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In Protest

Editorial by Paul Heins

One of the strangest and most unexpected communications ever received by the editor of The Horn Book Magazine consists of pages 433 to 440 of the October 1972 issue ripped out from the body of the magazine, stapled together, and headed by the words “In protest.” It must be assumed that the sender disagreed with the statements and evaluations made in the first installment of Eleanor Cameron’s “McLuhan, Youth, and Literature.” Closer scrutiny will reveal that the sender was especially riled by Mrs. Cameron’s evaluation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. When Mrs. Cameron states that Charlie is “one of the most tasteless books ever written for children,” the sender rejoins with “That’s not the opinion of children.” And the sender of the offending sheets fills in the margin below the words To be continued with strange and violent graffiti: “PLEASE — don’t bother! How utterly ridiculous. Doesn’t the author know any intelligent children.”

What is most shocking about this emotional outburst is the phrase “In protest.” Shouldn’t one assume that one disagrees with an expression of opinion and that one reserves protest for a base or immoral action — for something wrongly done? After all, Mrs. Cameron is entitled to her opinion, and The Horn Book Magazine is entitled to publish her opinion of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — or of any other book written for children. To deny freedom of expression either to an author or to a magazine — especially regarding a literary judgment — is to invite censorship and is tantamount to suggesting that totalitarian methods are superior to democratic methods.

Actually, in the present issue of The Horn Book Magazine will be found Roald Dahl’s response to Eleanor Cameron. We hope nobody will protest the fact that we have published his defense.

From the February 1973 issue of The Horn Book Magazine

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