In July I delved into the history of school library restrictions in the Wilsona (California) School District. Back in 2000, school board member Sharon Toyne told the local Antelope Valley Press, "In our district we are trying to promote character with programs like Character Counts, and I don't see how the book [a little title that starts Harry Potter and the] promotes that. I think it could arouse a child's imagination and curiosity of the unknown, of the dark side."
Toyne has since become school board president, and, after a brief drop into rejecting some books arbitrarily, helped institute a policy about which book recommendations from parent-teacher committees would be acceptable.
The Book Moot blog has spread the alert about the latest development, reported in the Los Angeles Daily News. In an article titled "Wilsona scrutinizes book list", the newspaper says that the school board has removed about a dozen books from two schools' recommended lists and "sent them back to be re-evaluated in light of new book selection guidelines."
Not surprisingly, about half of the challenged titles are fantasies:
- a title from the Guardians of Ga'hoole series, by Kathryn Lasky
- The Eye of the Warlock, by P. W. Catanese
- the latest Harry Potter, by J. K. Rowling
- three Artemis Fowl titles, by Eoin Colfer
The oddball among the books sent back to the Wilsona School committee for review was Becoming Naomi León, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, a realistic contemporary novel. Here's one of the publisher's descriptions. Can you guess the objectionable content?
From the Pura Belpré and Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author of Esperanza Rising comes a riveting novel about family and identity, drawn from Pam Muñoz Ryan’s own Mexican and Oklahoman heritages. Naomi Soledad León Outlaw has had a lot to contend with in her young life.Another bit of copy says, "Luckily, Naomi also has her carving to strengthen her spirit." I suspect that phrases like "self-prophecies" and "carving to strengthen her spirit" got Toyne and her school board allies worried about "the dark side."
But according to Gram's self-prophecies, most problems can be overcome with positive thinking. Life with Gram and her little brother, Owen, is happy and peaceful until their mother reappears after 7 years of being gone, stirring up all sorts of questions and challenging Naomi to discover who she really is.
For the record, Becoming Naomi León is a Schneider Family Book Award winner, Parents' Choice Silver Honor, and Powells.com staff pick.