Monday, February 19, 2007


“Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much. It sounded medical and secret, but also important.”

This appears on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal. Libraries, it seems, are refusing to stock it because of the use of the word "scrotum."

What else should Patron have said here? The word appears when Lucky, the ten-year-old heroine, overhears someone say he saw a rattlesnake bite his dog Roy on the scrotum.

The only alternative would have been, "That snake bit Roy in the balls!"

Some people. :-)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention! Please notice that it is SCHOOL librarians who are doing most if not all of the "refusing" ... the children's librarians in PUBLIC libraries are most likely coming down on the other side of this (very old) debate. I may have something more to add here later (after I "read up" on it more fully).
-- dhsh

Donald Brown said...

Thanks for the quotation in which "the offending word" appears. It annoys me because I think the book is trying for ingenuous but is actually quite disingenuous. The word Lucky is confusing "scrotum" with is "sputum." I think it absurd that the child would have a sense of "sputum" and not "scrotum." Little boys do use the latter word, as do parents and doctors.

My point is not to answer "what word should have been used" but to ask: why is anatomy and genitalia a part of the story? Fine, if that's the topic. But to work "scrotum" into the book as a word for a child to muse over, just seems unnecessary and, in the quotation, disingenuous.

I'm waiting for the day when a children's book refers to a kid getting "hit in the balls," a not unusual playground incident and one usually identified as such!