I’d like to recommend a book to those of you with tween-age kids, particularly boys who are entrepreneurial-minded. The sweet, but dotty, grandmother of the unnamed hero gives him an old mower that her husband had tinkered with. She encourages him to use it. He begins by mowing his parents’ barren and tattered lawn. Then he is hired to do the same by another neighbor. The story deals with both realistic and fun economic issues, such as budgeting, payroll, and banking.
This book has a lot of fun and goofy characters, but it also contains some wise and helpful ones. While I have a few issues with the book (e.g. the contract workers for the hero are illegal immigrants), this is a great book for a kid who needs a little motivation. The chapter titles were titled according to economic principles.
What is the name of your book? Lawn Boy.
No, this is not the Lawn Boy. This Lawn Boy by Gary Paulsen was published 10 years before the controversial Jonathan Evison opus. Paulsen has a good collection of children’s books, including Lawn Boy 2, that are suitable for the ages of 9-12. Evison, a writer of ADULT stories and books, had no intention that his Lawn Boy would be in high school library.
Evison’s book is very different from Paulsen’s. They share little more than a name, and some situational elements like lawn work, and an emphasis on money. Evison’s Lawn Boy, for example, is a literary novel for adults. Paulsen’s novel is funny and frazzled, whereas Evison is angry and resentful. Mike Munoz, the protagonist of Evison’s book, hated some things about the world. However, he had no idea how to deal with them. His protagonist is not a modern Holden Caufield by accident. It is not by chance that the controversial sex scenes, a meeting between two 10-year-old boys in the middle, are mentioned early. I was so uncomfortable with another sex sequence in the middle of the book that I almost skipped those pages. ).
This book is not suitable for children under 16. The book is soaked in sexual frustration, and the pursuit for sex just to be sex. (And social prestige). The film is also anti-capitalism and anti-growth. Although the protagonist wants to one day “get his own”, he is snobby about the “free market” which he places in mental quotations. He then becomes a social activist, but he fails miserably. It’s a bit preachy. It may be fine for certain YA books, but for kids’ books, preachiness is the biggest turnoff.
The protagonist’s words about libraries are very positive, and I agree with them all. This may have led the book to a momentous occasion in its career. The American Library Association (ALA), which honors books for adults, but that appeal to teens particularly, awarded Evison’s 2019 Alex Award. Here, I believe, is the beginning of the problem.
The librarians cannot possibly read every book that is put in front of their eyes. They must rely on the gatekeepers of the industry to ensure that all books are properly categorized, readability and quality checked, and reviewed. They must approve dozens of journals and catalogues before they can make any purchases. They often buy books based on requests from library users or the entire publishing slate of certain publishers. It’s an arduous job and I respect it.
What should a librarian do when a major book award is presented by the ALA to a work with a title which may sound vaguely familiar, but they purchase it without reading the book? Most librarians are unable to read their own books. I don’t think it is for lack of effort. Librarians tend to have a high level of trust in their professional associations, which can lead to good sales.
It is problematic when a librarian refuses to acknowledge a mistake. This seems to be a case of mistaken identity, or misplaced faith in an authority figure.
What if Lawn Boy is recommended by ALA? It is impossible for any authority to get it right all the time. The librarian, in each case when Lawn Boy had been challenged by either a student or parent, should have read the book and used their own judgment. My high school librarian did this when I brought Valley of Horses, by Jean Auel, to her. The book was fine for older teens. It’s even educational. Except for the four page explicit sex scenes in Chapter 2. She read it, then moved it into the “request-only” section to control who could check it out.
Now, however, taking an inappropriate book away from a child’s grasp (as you would a knife or can of beer), is the modern equivalent of the Boston Blue Laws, or the Nazi burnings of “decadent”, books. The New York Times and NPR have called out parents for being a danger to their children, even though they are protecting them from situations that may be too difficult emotionally. Publishers Weekly’s newsletter almost always links to the most recent story about a banned book, even though the book was never banned. It was only removed from the library of a grade-school. Why don’t they discuss this loudly? Banned Books Sell Well.
Maybe the best solution is to clarify what a prohibited book is. Playboy Magazine is it banned because the high school libraries do not stock it? The Narrative, a brilliant satire which rips apart the Media Narrative as well as a number of other “woke” ideas is a great example. Is it banned because the librarians refuse to buy them? Or because the mainstream publishing industry will never publish such a book? Are they independent books who have to work more? Libraries are struggling to keep up with the changes in publishing.
I have always supported Banned Book Week, which aims to draw attention to those books that are deemed so dangerous they shouldn’t be read. Today, I am forced to reconsider my support. If To Kill a Mockingbird sits on a shelf with Gender Queer – a graphic book that contains explicit sexual images – I wonder what people are thinking. Librarians must be able to see the damage this fight does to their most beloved cause, or not.
As of now, parents should be hyper-aware of what their children read at home and in school. We must all continue the fight to bring sanity back into the mix.