Sunday, August 19, 2007
“Promoting righteousness, like having this book taken from everybody, is a step in the right direction.”
Fiction Shows Youth Two Aspects of Activism
Sunday, August 19, 2007
Scientists and activists aren't the only people working to protect old-growth forests. Many nature-loving writers use fiction to plead for the forest. From Farley Mowat in the 1960s to Diane Carmel Leger today (Who's In Maxine's Tree?), they have opened to youthful readers a world of species, habitats and the threats that endanger them.
One such is Nikki Tate, whose novel Trouble on Tarragon Island depicts a family struggling with both sides of the logging debate on an imaginary Gulf Island. When a grandmother poses nude for a conservation calendar, it is her adolescent granddaughter Heather who suffers embarrassment.
Tate shows us the taunting Heather experiences from boys at school as a result of having a "calendar girl" grandma. We hear and see it clearly -- too clearly for Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Sask., which recently decided that the scene offended their anti-bullying policy. They elected to ban Trouble On Tarragon Island from the school library because the characters display bullying behaviour and show disrespect toward the elderly by using slang terms for Grandma's sagging breasts.
Author and publisher are dismayed that some educators have decided to keep the book from its intended readers. Lost in the censorship debate is the logging issue that the plot is built around. "I couldn't have imagined anyone getting concerned about the word "bazoonga," says Tate. More important, she had supposed, are questions she raises about environmental activism: "What is the impact on your family of being an activist? What is the price you pay?"
Teachers could use the book to discuss, as well as bullying, ecology and the lengths to which anti-logging protesters sometimes go. Originally, creating nude calendars had some shock value in focusing attention on a cause, but now they are a staple of fundraising. For Elizabeth School staff, it seems that the shock is still the point. Does this suggest that they agree with the reaction of the boys who insult Heather's grandmother? Something here is being shoved out of sight, and probably not only the commonplace of adolescent bullying.
Putting critical language into the mouths of her adolescents, Tate presents us with a situation of sexist ageism and makes us think about our own aversion to what physically we will all become -- if we live long enough. We will become as gnarled and battered as those old trees about which some people care so much. For those who do care, it is astonishing that teachers would ignore the conservation debate in Tate's story, preferring to fiddle with bullying-prevention policy while ancient forests burn.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Glendale Gardens in Victoria hosted the annual Art in the Gardens event this afternoon. And, yes, some of the artwork was great - but nothing beats the colour, forms, design, patterns, miraculous essence of what Mother Nature paints on her canvas! This is one of the dozens of varieties of dahlias on display in the Dahlia Trial Garden. Makes me want to run out and plant dahlias everywhere!
Prepping for Harry Potter festivities, Dad did a series of experiments involving food colouring, small fans, dry ice, dish soap, and magic spells... Good thing we grew that screen of trees between us and the neighbours or he might well have been hauled off by Ministry of Magic officials!