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>Put It Where You Want It

>Debra Lau Whelan’s SLJ article on where librarians are shelving The Graveyard Book is classic shit-stirring. The article’s lead asks a question (“Where does the book belong—in the children’s area or in the teen section?”) and then goes on to give selective anecdotal evidence to conclude that any decision to put the book in YA consists of internal censorship. “And that’s against professional ethics.”

Nonsense. If you’re classifying a book that you think appeals primarily to fifth-through-eighth graders (SLJ‘s estimation; Horn Book coded it as sixth-grade up), you are going to shelve it where you think most likely readers will most likely find it. Putting it in the YA section is not necessarily (or even probably) an act of censorship, if that’s where you put all your other middle-schoolish books. (Hell, putting it in adult because that’s where your Gaiman fans are is all right, too.) The fact that a book wins a Newbery Medal does not give it some kind of free pass into the children’s room; remember, the Newbery goes through age fourteen, which, by the ALA definition, includes the first two years of the young adult age range. (The ALA turf war over the twelve-to-fourteen-year-olds is ever with us.) Different libraries serve different populations and make different decisions. I like Pat Scales’ suggestion–multiple copies–but if you’re only buying one, don’t let SLJ’s admonitory finger force you into putting the book where it doesn’t belong.

I agree with Whelan that if you put The Graveyard Book in YA because you’re trying to keep it out of younger readers’ hands, then, sure, that’s censorship. But the article–like her piece with Rick Margolis about the “controversy” inspired by Gaiman’s fuck-filled Twittering–doesn’t give us the whole picture, instead only citing evidence that supports a sensationalized angle. That ain’t reporting.

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. >I appreciate your column, but not some of the language. I don’t want my access to your blog to be blocked due to the language, so could we leave out the profanity, please!

  2. >I’m sort of bewildered by the article–it seems like it’s REALLY reaching for something controversial to say about the book. I like the commenter who says “Selection and placement aren’t censorship, they’re our job.”

  3. Anonymous says:

    >Roger, please shelve your blog in the YA section!

  4. >Dear Roger,

    Please leave in the profanity. It is extremely appropriate and makes me laugh.


  5. Rackstraw Press says:

    >It’s only censorship if you don’t let kids wander into the YA section.

    Most fluent readers have floated there by the time they are 11.


  6. Roger Sutton says:

    >Busy Mom–I do try to keep the language here on the mild side but am sometimes intemperate and don’t believe in asterisks or euphemisms. Or filters–I’m sorry if your filter blocks my blog because of some salty language, but if I started writing with an eye to what might get filtered I wouldn’t be able to say very much. Last week I tried to respond to a blog post over at SLJ that concerned sexual orientation, but their filters wouldn’t allow commenters to use the word “sex,” so it was difficult to get my point across.

  7. Roger Sutton says:

    >And, Farah, it depends. Not all libraries allow children access beyond the children’s room. And if you classify books in a way to deliberate limit their readership–to hide them–then, yes, I believe you are making a shelving decision based in censorship.

  8. Rackstraw Press says:

    >Oh, I agree. I hated it as a child, I hate it now. If a kid is old enough to ask, they are old enough to enter. And if they ask prematurely, they will go away and come back later.


  9. >Well, shit-stirring does make for fun reading. I love the commentary.

  10. >I am really really tired of School Library Journal and Debra Lau Whelan. I thought her first piece on the award winners was an embarrassment of bad writing and bad editing as well as “shit-stirring.” I have to thank you for the new vocabulary because it is exactly the right term. I was pissed by the cheap shot at former Newberys, torqued by prudish characterization of libraries and really really cheesed off at the slap at Sherman Alexie.

  11. Library Mermaid says:

    >All this reminds me of the Mom who called me up after our young teen daughters went to Titanic (with her permission)…she was horrified and angry, she said, to have found out that there was a scene of NAKED BREASTS as well as IMPLIED SEX (dramatic hand on steamy window)…the endless dead people in the water, the drowning children…that hadn’t bothered her…so here we go, terrific book on death and life and friendship and finding one’s way…and people are getting their knickers in a twist that he, potty-mouthed grown-up, swore (bad example, Mr. G!)and that someone else is using salty words to boot while talking about it on THEIR OWN blog…people, all I can say – if you cut me off in traffic, roll up your windows as you will not be happy at what you hear over the rock n’ roll.

  12. >Great post – mine is shelved in my YA section ( or will be after the 15 students on the waiting list read it), but so are more than half of my Newberry titles. Never thought of it as a censorship issue. . .

    For the record, most of students waiting for the book are elementary age.

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