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This One Summer, the award-winning graphic novel by cousins Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki, has been removed from elementary school libraries in two Florida school districts. One district is also pulling the book from high school libraries.
The action followed a complaint from Melissa Allison, the mother of a third-grader who checked the book out of the library at Sabal Point Elementary School in Longwood, Florida. “How do you explain to a 9-year-old the graphic things that were in this book?” Allison said.
The main character of This One Summer, Rose, is on the brink of adolescence but not quite there yet. She and her family are spending their summer vacation at a lake house, where Rose is fascinated by the lives of the local teens (one of whom is pregnant). At the same time, she’s dealing with tensions within her own family and with her younger friend Windy. The book includes some crude language and blunt talk about sex. Publisher First Second gives This One Summer an age rating of 12-18 years on its website, and a number of library review sites give it 12+ and 13+ ratings.
“When the parent brought that to the attention of the principal, we immediately took a look at it and realized yes, that’s a teen-reader book, not appropriate for elementary school-age students,” said Michael Lawrence, communications officer for the Seminole County Schools.
Middle school librarian Esther Keller agrees. “It doesn’t belong in an elementary school,” she told ROBOT 6. “I do have it in my middle school. I ordered it based on reviews and actually had some reservations after I finally read it. But I did keep it in. Given the reviews, I can justify my choice.”
However, after a local television news station picked up on an Amazon review that called the book “practically porn for kids,” the school district removed This One Summer from its high school libraries as well.
Keller thinks that’s going too far. “It could have been a ‘mea culpa,'” she said. “‘We missed this and should have not put it in an elementary collection.’ But instead the district has gone a little crazy and is pulling it from high school collections too. And that’s the real censorship to me.”
Another Florida school district, the Osceola County School District, removed the book from elementary school libraries but left it in the high schools.
In addition to winning the Eisner Award for best graphic novel and making numerous Top 10 lists, This One Summer was a Caldecott Honor book, the first graphic novel to be so honored. The Caldecott Medal is given by the American Library Association to an outstanding picture book, and Caldecott Honor books are the runners-up. Although the award is given to books for readers up to 14 years of age, most Caldecott books are for much younger readers. As a consequence, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund reported last year that This One Summer was being challenged in communities in which librarians ordered the book thinking it was for younger readers.