A Facebook post went viral recently because a woman came across a book at Costco and was offended by the poems in it- specifically one poem, Brotherly Love:
The post was clearly written to provoke outrage, which it did achieve. The thousands of comments are filled with calls to pull the book, questioning the store for selling it, the authors for writing it, and the publishers for supporting it.
I understand if this poem isn’t appealing to everyone – it’s definitely dark in its humour, and filled with imagined instances of hyperbolic violence. Some kids might find it frightening, but others will surely find it hilarious. In the comments of the post parents are also asserting that kids couldn’t possibly understand the dark humour for what it is and will take the poem literally; to this I say no two kids are the same, and kids in general are smarter than we give them credit for. This book isn’t going to incite mass fratricide, and this outcry is just yet another attempt by adults to remove a unique book that would be enjoyed by certain kids.
Parents are understandably protective of their kids, but what one kid can’t handle might be what another kid clicks with. For some kids, the love of reading can suddenly be sparked with something a little edgy
— something shocking, scandalous, gross, ghoulish, or morbid. When a book steps out of the safe and into the daring, that very act alone might garner a kid’s respect and begin a lifelong reading habit. Thinking back to my younger years, the books that were widely popular and always checked out at the school library were rarely “nice” books- they were the kind of books that you pass around at the back of the class and get in trouble for giggling about.
Despite its dark content, there’s no reason to fear this book- if someone doesn’t like it, they don’t have to read it, and can also ensure their kid doesn’t read it. If a parent wants to control what their kid has access to, that’s their choice. However, when people try to prevent others from exercising that choice, that’s where we have a problem.
Fearing that they might decide to pull the book from their stores in a reactionary act of censorship, I wrote this to Costco executives:
I am an educator, library worker, and MLIS student, and as such I wanted to share my thoughts and perspective on the children’s book carried by Costco “No More Poems”.
As I’m sure you are aware by now, a parent shared a poem in this book which they found offensive and are warning others not to buy it as well as questioning your company for carrying it, the publishers for approving it, etc. The post has since gone viral on Facebook.
I understand that in situations like this the impulse may be to pull the title from your stores, but on the contrary I hope that you keep it available. No book will appeal to the sensitivities of all kids (or all parents) but censorship isn’t the answer.
I think the poem is funny and could totally be appreciated by some kids who get the dark humour. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for- this book isn’t advocating actual violence, it’s playing on exaggerated fantasies of a kid annoyed by their brother. I hope you keep the title in your stores- I would buy it, and I’m sure others would too. Those who don’t want it can close it and walk away.
Thanks for your time,