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Welcome to the Horn Book's Family Reading blog, a place devoted to offering children's book recommendations and advice about the whats and whens and whos and hows of sharing books in the home. Find us on Twitter @HornBook and on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheHornBook


Paging Miss Manners

We were prepared for Tuesday’s letter to FLOTUS post to maybe stir things up, but this is insane — the pot is boiling over! And a lot of people seem to be missing the point.

To all who are concerned about manners, common courtesy, rudeness, gratitude, and how our contributor was or wasn’t raised: the letter is far more courteous than many of the negative comments directed at her on this site, on Facebook, and on Twitter. How can you harangue someone for bad manners and then call that person a “sorry excuse for a human” in the same sentence? She opens the letter with thank you, for cripes’ sake. We take her at her word that she’s sincere in her gratitude. She ends the post by saying how honored she is that the White House chose to recognize her school’s success. She doesn’t like the administration’s policies, but she makes zero reference to the content of Mrs. T’s character.

How do we know she doesn’t have Seuss books in her school library? (She does, by the way, thus the lack of a need for more of them.) This is her point: her school is well-funded and has a lot more resources than many schools do. The books would have a much greater impact in a struggling school with no library. Or in a school and/or community affected by recent natural disasters (Puerto Rico, Florida, Houston, the burning west coast…). Also, the Librarian of Congress is a children’s librarian and could have helped come up with a more effective list of books.

And to those championing Dr. Seuss’s legacy: the information about his racist beliefs is offered in the spirit of educating people and raising awareness about how racism infiltrates some of our most beloved cultural icons. Yes, Dr. Seuss was a product of his time. Yes, Dr. Seuss’s contribution to literacy and a love of reading will endure (regardless of a blog post). That doesn’t mean that we should ignore the man behind the books. Or…ignore him if you’d like. You have the freedom to do that.

Finally, this letter was NOT sent to Mrs. Trump. The format is a rhetorical device. I doubt Mrs. Trump reads the Horn Book’s blogs; and it was not our intention that she would see the post and have her feelings hurt.

Clearly a lot of people have very strong feelings about Melania Trump, Dr. Seuss, liberals, and proper etiquette. And we disagree about how to be a role model to kids. But how does attacking the post’s author personally (here and on social media and beyond) make you any better of a role model? I try not to read the comments in general, but in this case it’s my job. The ugliness and vitriol unleashed by this post are disgusting. The assumptions are staggering.

Let’s review the Horn Book’s pretty straightforward comment policy:

  1. Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  2. Don’t use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  3. Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.

Before you contribute your thoughts, ask yourself if you’ve followed these guidelines. There is literally no reason not to. If you want a better behaved world, behave better.

Please. Let’s focus on the humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico, the erosion of civil rights and liberties in this country, and on treating one another with common decency and respect. Oh, and promoting a love of reading to foster compassion and spark civil conversations.

About Kitty Flynn

Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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Comments

  1. The author made a lot of valid points about inequality. The first half of the letter is good, and her decision to not add the books to the collection is professionally defensible if politically unwise. Her opinions on the artistic and literary merit of Dr. Seuss are narrow minded and a bit censorial and draw attention away from the important issues facing schools in the US. The works of Dr. Seuss should not be written of as “tired and worn”‘–Theodor Geisell was an innovator, and what he created seems “cliche,’ it’s a mark of how pervasive his influence is. He was a man of his time, and while some of his attitudes have not held up, that is an opportunity for critical thinking and discussion, not narrow minded dismissal. We don’t throw Shakespeare out for Shylock, with literature from the past we take the opportunity to discuss the issues and learn from them.

  2. The blog post is an object lesson in how not to say thank-you to a gift, and if the package had come from Michelle Obama or Bill Clinton, it would not have gotten the same rejection. Everyone knows it, too.

  3. Finally, this letter was NOT sent to Mrs. Trump. The format is a rhetorical device. I doubt Mrs. Trump reads the Horn Book’s blogs; and it was not our intention that she would see the post and have her feelings hurt.

    An ‘open letter’ to “Dear Mrs. Trump” is addressed and sent to Mrs.Trump directly. Please don’t try to squirm out of that. I’m sure she has never heard of Horn Book before but she has now. I guarantee her feelings are not hurt and she is looking forward to her suggested reading list on how she should act and feel as an immigrant.