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Friday, March 17, 2017

My exploration of banned and controversial books: The Amazing Bone by William Steig

Although I found it easy to defend In the Night Kitchen from those who see it as a threat to young children, I cannot find good reasons to defend The Amazing Bone by William Steig - and this one has won awards: " a 1976 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year and Outstanding Book of the Year, a 1977 Caldecott Honor Book, and a 1977 Boston Globe - Horn Book Awards Honor Book for Picture Books" (Barnes & Noble website).

This book is filled with a number of things that bothered me:

  1. Peal, the antagonist, finds a bone. I can get past that, but based on the rest of the book, it is a bit disturbing that this young pig shows no concern for a bone she finds in the woods. Where did it come from? Dead body? Maybe I am putting too much focus on this, as last week, a junior high student found a pile of bones from a dead body while walking to school. 
  2. Pearl gets robbed by masked bandits carrying both knives and guns. In on illustration, a gun is actually placed to Pearl's temple. That is disturbing for a young children's book. 
  3. Pearl is kidnapped by a fox who plans to take her home, cook her, and eat her. Again, this is nothing new in stories (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel), but combined with the other elements of the story, this feels like far too much.

    I honestly do not know what to make of this story as a whole. I am 100% against banning books, but I would be cautious about this one with very young children. I will share this with my middle schoolers are part of a critical literacy lesson, but I cannot see reading it to a young child. Without the pictures, the story is still pretty harsh; with the images, I think it becomes gratuitous.

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