Friday, April 1, 2011

Word Nerd Controversy (older news)

In one of my grad classes yesterday, we had a talk by Canadian author Susin Nielsen.  She wrote the popular novels Word Nerd and Dear Gearge Clooney, Please Marry My Mom.  I love Word Nerd and found it to be quite fun, enthralling, and charming.  It is marketed for children ages 9-13.  I was shocked to hear that she actually had people lash out against the book, going so far as to ask for the book to be removed from school library shelves.  The book contains the word "bitch" and some language, though any swears are intentionally blanked out, like so: f___.  Also, there is talk of boners.  It's about a 12 year old boy who befriends an ex-con, though, so what do you expect?  Beyond these petty issues that some people seem to find inexcusable enough to merit removal from library shelves, the book is incredibly funny, authentically Ambrose (you'll understand if you read the book), and just plan enjoyable.
The two men (one 12, one 25) help each other in unique and meaningful ways. Cosmo becomes an unlikely father figure or older brother to Ambrose, and Ambrose helps heal some of Cosmo's deep wounds - and helps him find love in the process. It is not a book about "boners" (which Ambrose mentions as one of the many things he'd be able to talk about with his dad if he were still alive), and the few references in the book to his burgeoning sexuality are within context, and, I believe, incredibly true and real. To think that our children aren't having these thoughts, or know this language, by the age of 12, is to live with one's head in the sand. (Susin Nielsen)
I partially taught this book to a group of third year undergraduate students and it was their favourite book of the semester!  But I'm getting off track.  If you'd like to read more about this issue, you can visit Susin Nielsen's blog, Reflections From a Word Nerd.
Imagine my surprise when I got a Google Alert re: "Word Nerd" - and the heading stated, "Book Starts War of Words." Please take a couple of moments to read this article. It's from the Hamilton Spectator. 
I have to say, I'm flabbergasted that my book would ignite anycontroversy. And I certainly appreciate the statements from Meredith Tutching at the Ontario Library Association. I'm surprised the reporter didn't try to contact me, the author, for a response.
Read the book!  Trust me, you'll wonder why there was ever controversy about it in the first place.

Thanks for listening...

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