Some Parents Register Objections To Library Books

Three Volumes Targeted In Middle Schools

October 27, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

A fictional account of the Salem witch hunts and two teen romances are the first books to draw complaints this fall from parents who wantthem pulled from county middle school library shelves.

The three challenges come in the wake of the past school year, which produced eight requests for removal of books. School officials retained seven and took the rare step of removing one, a book about the occult.

This fall, one mother asked for removal of "Witches' Children: A Story of Salem" by Patricia Clapp, another objected to parts of "Sweet Sixteen and Never . . ." by Jeanne Betancourt and one mother and father challenged "Family Secrets" by Norma Klein.

The books will bereviewed by a 14-member committee of parents, teachers and students headed by Celeste Smalkin, manager of media technical services. The committee makes recommendations to Joan M. Palmer, associate superintendent for curriculum and supervision, who decides whether to keep or remove the books.

Smalkin said most library book challenges are filed in October and frequently focus on books that have the word "witches" in the titles. Of the eight books reviewed last year, four had words relating to witches, witchcraft, the devil or Halloween in theirtitles.

Parts of "Witches' Children" that deal with the 17th-century hysteria in Salem, Mass., were too much for Clarksville resident Bridget M. Green.

Green reviewed the book after her son, a sixth-grader, brought it home from the Clarksville Middle School library. Inher request for review, she wrote that she found the book "very distasteful and not appropriate positive pleasurable reading for the young age group."

If her son had been allowed to read the book, he might have had nightmares for weeks, she wrote.

Green cited passages that described young girls "in screaming, raging, uncontrollable fits," bashing their heads against the floor and, in one case, attemptingto leap into a blazing fireplace.

Green declined to discuss her request. She wrote the committee that she was "not on any crusade to get rid of this book" but added, "For the sake of young minds everywhere, it is my hope that 'Witches' Children' is pulled from the book shelf."

Elkridge resident Constance Cochran objected to three passages in "Sweet Sixteen and Never . . .," from the library shelves at Ellicott Mills Middle School.

She cited a paragraph in which Julie, the heroine, and Sam, the boy she wants as a boyfriend, are kissing on the sofa. Sam tells Julie she is special. " 'You too,' I said. 'I feel that way about you.' I leaned against him. . . . Would he put hishand on my breast?"

Cochran cited another passage that contains atextbooklike discussion of birth control methods and a scene in which Julie, reading her mother's diary, learns that her mother felt she could not talk to her boyfriend about sex.

Norman and Donita Zundel of Elkridge, parents of a Mayfield Woods Middle School student, challenged "Family Secrets" on the basis of "constant references to the sex act (and) inappropriate, foul language and concepts."

The bookis narrated in turn by Leslie and Peter, longtime friends who becomelovers at the age of 17. Leslie's mother and Peter's father are involved in an extramarital affair and subsequently divorce their spousesto marry each other.

A review of "Family Secrets" in School Library Journal noted that the book covered modern teen issues such as divorce, obesity, feminism, drugs and sex but added, "However, few of these issues have any relevance to the plot."

The Zundels cited 18 passages they found objectionable, including one where Peter tells hisfather, "---- off, Dad, will you?"

Smalkin said she is trying to schedule a meeting of the review committee. The review process will take longer this year because budget cuts eliminated the job of the librarian who put together reviews of challenged books for the committee, she said.

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