After a Minnesota mother challenged her school library on keeping Jeff Smith’s BONE on its shelves — citing smoking, drinking gambling and sexy innuendo as reasons it wasn’t fit for kids — the library board voted 10-1 to keep Bone on the shelves.
The One other mother who objected to the books, still brought her two sons to the meeting, explaining that “It’s important for them to see the process of how books are chosen.”
Removing the book from 12 of the the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan school district’s 18 libraries would have been a very rare step — only 20 books have been challenged in the past 20 years, the last being “All But Alice,” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, which was removed in 1997.
Smith wrote a letter to the board to be read at the committee meeting, which he reprinted at his blog. We’ve also reprinted it below:
To Whom It May Concern:
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to make a statement in light of this most serious situation.
The complaint against BONE, as I understand it from news reports, concerns the depiction of gambling, alcohol and tobacco use, and “sexual situations between characters.”
First, let me say BONE is a book about courage, conviction, and loyalty. The setting is a medieval town and the tavern is a realistic meeting place for the locals. The two main protagonists, Fone Bone and Thorn do not partake in any activities at the tavern other than meals. At no time in the entire series is anyone rewarded for bad behavior.
The main troublemaker, Phoney Bone does try to win bets, and he cheats, but his plans always, ALWAYS backfire. His moneymaking schemes make him look like a greedy loser. That’s the point of the whole series: selfish, immoral behavior is wrong.
Beer and gambling are depicted in BONE, but only as props or as story devices (even Smiley Bone’s stogie is little more than a Vaudeville/Groucho character prop). These things play a very small role in the overall BONE story. I will also point out that beer and gambling can be seen in many Bugs Bunny cartoons, Disney movies, and just about anywhere you look. The trick is portraying them correctly. These characters are the bad ones, and kids know the difference. Phoney and Smiley scheme and gamble and get their comeuppance. The story’s heroes do not participate in any of these behaviors.
As far as “sexual situations between characters” are concerned, I know of none. Nor was it ever my intention for there to be any. The main character Fone Bone has a crush on the young woman Thorn, but it’s innocent, and certainly goes no further than holding hands.
Many, many children have learned to love reading because of BONE. I know this from meeting and talking to kids and their parents, teachers, and librarians at hundreds of book signings and school visits. I suspect that there are members of the review committee who can attest to this. Since the mid 90’s, millions of parents all over the world have read BONE with their children. This is the first time I have ever heard it suggested that it was age inappropriate. It is hard to imagine that any bad behavior could be seen to be encouraged in these stories. Frankly, I believe it is just the opposite.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.