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