One-Minute Book Reviews

June 6, 2011

In Defense of Meghan Cox Gurdon, Children’s Book Reviewer

Does a reviewer have a right to say that books for adolescents are “ever-more-appalling”?

By Janice Harayda

For years Meghan Cox Gurdon has been reviewing books for children and teenagers for the Wall Street Journal – at first biweekly and, since the launch of the paper’s book review section in late 2010, weekly. Her reviews are consistently intelligent and well-written and almost always favorable.

Cox Gurdon clearly has made it her mission to look for and call attention to high-quality books for children and teenagers on many topics and in a variety of genres. She has praised books as different as Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which won the 2008 Caldecott Medal from the American Library Association, and Ruth Krauss’s reissued classic The Backward Day.

Over the weekend the Wall Street Journal published “Darkness Too Visible,” one of the rare articles by Cox Gurdon that faulted a major trend — the burgeoning array of novels for adolescents that involve violence, abuse or other bleak topics. For this she has been pilloried in blogs and on Twitter at the hashtag #YASaves, which was created  in response her story and has generated more than 15,000 responses, according to the trade newsletter ShelfAwareness. Cox Gurdon has been called “biased” (@KelliTrapnell), “idiotic” (@fvanhorne), “a right-wing nut” (@annejumps), full of “ugliness” (@AprilHenryBooks), and “brittle, ignorant, shrewish” (@Breznian).

What did Cox Gurdon do to earn this torrent of vitriol? She did what critics are supposed to do – to look beyond plot and characterization and consider the deeper themes and issues raised by novels. In “Darkness Too Visible,” she questioned the effects of books like Jackie Morse Kessler’s Rage, a “gruesome but inventive” 2011 book about a girl whose secret practice of cutting herself “turns nightmarish after a sadistic sexual prank.” Cox Gurdon quotes a passage from the novel that says: “She had sliced her arms to ribbons, but the badness remained, staining her insides like cancer. She had gouged her belly until it was a mess of meat and blood, but she still couldn’t breathe.”

It is entirely legitimate for a reviewer to ask, as Cox Gurdon does, how this might affect a vulnerable child or teenager:

“The argument in favor of such novels is that they validate the teen experience, giving voice to tortured adolescents who would otherwise be voiceless. If a teen has been abused, the logic follows, reading about another teen in the same straits will be comforting. If a girl cuts her flesh with a razor to relieve surging feelings of self-loathing, she will find succor in reading about another girl who cuts, mops up the blood with towels and eventually learns to manage her emotional turbulence without a knife.

“Yet it is also possible—indeed, likely—that books focusing on pathologies help normalize them and, in the case of self-harm, may even spread their plausibility and likelihood to young people who might otherwise never have imagined such extreme measures. Self-destructive adolescent behaviors are observably infectious and have periods of vogue. That is not to discount the real suffering that some young people endure; it is an argument for taking care.”

Anyone who writes about children’s books regularly knows that Cox Gurdon hasn’t made up this trend: Books, like movies, keep getting more lurid. Or, as she puts it, the publishing industry is serving up “ever-more-appalling offerings for adolescent readers.” If this issue might not concern all adults, it would surely concern some, given how many buy books as gifts for children without having time to look at much more than the cover and flap copy. And Cox Gurdon isn’t saying: Never read young-adult books. She’s saying: Know what’s in those books, and use judgment, as you would with movies.

Contemporary child-rearing experts urge parents to protect their children in ways that would have been unthinkable a couple of generations ago, when psychologists warned of about the dangers of “overprotectiveness.” This shift has resulted from social changes that require more caution, and Cox Gurdon has encouraged adults to apply to their children’s reading the level of care that they bring to all other areas of their lives. Is this so terrible? Thousands of people on Twitter have said, “Yes.” Anyone who believes that adolescents’ reading habits matter as much as their viewing habits may disagree. In her latest article and others, Cox Gurdon has paid young people’s literature the highest compliment:  She has given children’s books the close scrutiny that, in an age of shrinking book-review sections, typically goes only to those for adults. For that, she deserves gratitude.

Janice Harayda is a novelist and award-winning journalist who has been the book editor of the Plain Dealer, the book columnist for Glamour, and vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle. She has written for the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, and many other publications Since 2006 she has edited One-Minute Book Reviews, named one of New Jersey’s best blogs in the April 2011 issue of New Jersey Monthly. You can follow Jan (@janiceharayda) on Twitter at www.twitter.com/janiceharayda.

(c) 2011 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

40 Comments »

  1. A reviewer is supposed to judge and critique books. She’s entirely within her right to do so. A good review critiques books in such a way that people will know whether or not they will enjoy the book, and that requires honesty. If a book reviewer isn’t biased in some way, it defeats the entire purpose of a review.

    Comment by Grace — June 6, 2011 @ 11:17 am | Reply

  2. Thanks, Grace. I’ve often heard from readers of my reviews who have said, in effect, “I may not agree with you, but you gave me enough information so that I have a sense of whether this book is for me.” I appreciate your support for that point.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 6, 2011 @ 12:34 pm | Reply

  3. [...] the article here: In Defense of Meghan Cox Gurdon, Children's Book Reviewer « One … [...]

    Pingback by In Defense of Meghan Cox Gurdon, Children's Book Reviewer « One ... Books Empire | Books Empire — June 6, 2011 @ 12:58 pm | Reply

  4. Thanks for this terrific post. With increase of violence in so many YA story lines, I was relieved when my youngest daughter skipped the genre entirely and dove straight into adult fiction. Plenty of violence and sex there, of course, but also wit, poetry and tortured relationships of the garden variety. Are adolescents really being deprived if denied a steady diet of dark tales? Questioning this trend is hardly an “idiotic” or “right-wing” idea. But if so, count this liberal in.

    Comment by Debra Gendel — June 6, 2011 @ 3:57 pm | Reply

    • Thanks for a heartening response, Deb. You’ve identified a big issue in the #YASaves debate that has had too little attention: Why can’t more children go straight to adult books as they did before the young-adult genre came into existence? Certainly all of them wouldn’t need or want to do that, but some could do it with profit, because they’re ready for a more challenging reading level than YA offers.

      As you note, that’s happening in some families, like yours, but I’d like to see a wider discussion of whether it shouldn’t be happening in more. I read so many wonderful adult books starting at about the age of 11 that I might have missed if I’d been steered to YA.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 6, 2011 @ 4:10 pm | Reply

      • Not all YA books are like the ones that this reviewer has a problem with. When I used to read YA books, I read the good fantasy ones that were almost the same as adult books (sometimes with even better writing) but lacked explicit sex scenes. They also tended to have teenaged heroes/heroines. If I’d have skipped YA books altogether, I wouldn’t have discovered a lot of fantastic writers (ie. Robin McKinley, Garth Nix, Philip Pullman, etc.) I’m thinking especially of Robin McKinley when I say that not all YA books are less challenging or complex as adult novels. YA has changed a lot in the past few years, but even now, it isn’t all sparkly vampires.

        Comment by Grace — June 6, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  5. “it isn’t all sparkly vampires”: Agree. And the Wall Street Journal article dealt only with YA *fiction*. Think about how much more it includes when you consider biographies and other nonfiction.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 6, 2011 @ 8:46 pm | Reply

  6. [...] topic »). Certains, comme l’écrivaine et journaliste Janice Harayda, n’ont pas hésité à voler au secours de Meghan Cox Gurdon. « Les experts nous expliquent aujourd’hui que les parents doivent protéger leurs enfants [...]

    Pingback by Doit-on censurer la violence dans la littérature pour ados ? | enviedecrire.com — June 7, 2011 @ 9:42 am | Reply

  7. You make some valid points, particularly about parents vetting books beforehand. I think it’s a great idea for parents to be aware of what their children are reading.

    What bothered me about the WSJ article was the opening argument, about the mother who couldn’t find any YA books for her kids that weren’t dark. I kept thinking, “Why can’t you find them? Where are you looking?”

    I happen to like a lot of the darker fare, but I also enjoy and appreciate the lighter fare. In my opinion, there are plenty of wonderful, entertaining, fun and/or thoughtful contemporary realistic and fantasy books for young adult readers that aren’t dark. They’re prominently displayed in the YA section of every bookstore I’ve been to (novels by Ally Carter, Sarah Dessen, Susan Colasanti, Stephanie Perkins, Maureen Johnson, Josie Bloss and Simone Elkeles to name a few…) It frustrated me that the alternatives to the darker stuff were ignored by the author of the article, as though they didn’t exist.

    Comment by goatsaysmoo — June 7, 2011 @ 8:23 pm | Reply

  8. Though hesitant to say anything given the tsunami of criticism that followed Meghan Cox Gurdon’s recent WSJ article on YA fiction and lacking a turtle’s shell to duck into should this post trigger a second wave, I nonetheless feel I have to speak up on Gurdon’s behalf if only because I had just posed the same question to one of the country’s top YA library bloggers at Book Expo 2011.
    But first some background: I’m a former reporter / library magazine editor (one who helped a bible belt library try and fend off censorship of gay-friendly children’s books) / and now an editor at The RoadRunner Press (and yes, we publish YA novels and we angst over the content as anyone should who publishes for minors).
    As a child, I was a precocious reader who was allowed to read anything and everything by my professor father and progressive mother (though martial debates did occur, as when I began The Godfather saga, including the infamous horse head in the bed, at the age of 11).
    And I believe children should read … wide and far.
    But my question was why as much as I marvel at the plot and originality and page-turning pace of say The Hunger Games, I am at the same time bothered by the book–especially kids killing kids in a televised game?
    The YA librarian at BEA made 2 great observations:
    1. Americans are much more bothered about sex/porn than they are about violence/killing when it comes to what kids are reading.
    AND
    2. The gritty/dark/controversial books I read as a child — weren’t written or marketed as books for children. They were adult books that you read as your reading led them to you, and you and your parents and your teachers and your librarian could clearly know they weren’t written for children. They were written for adults–reader beware.
    The YA books that Gurdon worries about are specifically written for, and marketed to, children, or young people.
    In fact, she believes most parents and teachers who buy books, like The Hunger Games, do so because of kids clamoring for them; they haven’t actually bothered to read the books — and most have no idea what they are about.
    This YA expert said she’d been surprised that at least middle America hadn’t piped up on The Hunger Games — though as a progressive who doesn’t believe in capital punishment I would think liberals on both coasts would be just as conflicted about the book.
    This YA expert says the one time she asked a teacher if she knew what The Hunger Games were about (some parents had bought the book for the entire class to read), the teacher blanched — and found another book for the class to read.
    Censorship?
    Or just exercising a teacher’s right to determine what stories she puts in her kids’ heads–given that only so many books can be read in a classroom in any given year?
    So thank you Ms. Gurdon.
    You’ve raised a topic that warrants discussion — especially when it comes from publishing houses profiting off kids’ curiosity in the perennial race to be the “talked about book” of the week, the sickest, the grossest, the cruelest, the most twisted.

    Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 7, 2011 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

    • “Americans are much more bothered about sex/porn than they are about violence/killing when it comes to what kids are reading.”: That’s so true, Jeanne. I went to BookExpo America (BEA) but not the panel you’ve mentioned, and you’ve made me want to track it down in the C-Span archives or else. The points the YA librarian made seem quite pertinent to the #YASaves debate that’s been raging on Twitter.

      I limit comments on this site to about 250 words (though the policy isn’t posted), preferably fewer, and cut your last few points for that reason, not because they weren’t interesting. Thanks for setting this issue in the context of BEA.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 7, 2011 @ 9:30 pm | Reply

      • No worries — this was one of the first times I felt strongly enough to post, but felt that the WSJ gal shouldn’t be left out there on a limb by herself. The YA librarian and I actually talked after a session at the blogger conference on Friday (didn’t mean to misrepresent); I had been wanting to ask someone for a long time why no one seemed the least concerned about how nihilistic some YA books had become. Didn’t mean to go on and on but folks were getting so easily riled I wanted to put my views in context of sorts. I do feel I’m a better person for seeking out books as a kid/teen that challenged me to be a better person.
        And I do feel particularly strong about this last point:
        I live in Oklahoma City and edited the official record of our city’s most difficult day— I remember my two sons begging for the TV to be turned off in the aftermath of coverage about the Oklahoma City bombing. They’re little minds just couldn’t take as much as my older one could. OKC was a first, but thanks to it I learned by the time of Columbine and 9/11 to limit the TV exposure of my nieces and nephews … and, again, my boys who were in their teens by then.
        I’d like to think everyone hollering in such outrage about Gurdon’s article are just knee-jerk worried about censorship.
        But please remember . . .
        There’s a lot of wiggle room between content being published and content being championed.

        Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 7, 2011 @ 11:48 pm

    • Is Hunger Games really that much worse than Lord of the Flies? I haven’t read it, but from the descriptions it seems like an interesting dystopia that would really make people think.

      Comment by Grace — June 7, 2011 @ 11:56 pm | Reply

      • As I tried to make clear, The Hunger Games is an original, page-turner — a good read. But the premise of these hunger games in which 2 young people from each of the provinces is set to compete in a game-to-the-death just seemed so cavalier about killing and death. The author does try to wrap it up with the flag so to speak — the idea that the girl protagonist is fighting in lieu of her younger sister and because mom isn’t capable of keeping the family together (great metaphor for a child raised with a clinically depress mother) … but it reminds me of the test in one of Stephen King’s novels (again not a YA book but an adult novel) in which a small community has to decide whether to kill one of its kids so they can all live on or to die en masse. Being me, I never saw the conflict — of course you don’t sacrifice someone’s child so the grownups can go ahead living. But the townspeople choose to slaughter the child. Again, great reading …

        The other element of The Hunger Games that really bothered me is the way the girl uses her wiles on the boy competitor from her town — pretending to love him at the encouragement of her mentor (each town’s 2 competitors has a mentor who has won, if memory serves, a previous Hunger Game).

        It, again, was so calculating … such artifice … such a cynical ruse for a young girl who has never even had a first love yet.

        Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 8, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

      • I think it seems cavalier about killing an death as a tool to point out where our reality tv culture is taking us. There was a similar episode of Dr Who (watched by lots of children in Britain) where losers of the weakest link or big brother were incinerated. It’s a theme that’s running through popular culture right now and I think it’s important. How do we know when our voyeurism is too much?

        Comment by librariancrafter — June 9, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

      • I guess that is the question: is there such a thing as too much, too sick, too graphic. As a former newspaper and magazine editor, I was charged with editing content so it could grace a family newspaper … and rarely was it that big of a problem: and our readers were adults we figured.
        I get the arguments about how writing about tough subjects — incest, cutting, gay-bashing, AIDs — is often an attempt to broaden and inform minds and comfort those in pain or who are being marginalized.
        And all those exist in the real word, so they are fair game.
        But I don’t get how that argument covers a plot that involves a killing game in which kids kill kids for a crown and more vittles for their family … have I missed something? Is this a dilemma teens often face in 2011? Who is going to be comforted by this?
        Again as an adult, it was a quick, what-will-she-think-of-next read — but even as I was flipping pages my conscious was asking when did killing another human being become reality TV fodder. Obviously it’s a commentary on reality TV where people serve up their kids, their families and their souls for 15 minutes of fame and a checkbook–maybe that’s as bad or worse. Yes, I got the reference to feeding Christians to the lions for sport (but then I see the same reference in the steroid-pumped American football players doomed to a twilight of pain and crippled limbs those rare times I happen to see a pro football game played before millions of people).
        Maybe the WJR gal is worried about a broad trend, and I’m worried about a narrow one.

        Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 9, 2011 @ 9:19 pm

  9. @Jeanne Devlin and everyone else:

    Interesting response.

    “I’d like to think everyone hollering in such outrage about Gurdon’s article are just knee-jerk worried about censorship.” Oh, absolutely. Consider, for example, how the American Library Association uses “Banned Books Week” for propaganda purposes, including labeling every single person who complains about any material as “censors”:

    The Parent Trap: ALA Uses Banned Books Week to Ridicule Patrons Complying with ALA Materials Reconsideration Policies

    Comment by safelibraries — June 7, 2011 @ 9:11 pm | Reply

    • Again, I’m not for censorship — I’ve worked at a big city/county library where people with agendas were constantly trying to get books removed from the shelves.

      And I guess I can see how that could give someone a knee-jerk response to topics like this YA discussion.

      I just wish everyone would put the censorship aside and talk about what is being presented in these books … again you can publish and shelf a book … that’s a whole lot different than championing it as some of these YA books have been.

      Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 8, 2011 @ 3:14 pm | Reply

  10. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I agree that young-adult books include a lot of lighter novels, some of which I’ve reviewed on this site. The “young-adult” label also includes terrific nonfiction, such as the dual biography of the Darwins that was a National Book Award finalist, “Charles and Emma.”

    But my experience confirms Meghan Cox Gurdon’s broader point: Young-adult novels are becoming seamier. There’s been a tremendous increase in the violence, abuse, and trauma in these books since I was the book editor of the Plain Dealer in the late 1990s. By my lights, those subjects (which figure into so many of the greatest works of literature) aren’t necessarily a problem in themselves; everything depends on the execution. And many of the seamier young-adult books just aren’t giving teenagers enough besides the violence, abuse and trauma.

    In any case, I appreciate your list of novelists who offer lighter fare. The heavy traffic to this post suggests that a huge number of adults are interested in this topic and may be looking for just the kind of names you’ve provided.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 7, 2011 @ 9:12 pm | Reply

    • I think you nailed it — it’s not that there aren’t plenty of light and not-so-light good YA books there are. But the dystopian YA novels and the violence/abuse/trauma novels seem to be in a contest to see who can out despair each other. And maybe it’s the championing of the books without qualification that has bugged me the most. Are we giving parents / teachers enough information about the books that they know what kids are reading? Not so they can stop them from reading it, but so they can be prepared to discuss what comes from having read it.

      Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 7, 2011 @ 11:52 pm | Reply

      • I think the lack of parental discussion is why kids are drawn to these books in the first place. Kids have to face a lot of dark issues in their day to day lives, and books like these help them contextualize their experiences. A lot of the time adults just shut down if kids try to talk about what they’re facing. Sure, we can pretend that violence, abuse, and trauma don’t exist, but there are tons of kids who are actually going through these things, and for them, it’s really good to hear that they’re not alone.

        Comment by Grace — June 7, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

      • I think times have always been trying for kids — rascism against minorities, discrimination against women and gays, the threat of nuclear annihilation, the Cold War, the threat of communism (as posed by govt.), the Russian menance, McCarthy’s black list, Reagan’s Axis of Evil, no credit cards so no way to stretch a paycheck when it ran short, polio threat, small pox, Dust Bowl, thousands killed in wars, war widows, orphanages, hunger, no college unless you were rich or lucky, the Depression … it’s dark now, but it’s always been dark. Parents have always not talked to kids … which is why so many of us turned to books for comfort, for guidance, for hope.

        Dark novels / novels that deal with tough subjects are great — for young and old — maybe it’s just a fine line we walk between publishing books on death/violence/pain to inform and comfort vs. to shock and profit. Have to admit to earlier poster that I don’t recall reading Lord of the Flies (so embarrassing but true, unless my memory fails me) … but isn’t it an adult book?

        Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 8, 2011 @ 12:30 pm

      • Lord of the Flies is pretty much standard for junior high or high school lit classes. It’s set after a nuclear war, and it’s about how a bunch of British schoolkids get stuck on an island together. It’s a conflict between the urge to grasp for power versus the urge to be civilized, and there is murder.

        Comment by Grace — June 8, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

  11. Jeanne and Grace: Interesting that you mention that novel (a big one at my junior high). I’ve thought of the book during the #YASaves furor, because much of the debate as been so rancorous and uncivilized that it’s at times resembled a digital “Lord of the Flies.” Jan

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 8, 2011 @ 1:52 pm | Reply

    • I do hope we’re not contributing to that — as you could probably tell from my first post is was behind my reluctance to enter the discussion, as is often the case these days when subjects I care about come up in the press.

      You’d like to clarify … or politely challenge a point — but it’s like adding kerosene to the flames.

      How we’ve gone from disagreeing with a person — to digitally persecuting them in a twitter-cluster-bullying is beyond me.

      She’s not the only one who was wondering … as a former journalist/reviewer, I make a point of not commenting on something unless I’ve read it. I made a point to go read The Hunger Games, for example. I’ve read Willow, the book about a girl with a cutting problem. Etc. If after reading them, I wonder about something I thought it was fair to broach the subject, and in this case I’d wondered why no one had. Not about ALL YA novels … but a particular book.

      I might note that our press — RoadRunner — deals with challenges in kids’ lifes, too: grief after a best friend is killed in an accident, body image issues after a juvenile heart transplant, fear after witnessing a childhood friend bully or attack someone … but good triumphs …

      Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 8, 2011 @ 3:09 pm | Reply

  12. I know Lord of the Flies is considered a great novel — and required reading in high schools and colleges, but I don’t think it was peddled as YA anymore than Dune or Plato are. I read first and studied latter in high school, but don’t think either were considered YA. And Plato was an honor’s English course, which would have meant it was being read by a certain slice of kids.
    Then again, maybe my reading Ayn Rand’s books as a kid had as big a chance of warping me as anything … and instead I took away a commitment to excellence and a reluctance to go with the crowd. I never saw the stigma in reading (or like her protagonists) that was to come. Though, again, maybe that’s because I was too young to appreciate (or get) all that was being said.

    Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 8, 2011 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  13. There’s a good poetic take on the whole #YASaves topic over at Shelf Awareness today. I think I’m beginning to get that the outrage at #YASaves is over the fear of people trying to squelch what teens read … don’t think that was WSJ’s point (I know it wasn’t mine).
    My take on it was that WSJ was wondering about a trend in subject matter, which any curious mind might wonder about. Is that any more outrageous than if a feminist, like myself, was worried about why there was an increase in sick rapes in some adult novels — maybe we’re all just wondering what the heck is going on in the world. It can seem so dark — and we’re just looking for the light … especially for our kids.
    I was old at age 7 … I need to remember that I suppose.

    Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 9, 2011 @ 2:18 pm | Reply

  14. I like this response to the review. I do not think that the relentless focus on the negative is good for our kids. I say this as someone who raised a child taken from her mother because of drugs. What is necessary is to instill dreams and a sense of possibility in our kids – give them something to believe in, not just affirmation that yes, in fact, the world is a miserable place.

    Not that there is no room for dealing with painful truths. But we should look at overall trends. What you feed is what grows.

    I only wish someone had pointed out how hateful the stereotypes of “rednecks” (as being meth-head homophobes who go around brutally assaulting people sexually) is. Do the actual statistics support that shoving gas nozzles down the throats of gay teenagers is normal small town behavior? I thought tolerance was a virtue, but apparently slanderous use of hateful stereotypes is okay as long as the person being caricatured is only a redneck.

    Comment by kvirs — June 9, 2011 @ 6:05 pm | Reply

  15. I just had an epiphany: coming from a print world of newspapers, magazines and books I have always found the 30-second soundbite not only useless but dishonest — more likely to misrepresent and oversimplify and confuse than illuminate.
    And I think my befuddlement over this whole WJR #YASaves brouhaha may well be my inherent dislike of the 140 word post — the print version of the 30 second sound bite.
    I was always proud that print people took the time to deal with the nuances … the telling details … the complex … the facts, and I guess I just haven’t caught onto the fact that we’re now no better than TV.
    Yes, I try to tweet — and did try on this topic. But I failed miserably.
    I’m grateful to the tips that have come out on twitter … and to the help it has given depressed people needing to organize around the world … but when it comes to being a podium for reasoned discussion I am far from impressed.

    Comment by Jeanne Devlin — June 9, 2011 @ 10:09 pm | Reply

  16. FYI, Meghan Cox Gurdon was interviewed here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/06/09/midmorning3/

    Comment by safelibraries — June 9, 2011 @ 11:02 pm | Reply

    • That’s an excellent interview with Meghan Cox Gurdon. I’ve been on the MPR show a couple of times, and Kerri Williams is always thoughtful and well-informed.

      Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 9, 2011 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

      • Oh! Kerri! I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’ll go update my blog post. Thanks.

        Cool that you were interviewed.

        That MPR interview was really good. It had none of the hysteria you hear from so many sources piling up on Meghan as if sheer weight would make it true.

        Comment by safelibraries — June 10, 2011 @ 12:00 am

      • Kerri Miller is here: http://twitter.com/KerriMPR

        Comment by safelibraries — June 10, 2011 @ 12:08 am

  17. Regarding protecting or not protecting your kids. I think a lot of my peers (I’m 21) have been hurt by overprotective parents. They don’t know how to function in the real world because their parents never let them experience the consequences of the real world; they never had to take responsibility for themselves. It’s so awful that several of my (upper-level, *college*) professors have had to clarify when explaining their attendance policies, “I don’t want a call from your parents.”

    It’s perfectly reasonable to want to protect your children. And it’s also reasonable to monitor the entertainment and ideas their exposed to. Monitoring, however, is a little different from completely shielding. I think we can agree that at a certain age children are (and should be) encountering ideas, cultures, lifestyles, beliefs, and philosophies different from their parents’. And eventually, they need to be allowed to grow (and grow up) as people and as readers. Instead of blanketing all darker teen fiction as potentially dangerous or harmful, parents should open up discussion with their children.

    Read the books they show an interest in (it’s great that they’re showing any interest at all) and ask them questions about it. If they seem to be reading only books about self harm, ask them why- do they know someone who does this? Or, goodness forbid, have they been considering this? If parents want to be our shepherds and guides between childhood and adulthood, they have to put a lot more work into it beyond “I forbid you to read books of this nature.” It takes patience, effort, bravery (it can be scary talking about scary things with your kids I’m sure, but if you want to protect them you have to be brave enough to talk to them about it), and maybe some research- there are a ton of valuable online resources that give detailed recommendations for kids of all ages.

    [I don't think Cox Gurdon was entirely wrong, but I think her article could have articulated her points much much better. A lot of the books she mentioned didn't deserve the portrayal she seemed to be giving them. She wasn't expressly clear on who should be protected from what and although she gave two sides to the argument, the negative side was much more fleshed out.]

    Comment by Brooke Ashley Kolcow — June 10, 2011 @ 11:17 pm | Reply

  18. Thanks, Brooke. That’s a great quote from your professor. I wish I could say that I don’t believe it. But after having taught at good colleges, I do believe it.

    Comment by 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom — June 11, 2011 @ 12:06 am | Reply

  19. […] course, are those who agree with the article and while I don’t fault them for their opinion, there is some misguided understanding of the purpose of books like Rage. Kessler says herself on her Twitter […]

    Pingback by #YAsaves » Gentle Wit — July 18, 2013 @ 7:33 am | Reply

  20. It is sad that in our current society Gurdon needs defending by anyone. She made a point and on our sheeple society it is much easier to participate in the immature arena of name calling then to logically discern that there might be some credence to her critique. Rather than to look at the possibility that we might be doing more harm, we become bullies of critics. Interesting that liberals appear to want to embrace everything really are people who choose to wear blinders as to the reality of their actions. This reminds me of the Emperor’s New Clothes, in which everyone takes the low road and goes along with the scenario rather than take the high road and point out the obvious. Cheers for Gurdon for taking the high road.

    Comment by Patricia Bourgeois-Finley — August 23, 2013 @ 8:09 am | Reply

  21. “The Case for Good Taste in Children’s Books,” by Meghan Cox Gurdon, Imprimis, July/August 2013.

    http://www.hillsdale.edu/images/userImages/mvanderwei/Page_6907/Imprimis_July-August13.pdf

    Comment by Dan Kleinman — August 29, 2013 @ 7:53 am | Reply


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