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Don’t forget the chocolate sprinkles!

whipped cream wriggleLast night I dreamed that Arthur A. Levine Books (of Harry Potter fame) was publishing a young readers’ edition of The Sensuous Woman, a sex manual published in ’69 (heh) by a “liberated woman” known only as “J” who taught women how to please their man and–and this was revolutionary–themselves.

My dream makes sense in that The Sensuous Woman was in some ways a Harry Potter for its day, storming onto the bestseller lists and seeming to stay there forever. And virginal little junior high kids lapped it up (oh, I slay myself) but in secret, of course, much the same way we consumed page 27 of The Godfather, published the same year.

Putting on my Carrie Bradshaw shoes, it made me wonder: are there any books these days that get similarly covertly passed around by kids who aren’t supposed to be reading them? Or in an age when porn is available at the push of a button, does Mom hand over her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey with enthusiasm, just glad that you’re reading something?

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. Roger, sad to say, I HAVE seen young teens reading 50 Shades and 2nd graders reading Twilight (and their parents gave them over to them, they were not being sneaky). Heaven only knows what they are reading under the covers. Betty & Veronica, perhaps?

  2. I think that Forever STILL gets passed around in secret though I think the sexy book du jour, at least at my last library, was the 50 Shades series.

  3. Elizabeth Law says:

    I’d love to hear more responses to this and I’m going to ask the middle schoolers I know–at least those who might be brave enough to tell me. I’m 4 years younger than Roger, just to place the following memory in its own era, and one day in 1973 when I was taking the “late bus” home from school, I remember some kid reading the masturbation scene from the Exorcist out loud, very slowly and dramatically, with a thick Boston accent.

  4. My friend Susan loved to croak “Lick me” like Mercedes McCambridge in the movie.

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