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My opinion of this book...and how controversial it is... (and will try not to spoil 
the ending for those who have not read it yet.)

I was not sure that the topic of 12-step program was appropriate for 8-9 year olds. 
Yes, it is in their lives, but that is not what kids of this age are interested in 
reading. The age range is touted to be 9-12----but the illustrations are geared for 
younger, and the main character is 10, which will also gear it younger. 

Scrotum is not that major of a concern. It is there, and in and of itself, not that 
shocking of a word. Not a word that is in everyday conversation, but I don't have 
that major of a problem. If that WAS the only issue, then this book would not be 
controversial. For students of 8-9 year olds, maybe not the best choice, but if the 
students watch any late night tv, they will hear worse.  The parents of my schools 
would probably be upset with the book, since I am in a very conservative area, but 
after the hubdub quiets down, I would expect to have the same parents upset with 
the HPs, or Blume, or other books that have been known to be slightly controversial 
also.  I don't expect this book to go to the point of being banned.

I am more concern with the social issues of 12-step programs--alcohol, gambling, 
smoking, drugs, which are a major part of the plot. Also the fact that the major 
worry of the main character is that since her mother's death that she will be 
placed in a orphanage, and decides the running away into the desert is her only 
option. Father is not involved, and asks his ex to come from France to take care of 
the girl, and SHE wants to go back to France after 2-years of being her guardian. I 
do like that the book does come to a decent ending, but does not completely resolve 
the issues.

The 10-year-old main character, is written well. 

All of the rest of the characters in this book fail to meet the same quality. There 
is rarely someone comforting or offering grown up advice for her fears. I heard one 
reviewer state that it was a town "who spoke the truth".  It seem more of a town 
completely obsessed with their own miseries. 

I feel that this might be a good book for families to read together and talk about. 
But I do not feel that for 8-10 year olds, that this is a book that they would read 
on their own. For the most part, they are NOT into realistic, social issue fiction. 
They are more into: Goosebumps (don't get me started on this one), Magic Treehouse 
series, Animal Ark, Animorphs, Unfortunate events, and books beginning to get into 
fantasy (HPs and Inkheart, etc). 

If the author had written this for an audience of 11-14 year olds, she would have 
been at the correct targeted age for the topic and how she deals with the topic. 
The topic, and the way that the author deals with the social issues, just does not 
mix with the targeted audience. 

I know that the Newbery's frequently are books that are ones that deal with issues 
(especially lately), and leave the reader to ponder deeper into the book, or the 
writing. Somehow the committee missed on this one. I do not feel that this book 
represents the BEST WRITING and WORTHY of recognition above all other books written 
last year. 

That being said, now, I will decide whether to purchase this book for my 2 
elementary libraries based on whether it will add to my collection and whether or 
not to justify purchasing a $17 book out of my $2000 budget for all books and video 
and supplies. That is the true hard facts of the controversy....most librarians 
will have a hard time justifying the purchase of a book that will for the most part 
just sit on the shelf, because it is targeted for a reading age that is not the 
interest reading level of that age. And the age THAT would pick it up, will not 
want to be seen with a book that looks "babyish". 

My 2 cents--and not worth too much--opinion and review of this book. But 
withholding whether I decide to purchase this book or not out of my next year's 
budget (this year's budget having been long spent). 

I have enjoyed that the word is what caught the controversy first, the plot is what 
will keep it a controversial book. And if the New York Times wants to do a REAL 
front page article....How about one on how libraries (both public, school, and 
private) are continuing to how to figure out how to fund with decreasing funds and 
decreasing staff?  And still having to have programs that are engaging and reaching 
patrons that are turning more to video and audio.  Or to research the trends on the 
YA and elementary books, and the quality of writing.

Okay, off my high horse, and back to the real world.
JaKay Greer


McBride Elementary (K-2)
Columbia City School (6th)

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