One-Minute Book Reviews

February 25, 2007

‘A Character Named Scrotum': More Funny Search Terms People Have Used to Find My Site

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Humor,Libraries,News — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 4:58 pm

On Friday I posted a list of the funniest search terms that people have used to find my site since Monday, when I began blogging about Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal from the American Library Association. A few more turned up over the weekend:

a character named scrotum

scrotum literary award

susan patron scrotum

janice harayda scrotum

I thought that the “janice harayda scrotum” came from a wag who had read my original post about the keywords, entitled “Barbara Walters Scrotum.” But I found accidentally that it had been used by a minister to whom I described a few of my seven or eight posts on The Higher Power of Lucky, including a review and a reading group guide. If ministers have no problem with “the s word,” why do some librarians?

By the way, I love that one of the links to my original review of The Higher Power of Lucky came from a site called Depraved Librarian http: www.depravedlibrarian.blogspot.com/. I never thought of librarians as “depraved. ” But if patrons keep asking librarians to help them find that book with “a character named scrotum,” it could take a toll on their sanity, don’t you think?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 23, 2007

‘Barbara Walters Scrotum’ and Other Funny Search Terms People Have Used to Find My Site This Week

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Humor,Libraries,Newbery Medals,News,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 3:58 pm

The most amusing keywords or keyphrases of the week

I have blogged frequently this week about Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky, which uses the word “scrotum” on the first page and won the American Library Association’s 2007 Newbery Medal for the most distinguished work of children’s literature. My posts included a comment about a segment of The View on which Barbara Walters read aloud a dictionary definition of “scrotum.”

People have entered some pretty funny keywords or keyphrases into their search bars as a result all of this. And because a lot of those people have ended up at One-Minute Book Reviews, their search terms have showed up on my “Blog Stats” page. Some of the most amusing appear below. My blog stats don’t show which of these terms originally included a plus sign or the word “and.” Some of these terms appeared in quotes and some didn’t.

lucky scrotum
patron scrotum
Barbara Walters scrotum
library scrotum
Newbery scrotum
scrotum book

view walters scrotum book

For those of you who may want to keep your “scrotum” in perspective, I posted a detailed review of The Higher Power of Lucky on Monday and a reading group guide to the book on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Feb. 28, I will announce on this site the finalists for the first annual Delete Key Awards, which recognize the year’s worst writing in books. The announcement will include examples of bad writing from from books on the short list. You may find some of these funny, too. The winner of the Delete Key Awards will be announced on March 15, the Ideas of March.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 22, 2007

Six Reasons Why ‘That Scrotum Book’ Might Have Won the 2007 Newbery Medal Despite the ‘S Word’

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Libraries,Newbery Medals,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 5:05 pm

What were those librarians thinking? A former book awards judge offers possible answers

By Janice Harayda

First, I have no inside knowledge of the workings of committee that gave the 2007 Newbery Medal to The Higher Power of Lucky, which uses the word “scrotum” on the first page. Second, if I did have it, I would be skeptical, because the leakers in book awards contests are often judges who are sore that their choices didn’t win.

But I have followed the American Library Association’s awards for years and, as a journalist, and have interviewed former members of the Caldecott committee, which awards the prizes for picture books. I have also served as vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle and, as such, helped to judge its annual awards program.

Based on that experience, I’d like to offer a half dozen possible reasons why the Newbery judges might have given the 2007 medal to Susan Patron’s The Higher Power of Lucky:

1) The majority of the Newbery committe thought The Higher Power of Lucky really was the most distinguished work of children’s literature published in 2006. If so, I disagree. But the committee made a defensible choice. This was not one of those ALA awards — and there have been more than a few of these — that make you say, “Was the medal winner threatening to go public with Britney Spears-type crotch shots of the Newbery committee members?” I am fully prepared to believe that somebody did have crotch shots of the librarians during the years when they gave no award to Tuck Everlasting and only an Honor Book citation to Charlotte’s Web.

2) The librarians thought that the word “scrotum” was no big deal in a novel for 9-to-11-year-olds given that you regularly hear 3- and 4-year-olds saying “penis” and “vagina.” If so, I agree.

3) The Higher Power of Lucky is upbeat. The ALA committees tend to favor books that are upbeat, unlike the judges of adult books, who often seem to equate bleakness with meaning. This could explain why the organization didn’t honor Tuck Everlasting. Although Patron’s heroine doesn’t have an easy life, The Higher Power of Lucky has a happy ending.

4) Apart from its use of “scrotum,” The Higher Power of Lucky won’t offend anybody. Yes, that’s a big “apart from.” But this is plausible. The ALA choices don’t really honor the most distinguished books for children so much as the most distinguished books that librarians can recommend to everybody. And Patron’s book meets the current tests of ideological “correctness” (with, for example, a young heroine who likes science and isn’t afraid of snakes).

5) Book awards often to go everybody’s second choice. Again, this happens in book contests of all kinds. Often prize judges disagree so strongly about which book should win that they all have to abandon their first choices and pick a title that everybody can agree on. So the award goes to everybody’s second choice instead of a few people’s first. Kate DiCamillo’s The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane is much richer and more complex than The Higher Power of Lucky. But it is so clearly a Christian allegory – with a full-page picture of a crucified rabbit and many biblical parallels – that you can see how librarians who preferred it might have had trouble building a consensus.

6) Susan Patron is a librarian and the librarians were “taking care of their own.” Could be. Patron has worked for years as a librarian in Los Angeles, which has one of the largest public libraries in the country. I would be surprised if she hadn’t served on Newbery or Caldecott committees or didn’t know some of the librarians who helped her get nominated. And personal ties can play a role in who wins book awards. Undercutting this idea is that the ALA didn’t “take care of” Laura Amy Schlitz, a Baltimore librarian who wrote the gripping A Drowned Maiden’s Hair, the Wall Street Journal called “a classic” and was many people’s first choice for the award.

Which explanation is most likely? I don’t know. But I do know that every bookstore and library has many books that children could enjoy as much as The Higher Power of Lucky. Most of those books will never win medals from anyone.

For a review of The Higher Power of Lucky, please see the Feb. 19 post on One-Minute Book Reviews, archived in the Children’s Books category. You can find more information in the Reading Group Guide to the novel posted on this site yesterday.

© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

www.janiceharayda.com

Reading Group Guide to ‘The Higher Power of Lucky’ for Libraries

10 Discussion Questions for Young Readers

The Higher Power of Lucky
By Susan Patron with Illustrations by Matt Phelan
Winner of the 2007 Newbery Medal

Libraries may reproduce this guide for use in their reading programs as long as the byline, copyright line, and URL for One-Minute Book Reviews appear on it. Others who want to use this guide should link to this site or request permission from the e-mail address on the “Contact” page.

By Janice Harayda
© 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.
One-Minute Book Reviews
www.oneminutebookreviews.wordpress.com

Lucky Trimble, age 10, lives with her dog in a cozy trailer that looks like a “shiny aluminum canned ham.” And she wants to stay there – at least until she becomes a world-famous scientist. But Lucky worries that her guardian will go back to France and she’ll have to go to orphanage. To avoid that fate, Lucky decides to run away. This decision brings results that are at first worse, and then much better, than anything she had imagined.

Question 1
This book is about a 10-year-old fifth-grader named Lucky. Lucky’s mother has died, her father isn’t around, and she lives with her guardian, Brigitte. You might say, “Lucky doesn’t sound lucky to me.” Why do you think Susan Patron (pa-TRONE) gave her that name? What are some of the ways Lucky is lucky?

Question 2
At first, you might think that Lucky doesn’t have any family, because she doesn’t live with relatives like parents, grandparents, or brothers and sisters. But after a while you may see that Lucky has created her own kind of “family.” Who are some of the members? What does this book teach you about families?

Question 3
Lucky eavesdrops on people who go to meetings and talk about the bad things that happened because they drank too much liquor. She notices that some people talk fast and get straight to the point of what they have to say. A man named Short Sammy is different. He doesn’t “head right to the good part” of his story:

“To stretch it out and get more suspense going for the big ending, he veered off and told about the old days when he was broke and couldn’t afford to buy rum, so he made homemade liquor from cereal box raisins and any kind of fruit he could scrounge up. This was the usual roundabout way he talked, and Lucky had noticed that it made people stay interested, even if the story had got quite a bit longer than if someone else had been telling it.” [Page 2]

Is Susan Patron sometimes like Short Sammy? Does she veer off and talk about Lucky’s “old days” to keep you interested? When does she this? What do you learn about Lucky from the stories of her “old days”? Would you have been as interested in Lucky if you didn’t know about those things?

Question 4
Lucky overhears people talking at meetings about finding a “Higher Power” that helped them feel more in control of their lives. She wishes she could find one, too.

“Being ten and a half, Lucky felt like she had no control over her life – partly because she wasn’t grown up yet – but that if she found her Higher Power it would guide her in the right direction.” [Page 5]

Later Lucky sees ants working together in an ant colony. She thinks that “to an ant, its Higher Power might be the whole colony itself.” [Page 21] Does this tell you anything about what kind of “Higher Power” Lucky wants to find? Does she eventually find it? What is the “Higher Power” of Lucky?

Question 5
Lucky lives in a desert in California called the Mojave. What did you learn about the desert from The Higher Power of Lucky? Why do you think Susan Patron chose to have Lucky live there? What are some things that Lucky could do where she lives that you couldn’t do where you live?

Question 6
You may have noticed that the weather in the desert plays big role in The Higher Power of Lucky. Weather is important in a lot of other stories, too. That’s partly because the weather affects what the characters can – and can’t – do. And storms are often symbols of emotions. In this book the desert gets hit by a storm with “fifty-five-mile- per-hour winds.” [Page 94] Do you think that Lucky’s feelings were ever stormy, too? When? At the end of the book, what happened to the windstorm? What has happened to any stormy feelings that Lucky might have had?

Question 7
Lucky has a friend named Lincoln who loves to tie knots. He “knows how to tie a million different ones, plus bends and hitches.” [Page 17] You can look at those knots in many ways. For example, the knots could symbolize Lincoln’s feelings. Lincoln may at times feel tied up in knots because his parents disagree about whether he should be thinking about becoming president. The knots could also remind you of the “bends and hitches” in the plot of this book. The most interesting knot is “the
Ten-Strand Round Knot” that Lincoln gives Lucky. [Page 67]

“The neat round buttonlike knot had no cord ends sticking out that might unwind.” [Page 68]

You could see this round knot as a symbol of the life Lucky wants – one with no loose ends. A circle can also symbolize “unbroken love.” What do you think the round knot represents to Lucky? What have you seen in your own life that’s a circle and means “unbroken love”?

Question 8
Susan Patron uses the word “scrotum” on the first page of The Higher Power of Lucky and elsewhere in it. [Pages 1, 6, 7, 132] She explains that a scrotum is “a little sac” in a man or animal that “has in it the sperm to make a baby.” [Page 132] Some adults thought that she shouldn’t have put that word in a book for people your age.
Do you agree or disagree with those adults? Why?

Question 9
Some librarians have said that they aren’t going to get The Higher Power of Lucky for their libraries because it has the word “scrotum” in it. What would you say to those librarians?

Question 10
Characters often have names that tell you something about them. In the past you may have read picture books about a dog named Spot the Pup. Even if you haven’t read those books, you could probably figure out that Spot has … spots! Many characters in the Harry Potter novels also have names that tell you something about them. You can learn more about their names by searching the Internet for “Meanings of Harry Potter Character Names.” What books have you read that have characters whose names help you understand them? When you read a book, always ask yourself: Why does a character have this name? The author of a book may be giving you a clue to a theme of the book.

Vital statistics:
The Higher Power of Lucky. By Susan Patron. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. Atheneum: A Richard Jackson Book, 134 pp., $21.99.

Links: www.simonsays.com

If you found this guide helpful, please consider adding One-Minute Book Reviews to the “Ready Reference” links at your library, so patrons can find other guides and reviews. One-Minute Book Reviews accepts no advertising and has been approved by, and appears on, Open Directory lists. Janice Harayda is an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, and a vice-president of the National Book Critics Circle.

The guide is copyrighted by Janice Harayda. It is illegal for any person or institution, including students and schools, to copy or sell this guide. This guide may be reproduced only by library staff members for use in library reading groups. Please link to One-Minute Book Reviews if you want others to know about this guide and do not work for a library.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 20, 2007

My Final Word on ‘That Scrotum Book’, Including How to Lobby Your Library to Carry ‘The Higher Power of Lucky’ If You Don’t Have Time to Write a Letter

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,How to,Libraries,Newbery Medals,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 9:41 pm

The last word on scrotums …

Okay, I’ve just about exhausted what I have to say about scrotums, at least until I get to Dr. Phil’s vasectomy reversal (yes, he had one) which his wife, Robin, discusses in her Inside My Heart (Nelson, 2006), soon to be reviewed on One-Minute Book Reviews.

A couple of final thoughts about Susan Patron’s Newbery Medal–winning The Higher Power of Lucky, reviewed at length in this space on Monday, Feb. 19:

1) Want to encourage your library to carry The Higher Power of Lucky? Make a formal request that the library buy the book. At most public libraries, any cardholder can do this by filling out a postcard at the checkout desk. You may also be able to do this online by logging onto the library’s Web site. Don’t give the staff an opportunity to say, “We didn’t think this book is right for our patrons.” Tell your library that you’re a patron, and it’s right for you. If you have a child with a library card, it would be even more brilliant to get your child to request The Higher Power of Lucky. This would achieve two things. First, you will be teaching your child about the wonderful range of services offered by public libraries, which often include buying books that you request. Second, you will force the library to choose between buying the book and breaking the heart of your adorable child, who may be requesting the purchase of a book for the first time. And if the library doesn’t buy the book, you could have your child ask a librarian to explain why it couldn’t buy the book. As I said … brilliant, isn’t it?

2) Want to find out what you missed if you didn’t see Barbara Walters’s discussion of Susan Patron’s book on The View today (Feb. 20)? Go to the blog Watching the View http://www.watchingtheview.com/feb-20-recap-banned-childrens-book. This site has an amusing recap of the show on which Barbara Walters apparently read aloud a dictionary definition of “scrotum” … just in case you were still unclear about which part of the male anatomy Patron was describing.

Postscript: This turned out not to be my last word on scrotums. Since writing this post, I have published reading group guide to The Higher Power of Lucky and thoughts on why the book might have received the Newbery despite its use of the word “scrotum.” Both of these posts appeared on Feb. 22. If you don’t see them on the main page of this site, you will find them archived in the “Children’s Books” category on One-Minute Book Reviews. My original review of The Higher Power of Lucky appeared on Feb. 19 and evaluated, among other things, how the word “scrotum” fits into the novel as a whole.

© 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

What Are Canadian Librarians Going to Do About ‘That Scrotum Book’ During Freedom to Read Week (Feb. 25-March 3)

Filed under: Book Awards,Books,Children's Books,Libraries,Newbery Medals,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 12:29 pm

A postscript to yesterday’s review of The Higher Power of Lucky: Next week (Feb. 25-March 3) is Freedom to Read Week in Canada, which “encourages Canadians to reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom.” And because big books tend to appear simultaneously in the U.S. and north of the border, we may assume that the 2007 Newbery winner is there or on the way. Don’t you wonder if any Canadian librarians will dare to speak out against Susan Patron’s novel during Freedom to Read Week?

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

February 19, 2007

Review of ‘That Scrotum Book’ for Children Coming Later Today

Filed under: Book Awards,Book Reviews,Books,Children's Books,Current Events,Libraries,Newbery Medals,Novels,Reading — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 11:24 am

A tempest swirls around this year’s winner of the most prestigious award for children’s literature

Did you see the article in yesterday’s New York Times about the controversy surrounding the 2007 Newbery Medal winner, The Higher Power of Lucky, which uses the word “scrotum” on the first page? A review that evaluates both the controvery and the literary merits of the book will appear later today on One-Minute Book Reviews. Technorati is often slow in listing posts. If you’re interested in finding out what the fuss is about, please bookmark this site or keep checking back. I hope to post this review by early afternoon.

If you are a member of the media seeking a quote from an expert who is not a teacher or librarian but knows this book well, or from someone who has been a judge for a national literary awards program, use the e-mail address on the “Contact” page of this site to get in touch with me.

(c) 2007 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

One-Minute Book Reviews is an independent literary blog created by Janice Harayda, an award-winning journalist who has been the book columnist for Glamour, the book editor of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and vice-president for awards of the National Book Critics Circle.

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