Florida Schools Panic About Tamakis’ ‘This One Summer’
Once again, adults are panicking at the very idea that kids might be allowed to read a comic book that accurately portrays the lives of other kids their age. In this case it's happening in Seminole County, Florida, where schools and local media have discovered that Jillian and Mariko Tamaki's award-winning This One Summer might not be appropriate for Third Graders, and are using that to justify keeping it out of the hands of the high schoolers at whom it's primarily aimed, and for whom it's entirely appropriate.
In a story headlined Graphic Novel Found in Multiple School Libraries, which sounds very provocative if you don't know what a graphic novel is, local ABC Affiliate WFTV9 interviews a mother who was dismayed to find that her 9-year-old brought home This One Summer and was not prepared for its contents. The mother actually comes off as pretty reasonable, especially since Jillian Tamaki's own web site categorizes the book "Ages 13 and up."
But rather than acknowledge that an elementary school library was giving children access to a book that the slightest bit of research would have revealed was inappropriate for them, local officials are once again demonizing the very idea of graphic novels. WFTV9 reports that the book is now being removed from high schools.
The station never bothers to establish why "inappropriate for 9-year-olds" is being conflated with "inappropriate for teenagers." Instead, they're doing their part to spread the panic, by calling nearby counties to find out if the book is on their school shelves as well.
The Comic Book Legal Defense fund has dealt with this before, and has a page on their site covering This One Summer in particular. CBLDF points out that part of the problem is that the book was listed as a Caldecott Honor Book, a runner up for the very prestigious Caldecott Medal. The Caldecott is for illustrated children's books, and as such is usually given to titles aimed at the under-12 set. This causes school librarians to think anything recognized by Caldecott is appropriate for kids, which leads directly to problems like this.
School librarians do a hard and important job for very little reward, and many are still learning that some books intended for younger readers are not appropriate for all young readers. Librarians and educators need to have the support and resources to ensure books for older kids don't end up in the hands of kids who aren't ready to read them, rather than the books themselves being blamed for existing.