Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fire, Fire Burning Bright

Helicopters are buzzing up and down the Slocan Valley as I type this... a 600 hectare fire is burning just outside Slocan City, about 20 km south of Winlaw. Diane and I kayaked on Slocan Lake today, putting in at Slocan City and then paddling down the lake until we were nearly opposite the fire on the bluffs across the way. Had a great view of the helicopters dipping their gigantic water buckets in the lake and then flying off to drop the water on the fire. Also stopped to see some very cool pictographs on the rock walls right along the side of the lake. All in all, a perfect way to spend a hot summer day! (though, of course, we have our fingers crossed that the fire will soon be extinquished...)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's All About Harry!

Sorry about the silence in blog-land. Distracted at the moment by Harry preparations - and can't go into too much detail because, you know, Ministry of Magic officials might zap me for revealing state secrets... Soon, soon it will all be over, children the world over will bury their noses in the book, and we will all enjoy a few hours of well-deserved peace and quiet!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Globe and Mail Article

Not sure if this link will work - but if it does, here's the full text of Wednesday's Globe and Mail article...

A Teacher-Librarian's Perspective

Stew Savard, a teacher-librarian on Vancouver Island, comments on the Saskatchewan situation...

My initial thought, having been a T/L a at the Elementary, Middle and High School levels, is that the T/L's decision in this case is wrong. I would have bought the book, and placed it in the different elementary libraries in which I was building a collection.

Building a collection isn't about finding pabulum for students and managing their thinking based on that pabulum. That is the worst form of censorship. Bullying happens in every school. Pretending it doesn't happen, by eliminating all references to it, is the worst form of denial. Denial of the hurt caused by bullies, allows both the hurt to continue and grow and allows adults and students to not learn how to confront bullies and help them to change.

The reason T/Ls collect both entertaining and challenging books is so that students can learn from the "fictional" responses of others. There are some books that I do not buy for my library. I use two tests, in the Middle School, where I am at right now. The first involves violence and whether or not it is gratuitous. "Hate You" by Graham McNamee contains violence. The violence isn’t gratuitous. It supports the story. Issues facing children and young teens are faced. Lessons are learned. The second test involves the use of sexual imagery. We don’t buy books with descriptions of sex. Romance! Well that is another story entirely. The characters can “swap spit,” as I describe it (usually with a grimace on my face), but that is where a reasonable line can be drawn at upper elementary and middle schools. Students need to learn how to manage their emotions and how better than from the mistakes of others.

I’ve enjoyed the Tarragon Island series. More to the point, almost all of the students I talked with, who have read this series, have enjoyed it. They like the humour and they like the lessons contained within your writing: don’t judge others by first impressions, have the courage to be true to yourself, and learn from the positive and negative actions of others.

It seems particularly ironic that the lessons you write about have been missed in this case. It also seems ironic that the school closed off an opportunity to deal with inappropriate language and with the malicious ways that language is often used in our culture.

My hope is, that after a summer of thought, the Librarian chooses to reconsider the decision and then deals with the broader topics raised in this series. (Slipping the book back on the shelves, without using the material to teach a lesson, would be a shame.)
Stew Savard

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

CBC Radio Interview

In case you missed it, here's the link to All Points West hosted by Jo-Ann Roberts. On the book club page is the link to the chat we had about Trouble on Tarragon Island.

I would cut and paste the fabulous Globe and Mail article by Tom Hawthorn, but though I may be subversive and a threat to the purity of young minds, I'm not a law-breaker. The Globe has a pretty clear policy about posting their articles on other websites... Though, if someone else sees a copy lying around the web somewhere, I suppose I could link to that.... Otherwise, if you are really desperate and want to read it, you'll have to go to the Globe and Mail online, search for Nikki Tate, and then purchase a copy. Globe subscribers may play by different rules - not sure about that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Photo Shoot

I can't believe how hot it was today! Not exactly ideal for taking photos (can you say sweat stains?) - but the most talented Globe and Mail photographer, Deddeda Stemler put up with the heat, a most uncooperative horse, allergies, and blinding sun coming from just the wrong angle to come up with a really cool series of photos! That's what you get when you send a pro to do the job! Here's a sample...
Visit Deddeda's website by clicking here ...

Monday, July 09, 2007

So Many Supportive Messages!

Thank you to all who have sent such thoughtful and supportive messages re. the book banning incident in Saskatchewan. Here is a lovely one from Gillian O'Reilly of the Canadian Children's Book Centre:

It’s a real shame that children in Kindersley are being denied access to Nikki Tate's Trouble on Tarragon Island. It was chosen for the Willow Awards list by knowledgeable professionals who felt the book had much to offer young readers.

Kids who read this section of the book will recognize the truths in it – that adult actions can embarrass children and that other mean and hostile kids can exploit that embarrassment. But this section is a very small part of the book. In the bigger picture, Trouble on Tarragon Island explores environmental issues, intergenerational relationships, the creativity involved in writing and other media – all within an entertaining story that kids can relate to.

Gillian O'Reilly, Editor
Canadian Children's Book News

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Edmonton Journal - Commentary

Edmonton Journal, Sunday July 8th, 2007


Using the term "bazoongas" to refer to a distinctly feminine anatomical feature is a major faux pas in Kindersley, Sask., where a local elementary school librarian banned the Canadian book Trouble on Tarragon Island for containing language too bawdy for elementary schoolers. While it is true that the term is still likely a few years away from the pages of the Concise Oxford English Reference Dictionary, one really must question whether, in this case, the quest to insulate youths from such forms of linguistic turpitude is being taken to the extreme.

Indeed, one has to wonder whether it is wise to shelter kids from such language that, while suggestive and a little funny sounding, is hardly profane. More than ever, English is a constantly evolving idiom and young people are its main drivers. Considering some of the terms being bandied about in the new male-oriented "brocabulary" -- the "dude-isms" that pass for male bonding and are ubiquitous on TV, radio and the Internet -- chances are bazoongas isn't going to register very high on the Richter scale of bad words.

While various online discussion groups debate the issues raised by the librarian's decision to keep Trouble on Tarragon Island off the shelves and out of the hands of children, others choose to focus on other terms I might have used in lieu of the dreaded word, 'bazoongas'. My favourite alternative so far is 'bodacious tatas.' Yes, I can just hear those words being flung about the halls of a school in my neighbourhood - not!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Prairie Fire or Teapot Tempest? You Decide

Book by Victoria children's author sets off a bit of a Prairie fire

Adrian Chamberlain
Times Colonist

Friday, July 06, 2007

Battle of the bazoongas? Or merely a tempest in a D-Cup?

A popular Victoria children's author is crying censorship after a southwestern Saskatchewan school banned her novel, Trouble on Tarragon Island.

At issue is the book's reference to "bazoongas" as a slang word for breasts. The librarian who pulled the novel at Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Sask., also objected to a mention of "saggy" breasts and a description of a bullying incident.

"I certainly view this as censorship," said Nikki Tate, 45, an award-winning writer of novels for young people. "I deliberately stayed away from crude language."

Wayne Parohl, principal of Elizabeth School before retiring a few weeks ago, said he does not view the withholding of the book as censorship. He said librarian Debbie Wagner originally ordered the novel, but subsequently deemed it inappropriate for younger readers at the school, spanning kindergarten to Grade 7.

The book will be handed over to the high school in Kindersley, a western Saskatchewan town with a population of 4,500, said Parohl.

He said a major fuss is being made over a minor incident.

"I suppose if you claim your book is censored, it makes it more salable. I don't know. It must be a slow news day."

Winlaw-based Sono Nis Press published Trouble on Tarragon Island, which has sold almost 3,000 copies since its 2005 release and is nominated for three book awards. Publisher Diane Morriss said she was surprised to receive a phone call from Wagner informing her Tate's book would be pulled.

Other school libraries across North America have carried it without complaint.

The Saskatchewan librarian -- who could not be reached for comment yesterday -- particularly objected to a description of bullying, said Morriss.

"She said they have zero tolerance for that kind of behaviour at the school, and by letting the kids read it, they're giving support to that kind of action. That's censorship to me," said Morriss.

The vice-president for CWILL B.C., a provincial organization for children's book writers and illustrators, said the incident is a tempest in a teapot. However, kc dyer added that she considers the book ban to be censorship and overkill on the librarian's part.

Dyer said Tate -- who's past chairwoman of the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable and was twice voted Victoria's favourite children's author -- is an excellent writer highly regarded within the writing community. Trouble on Tarragon Island deals with the subject of bullying "using language that's fairly mild compared to what's heard in the schoolyard," she said.

The book is about a girl who is horrified when her grandmother joins Ladies of the Forest, a radical protest group aiming to save old-growth trees.

Their lobbying efforts include posing for semi-nude photos that appear in a calendar. These images attract taunts from schoolboys who use the word "bazoongas."

The heroine, Heather Blake, thinks: "What they say about my grandmother is true. She does have generous bazoongas, and all of Tarragon Island has seen them."

Trouble on Tarragon Island is nominated for a Willow Award, with winners being voted upon by young readers in Saskatchewan. It is also nominated for a Chocolate Lily Award and a Red Cedar Book Award.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

News Travels Fast - All the Way to Maine!

Even though it sounds like my books are somewhat hard to find in Maine, this diligent librarian is standing up for Trouble on Tarragon Island! Thank you, Leila -

Quill and Quire Weighs In on Book Controversy

And this just in from Quill and Quire...

Bullying scene gets kids’ book banned from school library
by Megan Grittani-Livingston

July 6, 2007: A school librarian in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, has removed children’s author Nikki Tate’s novel Trouble on Tarragon Island from shelves because it contains a scene of bullying, which the school does not permit, and because the bullying includes words that may be offensive to women.

Librarian Debbie Wagner of Kindersley’s Elizabeth School contacted Tate’s publisher, Victoria-based Sono Nis Press, last week to protest the cover’s recommendation of the book for children ages 8 to 13. According to Diane Morriss, Sono Nis president and publisher, Wagner felt that readers of that age are too young for the book, that insults calling an older woman’s breasts “bazoongas” and melon-shaped were inappropriate, and that similar instances of rude teasing would not be permitted in the school and thus should not be in the library.

Tate’s book, the third in her Tarragon Island series about protagonist Heather Blake, depicts a battle in Blake’s B.C. community over clear-cut logging. Blake’s grandmother joins an anti-logging activist group, and poses naked with them for a calendar, embarrassing her granddaughter. At the beginning of the book’s first chapter, several boys in Blake’s school taunt her about her grandmother’s breasts, calling them “bazoongas” and cupping melon-shaped areas around their chests.

The scene, Tate told Q&Q Omni, “sets up the central conflict of the book, which is asking the question, ‘when you step outside the rules of society … what is the impact on your community and on your family?’” Tate said the description shows the pain experienced by Heather as a result of the bullying. “It’s pretty obvious these kids aren’t being held up as an example of fine behaviour,” she said.

Both Tate and Morriss said they were very surprised by the decision at Elizabeth School, which has 287 students in kindergarten to Grade 7. Morriss said that the scene raised no alarm bells during the editing and publishing process, and that several editors, readers, and librarians who have contacted her about the removal of Tate’s book have said they are also “very surprised that [Wagner and her library committee] would have pulled it from their library.”

According to Tate, who spoke with Elizabeth School principal Wayne Parohl after she heard about the decision, the school’s administration is standing behind Wagner. Parohl, who retired at the end of the 2006-07 school year and will be replaced by Chris Oscar, could not be reached by press time, nor could school staff be reached at the school as they are all on summer holidays. But Tate said Parohl told her the book would not be available to students, even if they asked for it as part of their participation in the provincial Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Willow Awards.

The Willow Awards are given to books nominated by a committee for each of three age groups, then chosen by student votes. Trouble on Tarragon Island is one of 10 books competing in the middle age group, the Diamond Willow category for children in Grades 4 to 6. Morriss said she submitted the book for the oldest group, for readers in Grades 7 and 8, but she said the organizers felt it was more appropriate for the younger bracket. Wagner herself is a director-at-large for the award’s 2007-08 board of directors.

Morriss said she plans to argue against the removal. However, Tate said she isn’t sure they have any options, because the decision was the librarian’s own for her collection – not based on any parental challenge – and therefore was not accompanied by a formal process that can be reviewed or contested.

The pair has faced such questions before, when several schools and libraries took offense to a book in one of Tate’s earlier Sono Nis series, the horseback-riding StableMates chronicles, which included a positive description of a character who practiced Wicca. While nothing came of those actions and challenges, Morriss said she wants to see how the Elizabeth School decision plays out. “I’m interested in seeing the repercussions,” she said. “I certainly hope they will reconsider.”

Star Phoenix Article About Trouble on Tarragon Island Controversy

Publisher defends Tate novel
'Bazoongas' reference concerns school librarian
James Wood, of The StarPhoenix
Published: Thursday, July 05, 2007

REGINA -- References to bullying, breasts and the word "bazoongas" have made a children's book nominated for a Saskatchewan award too hot to handle for a southwestern Saskatchewan school.

British Columbia-based publishing company Sono Nis Press says that Trouble on Tarragon Island, a novel by author Nikki Tate, has been censored by Elizabeth School, a kindergarten to Grade 7 school in Kindersley.

Publisher Diane Morriss said the school's librarian objected to a scene where the young heroine is teased about her activist grandmother posing semi-nude in a calendar, with taunts about her grandmother's saggy breasts, or "baz-oongas."

She said the librarian was offended and felt it was not appropriate for the book's recommended readers between the ages of eight to 14.

Morriss said she's bewildered by the situation, saying this is the first objection that has been made to the book.

"It's been nominated for three awards . . . Everyone else that's worked on the book, the editors and proofreaders, they're all extremely surprised too and they felt it was an overreaction to the scene in the book," she said in an interview.

"I think they've made something out of nothing on this issue. I really don't get it."

Morriss said the book's language is tame compared to what would likely be used in real life and could have been a catalyst for discussion about issues such as bullying.

Wayne Parohl, who was principal of Elizabeth School before retiring at the end of the school year, doesn't agree with the publishing company calling it censorship, saying it's common practice for books to be vetted by school librarians before they are made available to students.

In this case, the book was screened and was found to be not suitable for addition to Elizabeth School's library because of the language used in the bullying scene in question, he said.

"Do you work from the assumption that everything that is published automatically is guaranteed a spot in a school library until it's removed? And then if something doesn't make it on the shelves you call it censorship?" said Parohl.

He said the book would be appropriate for older students and would be passed along to the high school in Kindersley.

The book has been nominated for a Willow Award, a Saskatchewan book award that is chosen by young readers.

Morriss said Kindersley schoolchildren who want to vote in the contest won't be able to read Trouble on Tarragon Island unless they purchase the book.

Among the Willow Award sponsors are The StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post and the provincial government's SaskSmart Initiative.

jwood@sp. canwest .com

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

Wow! What a Weekend!

I must say that being in Ottawa for the Canada Day weekend is pretty damned cool! And even more so when one gets to hang out with Canada's finest - the RCMP Musical Ride. Just to prove I wasn't just another Parliament Hill gawker, here's a shot that could only be taken if one has friends in high places...

Yup, taken from inside one of the trucks that haul the musical ride horses across the nation and back! More photos and commentary to come soon, I hope. I'm having a bit of a panic attack at the moment relating to Double Take, which is still whipping back and forth through the ethers during the editing process. And, of course, there's still the matter of the mounting media frenzy relating to the Great Book Banning... and I have to go pick up my horses from Bodicea... and maybe unpack... and pull my weight on the Harry Potter Party Planning Committee... and get those CBRA book reviews in ... and stuff. Ack. So fun writing about my amazing experiences over the past week in Ottawa will have to wait. But meanwhile, in case any of the fine men and women in red serge trot through here, a heartfelt thank-you for all your time and consideration while we poked our cameras and noses into your lives.