Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Continuing on the theme of children's literature, my soon-to-be-8-years-old daughter is reading a great book titled Flush, by Carl Hiaasen (who also wrote Hoot, which was made into a movie). She has been an environmentalist since she was 4, and loves the themes of stopping pollution, taking care of nature, etc, etc in Hiaasen's books. The book is marked as for 5th through 8th grade, but she's a pretty advanced reader (she's in 3rd grade) and isn't interested in the simpler, 3rd grader books.

Anyway, as my wife and I were tucking her in tonight, as she was putting the book away, she asked "Mommy, what's a rat bass-tard?" (emphasis incorrectly placed on the last syllable). We tried not to laugh... at the mispronunciation and the simple innocence of the question.

"Well, honey," we explained, "That's a not very nice name to call someone. It's a word you shouldn't say. Oh, and it's pronounced bas-turd." (*snicker snicker* it doesn't help that one of us thinks it's a pretty funny term).

So, should children's lit use words like that? Should kids be allowed to read them? Or does the use of the occasional light profanity negate any goodness in the book? Tom Sawyer and the n-word, anyone? Necessary or not, it's there. Your thoughts?


Kim said...

I love this girl! :)

I think that you know your daughter and know what she can (or can't) handle ... I doubt that she's scarred in anyway from learning a new word - even if it does make her father snicker!

Gabe said...

I don't really think it belongs in Children's Lit, but then I don't really think it belongs in any communication. My worldview is that's it not okay to use profanity no matter what so I cringe whenever I hear or read it. However, I don't drop the book, just because it appears...it is what it is. Yet I worry that putting it in children's lit, regardless of the context, gives the idea that there are certain occasions when it is appropriate. So, depending upon how a child is being raised, they might be instructed it is okay in given situations while others will be instructed differently. What a conundrum.

Deb said...

That's a great question and you all gave a great answer....even through your chuckles!! Seems your girls have lots of fun questions that have brought laughs over the years, huh?!?! Guess that's what kids do ~ ask questions!

Gabe said...

Hey, I totally forgot to relay that regardless of my previous comment, I thought this episode was stinking hillarious. Partly because, even though I don't much like profanity, this particular phrase is really funny. And in the right context, other cuss words are funny too. So the paradox is I don't like cussing but find it funny sometimes as in an innocent question by a child.