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Censored Book Review: Growltiger's Last Stand

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Posted on : 8:45 AM | By : Nic | In :

I'm sitting here with a tension headache because I'm pregnant, and I can't get back to sleep so I thought I would post.  Katherine and Our Report Card posed a question about good children's poetry and I commented that the girls would pick, hands down, T.S. Eliot's children's poems.  


One reason I looooove library book sales is that when they censor a book for any reason, they don't burn it, they just sell it.  So I buy all the censored books and read them to my children, lol.  Last year we found Growltiger's Last Stand, which quickly became Annie's favorite.  It has two poems, one about a pirate cat that terrorizes Holland, and another called Jellicle Cats that dance around in the middle of the night.  Most of Eliot's poems seem to be about cats.  The Growltiger poem in particular is why the book was censored - the Siamese cats who come to settle a score with Growltiger are referred to by an old racial slur for Chinese people.  What's so great about these poems is that although written for children, this is very quality poetry and not dumbed down to 'a child's level' at all.  They have other modern poetry books but they tellingly love Eliot best.

Anytime a book is banned or censored for any reason, I instantly want to read it.  When we came across that word in our poetry book, we paused for a moment and discussed why we don't use that word.  And then because they are young I replaced it with Chinese subsequently.  When they are old enough to read it themselves, I'm sure we'll have the discussion again, but they are smart.  I think if a child didn't know what a racial slur was and how not to use it, they would probably hear it and use it out of ignorance.  

Even more interesting is how often great literature is censored.  If you take a look at this list of most frequently challenged books of the 90's, it has many of my favorite books.  Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, Madeleine L' Engle, Robert Peck, John Steinbeck... all authors that I love, and all have been censored by someone in the last decade.  Out of all the teenagers who have had to read Huckleberry Finn in school, how many started using racial slurs against people?  It's more likely that these teenagers come away with an understanding of America's history of slavery and the story of a boy who came to befriend and help a runaway slave.  

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