Book Burning 2008

Last week we wrote about children’s books that feature a two-mommy family. While these books are great, they are few and far between — as are all gay-friendly books for that matter. One of the most recent LGBT-themed kids’ titles is a lovely picture book called And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Based on a true story, it’s about two male penguins that want to raise a family so badly that they start caring for an egg-shaped rock. The zookeeper is so moved by this that she gives them a real egg to nurse. The book features cute penguins, characters that overcome the odds, and a wonderful message about the importance of family. So, what’s not to love?

Apparently, a lot — And Tango Makes Three is the most “challenged” book in schools and libraries for a second straight year, according to the American Library Association. What’s the public’s beef with a sweet kids’ book? You can probably guess, but here’s the explanation Judith Krug of the ALA gave the Associated Press: “The complaints are that young children will believe that homosexuality is a lifestyle that is acceptable. The people complaining, of course, don’t agree with that.” Well, we can’t have that, now can we? Let’s not upset the breeders with a book that teaches kids about antiquated things like compassion, acceptance, and understanding.

On second thought, we should have our own list of children’s books and teen fiction that’s actually worth challenging. I’ll start:

My Beautiful Mommy
What could be bad about a book with such an innocent title, right? For starters, it’s about plastic surgery. Written by a plastic surgeon to help explain to preschoolers (preschoolers!) why Mom suddenly looks like Paris Hilton. I don’t know which is more frightening: that there’s a demand for this type of book or that it’s somehow less offensive to the public than a charming tale about gay penguins. American values have hit a new high, ladies. Gosh, I’m proud.

The O’Reilly Factor for Kids
Speaking of American values, our favorite right wing host-with-the-most is sinking his fangs into a new generation of red staters. I find it funny — and by that I mean, scary — that Papa Bear Bill O’Reilly (as Stephen Colbert would call him) has two whole books devoted to teaching kids how to be good citizens. What’s next — Ann Coulter’s Guide to Good Manners for Little Girls? Excuse me while I curl up into a fetal position under my desk.

The Ashleys
A clique of beautiful, rich, popular girls rule their school with a well-accessorized iron fist. Sound familiar? It should as it’s pretty much the plot to almost every other young-adult fiction book released since the Gossip Girl series became a bestseller. In this one, the main character, Lauren, was terrorized by the Ashleys for most of her life. When her family comes into some money and status, does she decide to use her power for good? Not quite. She buys some designer clothes and devises a plan: Make friends with the Ashleys and then destroy them from the inside. Basically, the book is a cross between Heathers (without the wit) and Mean Girls (without Tina Fey’s humor).

I’m singling this one out from all the other bad teen-chick lit on the market now because it’s actually written for tweens (that’s girls between the ages of 9 and 13, for those of you keeping score at home). Is it too much to ask for one likable — or at least half-way decent — girl character for us to relate to these days? I’m just so sick of reading about vapid, bitchy girls who only care about makeup and gossip. It’s like reading the transcripts of MTV’s The Hills. From now on, I’m objecting to any book that uses the term “frenemy” (in a non-ironical way, of course).

What other children’s books or teen lit would you add to our challenge list?