If you follow the Goodreads review site, you will see that they have a new list out as of March: 100 books banned by school districts in Florida. These books were initially pulled “for review” in Duvall County, a county that has 40% disadvantaged and 70% minority students. I decided to check out three of these books: Dim Sum for Everyone; Before she was Harriet and Henry Aaron’s Dream.
Dim Sum For Everyone, written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Dragonfly Books, Random House Inc, New York, 2001). This delightful story begins: “Dim Sum has many little dishes.” Pictured is a family sitting at a table in a restaurant in China Town. Their plates are empty and the youngest looks anxiously at a nearby cart filled with little dishes. The next picture shows waitstaff pushing carts of delectable treats among a diverse group of customers seated at tables, happily eating. Finally, the storyteller’s table gets to choose their food. They all pick something different and then “Everyone eats a little bit of everything.” The final two pages explain how the tradition of eating small dishes came to be. What’s not to love about this book? I can’t explain it. This book was one of 176 that were pulled for review in Duvall County, Florida. As of this writing it is unclear if it is back on the shelf. If you don’t want to read about another culture’s food then don’t, but others may want to so – how about you LEAVE IT ON THE SHELF!
Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome. Holiday House, New York, 2017. “Here she sits an old woman tired and worn her legs stiff her back achy…” Thus begins the story of Harriet Tubman. Written in blank verse, the story takes the reader back in time and describes a life dedicated to others. This is a beautifully illustrated book that tracks Harriet Tubman’s life from the time she was a young girl named Araminta to her travels and well-known work on the Underground Railroad. Less well-known is that she was a Union spy, a suffragist, and a nurse. Again, what is the thinking behind possibly banning this book? Perhaps school district administrators simply don’t want kids to read about slavery. You think? As of this writing, it is unclear if it is back on the shelf.
Henry Aaron’s Dream by Matt Tavares. Candlewick Press, Massachusetts, 2010. Another beautifully illustrated book. “Henry Aaron had a dream. He wanted to be a big-league baseball player. He didn’t have a bat so he’d swing a broom handle or a stick or whatever he could find.” In 1940s Mobile Alabama it was against the law for Black and White kids to play together. Baseball diamonds had signs up: Whites Only. But when Henry was twelve, a baseball diamond opened with a sign that said: Colored Only. Henry had an odd way of holding the bat: he batted right- handed with his left hand on top. Still, he hit the ball harder than any other kid. In 1947, when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers, Henry listened to every Dodger game on the radio. Full disclosure, while describing the racism and abuse Jackie endured Tavares does use the “n” word. In 1952, Henry started playing for the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues. The players slept on buses and didn’t stop at restaurants because they were not welcome in hotels or eating establishments. One day, a scout for the Braves saw Henry and asked him if he would try batting with his right hand on top. The Braves quickly signed him up for a minor league team. But Henry soon experienced the same racism Jackie Robinson did. “Henry focused on the ball and tried to ignore everything else.” During an exhibition game the Braves played the Dodgers and “Henry smacked a line drive into left field and slid into second, just beating the throw from the left fielder, his hero, Jackie Robinson.” Henry had made it to the big leagues. I’ll admit the use of the “n” word could be problematic as a trigger, however, banning the book is not the only solution. After initially pulling the book in Duvall County, as of February 13 it is being allowed to be used for third grade and up.