the order.

"We have teachers who complain constantly about the language students use," Nicholson said. "And then we tell them to read these books, these wonderful books that come highly recommended. What kind of message are we sending to these students?"

Media specialist Mary Dysart said the 2,500-book order from Mackin Library Media was typical of district library purchases. Librarians must rely on reviews by publications like School Library Journal and Booklist, she said.

Nicholson said she had been approached by people from a local radio station who expressed concern about the district's book orders, and took the initiative to compare Nature Coast's order against lists on two Web sites devoted to challenging the propriety of books in school libraries.

"I went to two sources," she added. "I wasn't able to find Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love."

A reviewer for School Library Journal described Wood's novel as a "lightweight foray" into the love life of a 14-year old girl at a Manhattan school, and deemed it appropriate for readers in grades 6-9.

"While the title might make some adults cringe, in fact the story is nearly squeaky clean and lots of good fun with a predictable but happy ending," wrote Susan Riley of the Mount Kisco Public Library in New York.

In an e-mail to the Times, Wood said her book is on the shelves "from Anchorage, Alaska, to the U.S. Air Base in Germany and most states in between," and to her knowledge has never been banned.

"Teens have the right to read, to think, to learn, to have access to information and to form their own opinions and values," she added. "Teens need to be treated with respect so that they can become intellectually and emotionally prepared for the responsibilities of adulthood and citizenship. I don't agree with adults who think that "mature' books should be kept out of the hands of young people who are themselves within a stone's throw of adulthood."

Another book, Unspeakable Acts, Unnatural Practices: Flaws and Fallacies in Scientific Reading Instruction by Frank Smith, narrowly avoided being included on Nicholson's list of profane books. But Nature Coast principal Margaret Schoelles begged the board not to remove it, saying she had ordered it as a professional development resource for her teachers.

Some board members expressed discomfort at the prospect of being seen as book banners.

"You make the individual choice as a person on the movies you see, the books you read, the music you listen to," board chairman Jim Malcolm said. "We're dealing with adolescents through the guidance of their families, and with the professional staff that we have, on what's appropriate or inappropriate reading material. And I think that's where the decision lies."

But the board ultimately voted 5-0 to ask superintendent Wendy Tellone to form a committee to review the books and make a recommendation on whether to buy them.

If the board eventually bans any of the titles, they'll join a growing list of books that have been removed - at least temporarily - from district libraries in recent years.

Among those challenged books are Judy Blume's Deenie; Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; and Freaky Friday by Mary Rodgers, which inspired a PG-rated Disney film.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or 352 848-1341.


Here is a list of the books the school system wants to have reviewed:

Are You in the House Alone?

Rainbow Boys

Rats Saw God

Sex Kittens and Horn Dawgs Fall in Love

The Bean Trees

The Bean Trees, Teacher's Edition

The Clan of the Cave Bear

The King Must Die

The Power of One

Boy's Life