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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.
Frank Santoro has been teaching up-and-coming cartoonists about the ins and outs of the creative process online for a while now — on his blog, his Tumblr, his articles at The Comic Journal and his online correspondence course. Now he’d like to start doing it in person, but opening a school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called the Comics Workbook Rowhouse Residency — and he’s turned to crowdfunding to make it a reality.
“Our plan for the school is to create a dojo for students much like a martial arts academy,” he says on his IndieGoGo campaign page. “The beginner student will learn from more experienced students. We run the school like a sports clinic. What’s wrong with your swing? We can fix it. The dojo sparring sessions (so to speak) will be recorded and broadcast. We want to have a ‘broadcast booth’ and a radio show. We can interview veterans and rookies and make room for friendly competition in order to push the boundaries of what is possible in the artform. This is not your regular comic book academy. This is a ninja academy, a samurai school, a Jedi academy. I do a really good Yoda impression.”
Santoro’s offering several great rewards for contributing to the campaign, including gift certificates to comic shops, comics by Simon Hanselmann and Gary Panter, Connor Willumsen commissions and residencies at the school. The $29,000 he’s looking for will be used to help buy the house next door to Frank and make improvements to it.
For more information, check out the IndieGoGo page or watch the video below.
Catreena Lopez told KOAT Albuquerque she was disturbed by the “pornographic” images she found in the graphic novel, which her 14-year-old son reportedly checked out Wednesday from the Rio Rancho High School library, thinking it might be manga.
Flipping through the 500-page Fantagraphics hardcover, which collects all of Hernandez’s inarguably mature-themed “Heartbreak Soup” stories from Love & Rockets, Lopez flagged 30 illustrations she considered to be pornographic.
Awards | The finalists for the inaugural Kirkus Prize literary awards include two graphic novels: Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is one of six nominees in the Nonfiction category, and Cece Bell’s El Deafo is one of the picks for the Young Readers award. The winners in all three categories, who will receive $50,000 each, will be announced during a ceremony held Oct. 23 in Austin, Texas. [The Washington Post]
Manga | A prequel to Osamu Tezuka’s classic Astro Boy manga is in the works for the Japanese magazine Monthly Hero’s. Tezuka’s son, Makoto Tezuka, is supervising the production of the story, which focuses on the time before the “birth” of the iconic robot boy. [Anime News Network]
Bone, Jeff Smith’s critically acclaimed fantasy adventure about three cousins swept up in epic populated by dragons, rat creatures and evil forces, was among the books most frequently challenged last year in schools and libraries.
The news comes from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has released its annual Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books as part of National Library Week. In 2013, the organization received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from library bookshelves and school curricula across the United States. That’s down from 464 official challenges in 2012.
Bone came in at No. 10 on the list, which was led once again by Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and populated by the likes of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (see the full rundown below). The last comic to make the list was Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth in 2011.
The ALA’s 2014 State of American Libraries Report doesn’t cite specific challenges to Bone or reveal how many there have been, but it does offer broad reasons for the objections: “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”
Although the challenges last year apparently failed to attract media attention, there was a good deal of coverage of complaint filed in 2010 by a parent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, objecting to the depictions of drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual situations in Bone. However, a school district committee voted 10-1 to keep the books on library shelves. (There’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund case study, if you’re interested.)
Legal | Ecuadorean cartoonist Xavier Bonilla has received a court summons on unspecified charges that seem to relate to a cartoon that President Rafael Correa finds offensive. The case was brought by Ecuador’s new media regulator; Correa has stepped up attacks on the press in recent years, and the newspaper that runs Bonilla’s cartoons, El Universo, has been prosecuted in the past. [Business Standard]
Censorship | Michael Dooley looks at successful and unsuccessful attempts to remove comics from schools and libraries over the past 13 years; this short roundup is informative in its own right, and it’s apparently a sidebar to a longer article that’s not available for free. [Print Magazine]
The students of Lane Tech College Prep High School, who rallied in March to protest the ordered removal of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from Chicago Public Schools, have been honored with the Illinois Library Association’s 2013 Intellectual Freedom Award.
The protest, organized by the student body and the 451 Degrees Banned Book Club, was sparked by an email from the principal calling for the removal of the graphic novel from Lane Tech’s library and classrooms ahead of what was thought to be a Chicago Public Schools ban. Within hours of the news circulating, and amid outcry from teachers, parents and students, district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett clarified that Satrapi’s autobiography wasn’t being removed; rather, it was being pulled from the seventh-grade curriculum over concerns that some of its content may not be age-appropriate. Chicago Public Schools released images from the graphic novel depicting a man being whipped, burned with an iron and urinated on, which Byrd-Bennett referred to as “powerful images of torture.”
Depicting Satrapi’s experience is a child and young adult in Iran during the Islamic revolution, Persepolis has received almost universal acclaim. The 2007 animated adaptation directed by Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud was nominated for an Academy Award.
The school board in the Japanese city of Matsue has restricted student access to Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen, the autobiographical story of a six-year-old boy who survived the Hiroshima bombing.
The board ruled that the book will remain in elementary and junior high school libraries but only teachers will have access to it; students will not be allowed to check it out.
Barefoot Gen, which originally ran in Shonen Jump, a magazine for teenage boys, is based on Nakazawa’s own experiences; he was seven years old and on his way to school when the bomb was dropped, and the adult who was walking with him was burned to death on the spot, and his father, brother and sister were killed when their burning house collapsed on them.
The Matsue school board made its decision last December, after a complaint was filed with them alleging “Children would gain a wrong perception of history because the work describes atrocities by Japanese troops that did not take place.” Many Japanese nationalists deny that Japanese troops were involved in the Rape of Nanking or committed war crimes during World War II, such as the events depicted in the book. Nonetheless, the school board said its decision was based strictly on the level of violence in the books and not on the political nature of the complaint.
Barefoot Gen has been acclaimed worldwide, and it is included in the Hiroshima Public Schools’ peace education curriculum for elementary school students, although there have been calls for it to be removed from schools there as well.
Once more, it appears, Fredric Wertham may have been right.
For the latest evidence, look no further than a Philadelphia preschool, which has purportedly banned “wrestling, Super Hero play, and Monster games,” because they’re resulting in injury.
Reddit user Oremar posted a May 17 letter (below) brought home by his son that states, “Recently it has come to our attention that the imaginations of our preschool children are becoming dangerously overactive causing injuries within our pre-k community. Although we encourage creative thinking and imaginary play, we do not promote out [sic] children hurting one another. Wrestling, Super Hero play, and Monster games will not be permitted here at [name redacted]. In addition, please monitor the different media that your children may view. The re-enactment of televisions [sic] shows/movies are being done during active paly [sic] times in school.”
The National Coalition Against Censorship has written to Lee Ann Lowder, deputy counsel for the Board of Education of Chicago, questioning the school district’s authority to remove Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis from seventh-grade classrooms. The letter is signed by NCAC Executive Director Joan Bertin and Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Charles Brownstein, as well as representatives from PEN American Center, the National Council of Teachers of English, and other organizations. I don’t usually find myself on the opposite side of an issue from these folks, but my own opinion is that this case has been overblown.
Here’s the backstory: On March 14, employees showed up at Chicago’s Lane Tech to physically remove Persepolis from classrooms and the library and ensure no one had checked out any copies. This seemed sinister, to say the least, and word spread literally overnight. As parents planned a protest on March 15, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett backtracked and said the book was to be removed from seventh-grade classrooms but not from school libraries. Byrd-Bennett said the district would develop guidelines for teaching the book to juniors and seniors, and possibly in grades eight through 10 as well, but it’s not clear whether the books also were removed from those classrooms.
I think the issue here is really not the removal of Persepolis but rather the way the Chicago Public Schools handled it.
The shortlist has been announced for the 2012 Stan Lee Excelsior Award, whose winners will be selected by students from 77 secondary schools across the United Kingdom.
Established in 2011 by Paul Register, a school librarian in Sheffield, the awards are designed to promote comics and to encourage children and teenagers to read. The winners — first, second and third place — will be announced in July during a ceremony at Ecclesfield School in Sheffield. The nominees are:
• Peter Panzerfaust: The Great Escape, by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkins (Image Comics)
• Wonder Woman: Blood, by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and Tony Akins (DC Comics)
• Strontium Dog: The Life and Death of Johnny Apple, by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra (Rebellion/2000AD)
• Soul Eater Not! Vol. 1, by Atsushi Ohkubo (Yen Press)
• X-O Manowar: By the Sword, by Robert Venditti and Cary Nord (Valiant)
• Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, by Sean Michael Wilson and Declan Shalvey (Classic Comics)
• Supergirl: Last Daughter of Krypton, by Michael Green, Mike Johnson and Mahmud Asrar (DC Comics)
• Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Change Is Constant, by Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Dan Duncan (IDW Publishing)
“Sidescrollers is a fun slacker romp with some crass humor, and swearing (god forbid) but an overall positive, anti-bullying, message. Whether it belonged on a school reading list in the first place isn’t for me to decide. I AM bothered by the Enfield Board of Education’s knee-jerk reaction to yank it from their list and disallow the individual schools the ability to decide on titles all because of a single parent’s complaint who’s child apparently did not even attend this school. Schools are so frequently bullied by outside influences that they become overly sensitive to the slightest hint of controversy, resulting in a sterile and uninteresting curriculum. This neglects student development and could even forever stunt their interest in education. But when it boils down to it, the schools of Enfield have the right to do what they will and I respect their decision, however cowardly it may be. But never forget, kids aren’t stupid. They deserve the freedom to explore new ideas for themselves even if some don’t agree with them. I truly believe that kids, especially of high school age, should be free to read ANYTHING they want.”
— cartoonist Matt Loux on the removal of his graphic novel Sidescrollers from the Enfield, Connecticut, public schools’ list of summer reading for incoming freshmen. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has asked the school district to reconsider, noting the board did not follow its own procedures in removing the book from the reading list.
Graphic novels | The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund has written to the Enfield, Connecticut, school district to ask that Matthew Loux’s SideScrollers be reinstated to its summer reading list and to point out that the district did not follow its own procedures when it removed the book last month after the mother of a ninth-grader complained about the graphic novel’s profanity and sexual references. [CBLDF]
Digital comics | Digital distributor iVerse has unveiled a new deal to sell foreign-language translations of Marvel and Archie comics worldwide. iVerse will have exclusive global rights to Marvel’s foreign-language comics, both floppies and trades, while for Archie they will create apps in different languages for different countries, starting with Japan, China, and India. iVerse CEO Michael Murphy says that 50 percent to 65 percent of the company’s digital sales are to international customers (including Canada). Nonetheless, the comics will be “platform-independent”: iVerse will provide translation (through a combination of machine translation and human editors) and distribution, so the comics will be available through their Comics + app but also through other channels, such as Amazon or iBooks. [Publishers Weekly]
A Connecticut school district will more closely scrutinize summer reading lists following a mother’s complaint about the profanity and sexual references in Matthew Loux‘s 2006 graphic novel SideScrollers.
Published by Oni Press, the book centers on three video game-playing friends slackers who suddenly become motivated when one of their secret crushes announces she’s going to a rock concert with a bullying jock. The well-reviewed comic was named one of the Young Adult Library Association’s 2008 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, which is probably how it ended up on the reading list.
But no more. According to WFSB TV, the Enfield Board of Education has removed SideScrollers and will take reading-list selections out of the hands of individual schools. Now a board committee will choose the books for district.
Christie Bosco told the board on Tuesday that she was “floored” after she read the graphic novel recommended to her freshman son. “I was absolutely amazed that anybody would recommend this and put a school’s seal of approval on it. Parents are busy and they expect that if it’s a book that a school system endorses, it’s going to be appropriate for their children. And that’s where Enfield failed.”
The board clearly agreed, with one member telling Bosco, “This kind of reading material doesn’t belong in the schools.”
“I think that the book is a bit vulgar,” Superintendent Jeffrey Schumann offered. “The topics they tried to cover were covered well, but perhaps there would be other texts that could cover them in a better way.”
Libraries | A middle school library in New Brunswick, Canada, has been asked to remove Joann Sfar and Lewis Trondheim’s Dungeon series for review after the mother of a 12-year-old student complained about the depictions of sex and violence in one of the volumes. The CTV News reporter goes for the easy gasp by showing the scenes in question to a variety of parents, all of whom agree they don’t think the book belongs in a school library, and in this case the mom has a good point: The book received good reviews but is definitely not for kids. [CTV News]
Publishing | John Jackson Miller has been looking at the fine print in old comics — the statement of ownership, which spells out in exact numbers just how many copies were printed, how many were sold, etc. One of the highlights is Carl Barks’ Uncle Scrooge, which sold more than 1 million copies, making it the top seller of the 1960s. “It’s meaningful, I think, that the best-seller of the 1960s should come from Barks, whose work was originally uncredited and who was known originally to fans as ‘the Good Duck Artist,'” Miller concludes. “Fandom in the 1960s was bringing attention to a lot of people who had previously been unheralded, and Barks is a great example. He changed comics — and now comics were changing.” [The Comichron]