by Susan Patron
I haven’t weighed in much on the controversy that has swirled around this childern’s novel. I wanted to wait to read it. When I returned to school after winter break I asked the librarian if she had read any of the articles or discussion about the “scrotum” book. She had missed it all, but thought she had the book on order. She did a little looking and found it on her desk. I got to read it first! I am not great at writing summaries of books, so here is what someone else had to say:
“Lucky, age 10, lives in tiny Hard Pan, California (population 43), with her dog and the young French woman who is her guardian. With a personality that may remind some readers of Ramona Quimby, Lucky, who is totally contemporary, teeters between bravado–gathering insect specimens, scaring away snakes from the laundry–and fear that her guardian will leave her to return to France. Looking for solace, Lucky eavesdrops on the various 12-step meetings held in Hard Pan (of which there are plenty), hoping to suss out a “higher power” that will see her through her difficulties. Her best friend, Lincoln, is a taciturn boy with a fixation for tying knots; another acquaintance, Miles, seems a tiresome pest until Lucky discovers a secret about his mother. Patron’s plotting is as tight as her characters are endearing. Lucky is a true heroine, especially because she’s not perfect: she does some cowardly things, but she takes pains to put them to rights. ~Francisca Goldsmith
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved“
I picked this summary, because I actually said to my librarian yesterday that Lucky reminds me of Ramona or Junie B. The book is written in Lucky’s voice. She reasons like a child and she lets you in on her thinking. There is nothing perfect about Lucky’s life and she goes about fixing it in a child way. All too often children in books are like little adults who make all the right choices and everything works out perfect in the end. Until you get to the very end, you don’t know how Lucky’s life is going to turn out. (And I am not going to tell you.)
The controversy surrounding the use of the word “scrotum” in the book is not unlike controversy in other children’s books (see Harry Potter, any book about gay teens, any book that hints at sex or death). It stems from people reading selected passages and then extrapolating an issue they have handpicked.
Why didn’t they read the part about how Brigette came to Lucky? After Lucky’s mom’s death, the first wife of Lucky’s father (who wants nothing to do with her) comes from France to be her guardian. How selfless, how touching. But nothing compared to the word scrotum.
Why didn’t they look at the 12-steppers and say “Good for you!”? These people have admitted they have a problem and want to fix it. They have searched for their higher power and handed their recovery over to him/her/it. They are working to be better people. But that’s nothing compared to the word scrotum.