I got an email earlier today that at first I had intended to politely ignore, but then I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I thought I’d post my response here, in case anyone else had been wondering about this.

Subject: Relish

I love this book but am wondering why you felt it necessary to make the pornography so graphic (excuse the pun!).  I hate to censor books but I’ve had complaints in my school library that it is “inappropriate” and I have to agree. The storyline around the porn is great but why the raunchy pictures in a kid’s book?

Below are the “raunchy pictures” the person is referring to:


And here is my response:

Hi ____,

I don’t usually feel like it is my job to field emails like this, but I found myself considering your accusation and thought I’d take the time to try to make myself clear. My answer won’t necessarily help out when disgruntled parents come to you with complaints, but I hope it will give you a better understanding of my point of view.

Leaving aside the fact that this book is “all ages,” not “a kid’s book,” and therefore not specifically geared towards children’s sensibilities, I find that there is nothing raunchier in the drawings than there is in the text.

In your email, you mention that you enjoyed the actual story, so the idea of a 12 year old boy reading porn is fine, but cartoon drawings of the porn itself (again, in a graphic novel) is obscene? Your opinion can certainly be carried out in how you censor the book to your patrons and children of your acquaintance, but I don’t feel that it is my responsibility to be that arbiter, as your email suggests. I wrote and drew a story that happened to me, to my own tastes and in the hope that it would reach readers of all ages who found it amusing— end of my responsibility. 

The hope of including this story as it is in my book is that when 12-year-old readers are confronted with such materials in their life, as they will be and I was, they will be able to see it as something that is normalized and perhaps a little ridiculous, rather than scary and menacing, or a source of shame. I am proud that images of naked bodies exist in an all-ages book, as they exist in all ages of life. The refusal to include such things buys into the societally imposed idea that images of naked bodies, especially in sexual context, must be hidden and restricted as immoral and obscene. I do not agree, necessarily. I certainly wouldn’t offer pornography to a child, but my book is not pornographic in nature— not meant to titillate or arouse. It does contain references to material that exists for this purpose, and I don’t find the images to be presented in an obscene fashion. My book is usually listed as “grade 6 and up.” I think it’s important within the book that this story exist, to try to illustrate to younger readers at this age that these interests are natural and can be funny, rather than implying with obvious censorship that looking at such images should make you feel shame.

Perhaps it will provoke younger readers to talk about it and understand it with an adult, rather than hiding their knowledge of such things and pretending they are not a part of life. In the story, Drew’s fascination with pornography brings him shame and embarrassment. He feels alone in his interest. The truth is that almost any 12-year-old would be fascinated, sexually or just because it is new and taboo, and with porn being easier to access than ever, it’s important to make sure that kids understand what it is and how it impacts them. 

Believe me, my drawings are considerably more modest than the reality of what I saw in his magazines at the time. I wish I’d had a little more context for what I was seeing back then— though it was certainly not the first time I’d been confronted with such things. I wish I’d been able to see it as I do now— to better understand the industry, and the power such things can have over people, and that it is perfectly natural to show an interest in porn, at puberty or any age. To have seen cartoonish images of sex would have certainly helped my reading comprehension, to know what sex looked like, as I was reading any book with even the vaguest reference to sex, and picturing all manner of inaccurate things. 

It’s important to consider why the story is held to less strident standards of censorship than the image— why is that, when as a reader, I’m sure you can attest the power of the written word?

In short: it’s a graphic novel, and images are a part of the story. If you don’t approve, perhaps one of the many MANY books without pictures would be better suited to the disgruntled parents with whom you agree.

But I’m glad you enjoyed the book otherwise. It’s kind of you to take the time to write an author to compliment them on their work.


The books listed in the CCSS document are NOT required texts, nor are they necessarily the best texts. They are EXAMPLES of how complex the texts should be. Teachers and librarians should learn how to evaluate texts for their usefulness in the classroom. Teachers and librarians are ABSOLUTELY FREE to use whatever texts they and their administration deem appropriate, including (I should hope) texts that reflect a diverse experience in regards to race, social and economic status.

(via schooledlibrarian)





Nashville Public wins the “All about that bass” parody race

I can’t decide if I’m a bigger fan of the children’s librarians with the puppets or the lady on the right with the keyboard and Ray Charles glasses. This is epic.

My favorite is the lamb puppet, for sure. 

this is adorable— finally, librarians doing something creative that is actually good, and not embarrassing. 

“When librarian K.C. Boyd came to Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago in 2010, it was ranked second to last among schools in Illinois. Since then, according to the Chicago Public School’s (CPS) 2013 Progress Report, the facility of about 600 students has made major gains. Phillips, located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, received a 2011 School Improvement Award from the Illinois State Board of Education and moved from a level three rating to a level one (“Excellent Standing”), while the class of 2014’s ACT scores jumped from 12.8 in 2011 to 15.2 in 2013.
Boyd has transformed the school’s reading culture and its use of social media. While she isn’t solely responsible for Phillips’s turnaround, she has clearly made an impact.”

Chicago Hope: High School Librarian K.C. Boyd | School Library Journal (via schoollibraryjournal)

What, School Librarians have a positive effect on student learning? Get Rahm on the phone. 

(via schoollibraryjournal)

“Boyd’s work was cut out for her at Phillips, but she took a nuanced approach. “I didn’t start off with what I thought they should be reading,” she says. “I listened to them.” Her teens most enjoyed reading manga, poetry, vampire stories, and street lit. Boyd bases her purchasing decisions on their preferences, working with an average annual budget of about $5,000. In addition to incorporating manga titles such as the “Bleach” and “One Piece” series (both Shueisha) and paranormal romances, she stocks her collection with titles targeted to hi-lo readers, including “Bluford High” (Townsend) and street lit such as Treasure Blue’s Fly Betty (Cash Money Content, 2013) and Sister Souljah’s The Coldest Winter Ever (Pocket Books, 1999). Though many educators shy away from incorporating street lit into their collections, Boyd has been a big proponent of the genre and believes that it “[serves] as a teaching tool.” Karen Edmonson, a middle school science teacher who worked with Boyd at Chicago’s Ninos Heroes School, where Boyd was librarian from 2004 to 2007, witnessed the librarian’s ability to turn middle school students on to pleasure reading.”
— Wonderful story by @dibblyfresh about an amazing librarian. Chicago Hope: High School Librarian K.C. Boyd | School Library Journal (via sdiaz101)

(via sdiaz101)

“Some teachers still have trouble showing any sort of vulnerability of fallibility. These teachers will expend immense amounts of energy hiding the fact they’re frustrated at something, that they’re upset or perhaps even angry. Why? Other teachers get tied into logical knots to avoid admitting “I have no idea what the answer to your question is.” But teachers who genuinely connect with students are the ones who aren’t afraid to show emotions in class, who can admit that they aren’t in fact the repository of all knowledge. Of course nobody want to be a wallowing, blubbering mess in class, but what better way to teach empathy than to give the students someone to empathize with when we’re having a bad day? What better way to foster collaboration and to teach that it’s okay not to know something than to say “I don’t know, let’s find that out!”?”

An Open Letter to Joe Murphy (@libraryfuture)


To Joe Murphy:

I do not support your lawsuit against Lisa Rabey and nina de jesus. As a librarian and educator, I value open dialogue and believe the proper response to accusations of harassment is understanding and engagement. Instead, you have chosen to use legal action to silence future discussions about a critical issue in our profession and will likely prevent other victims of harassment from speaking out against their abusers. Thus, I request the following:

1. That you immediately cease legal action against the two defendants.
2. That you publicly apologize for using legal actions to silence and prevent public dialogue about a critical issue in our field.
3. That you compensate the defendants for any financial costs incurred as a result of your legal actions.
4. That you make a meaningful, symbolic gesture of solidarity, healing, and reform. I leave the nature of this gesture entirely to your design.

I believe the above requests are reasonable and furthermore will benefit the future of the library profession by setting an example for how to appropriately respond to accusations of harassment.

John Jackson, Librarian

“In a profession that’s supposedly dominated by women, I find it sad that the librarians who get the most attention are mostly men (and, admittedly, some women), men who very rarely write about honest, simple, day to day issues in librarianship (Swiss Army Librarian being a rare exception, with his marvelous ref questions of the week). These men spin elaborate fantasies about librarians being information rockstars who dress to impress (either flashily or with an eye to ironic hipsterism), dismiss librarians who still use books to connect with patrons as hopelessly backwards, and come up with gimmick after gimmick to get libraries “noticed” without ever once writing about a concrete, applicable thing that they have actually done. Show me how libraries and librarians are amazing, don’t just tell me and expect me to be convinced.”
“That said, that this information comes second or third-hand does concern me. I don’t know for a fact that Joe Murphy is a sexual predator. Do you? Here’s what I do know. Did he creep me out when I interacted with him? Yes. Did he creep out other women at conferences? Yes. Did he behave like an entitled jerk at least some of the time? Yes. Do many people resent the fact that a man with a few years of library experience who hasn’t worked at a library in years is getting asked to speak at international conferences when all he offers is style and not substance? Yes.”
“I’m speaking today on behalf of the children’s services at our libraries. When my daughter, who has Asperger’s syndrome, participated in a reading group last summer, the other children were completely mystified by her behavior. Two young librarians in particular, [Names], made every effort to include her using the same activities. They read the same books. Each question, no matter how off-topic or randomly thrown, was answered with true compassion. The kids began to see her enjoyment for Frozen, her sadness over any dog who passed away in any chapter book, and how much she loves the color blue. At the beginning, she was called a Freak, Retarded, Stupid. At the end the words were Funny. Loves the movies. Has a cute dog. For the first time, my daughter wrote letters about making friends while she was at the program in the library. Sirs and madam, this is a woman who will grow up in your community. It is because of your public librarians that the people who will be her neighbors, her high school classmates, and her co-workers are beginning to know and like her… just as she is. Why do you want to cut funding for public libraries in our community? These are the people who are helping create our community.”
— When a librarian has to take out the tissues at one young mother’s speech during the referendum on closing two suburban branches of the public library. (via whenalibrarian)

(via btmullis)