Bare-naked Mickey

Banned Books Week is over.  Much was made about the recent attempts of one Wesley Scroggins to have certain immoral books removed from the curriculum of the Republic, Missouri school district.  (I find it a little ironic that this guy lives in a place called Republic, a word which generally conjures up thoughts of democracy and freedom.)  He says he’s “spent the last couple of years reviewing the various curricula across numerous grades”, so I’m guessing he must have quite a laundry list of filthy books.  Though for an opinion piece in the Springfield News-Leader he singles out three books:  Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson; Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler; and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut.

Lots of people have blogged about this over the past week.  As well they should.  People banning books is a serious threat to any society.  Books are filled with words that shape a story which in turn helps us make sense of the world, just a little.  And we humans are the only animal who really, really need to make sense of our world.  We make ourselves nuts sometimes with the trying.  Stories help.  Books help.  It’s so essential to us that long before stories were written down, they were spoken.  And those stories were passed orally generation to generation, because people thought it was important to keep the stories alive.

I read a lot this past week.  And I shuffled over to the ALA website to take a look at the list of banned and challenged books over the years.  The list is long, the reasons for wanting the books banned varied.  Too filthy, too racist, too subversive, too offensive, too witch-crafty, and even, too naked.  As in Mickey-in-the-Night-Kitchen naked.

In The Night Kitchen is a picture book by Maurice Sendak in which a young boy named Mickey hears a noise in the kitchen, goes to investigate, and discovers three jolly bakers preparing a cake for the breakfast.  Evidently, the problem for some people is the fact that Mickey falls from upstairs and lands in the kitchen.  Naked.  It’s not as though he’s naked through the entire book.  He falls into the cake batter and emerges in a brown suit of batter, and then gets to do fun stuff like craft an airplane out of bread and fly around the kitchen in it.  Towards the end he dives into a bottle of milk and the batter dissolves.  For a brief period he is naked again, until he finds himself in his pajamas, back in bed, where everything is as it should be.  I don’t know about anyone else, but my son and I loved that book.  It’s the perfect rendering of a child’s fanciful dream.

So keep telling stories, people.  Keep writing books, and reading them, and most of all, keep speaking out when someone tries to stop you.

And GO, Mickey, you bare-naked dream boy.

5 thoughts on “Bare-naked Mickey

  1. Speak is challenged over and over again and I can never understand it, yes there is a brief violent scene in the beginning, but the book is about how to deal with trauma. I have never(and will never) wrapped my mind around why people still today choose ignorance and stupidity.


  2. I wonder if those who seek to ban a book would stop if they realized that that kind of attention, even negative as it is, is a sure-fire way to insure that those very books will be more likely to be read. Often it rescues otherwise mediocre books from obscurity and elevates them into a grander realm. I might go out of my way to read a banned book before one that has receives great accolades (said the eternal adolescent in me).There was an art show of the art work of an 80 yr old woman in a small college that I attended that caused an uproar and was threatened to be shut down because of explicit content. The work was just OK, but it was the best attended exhibit at the school to that date because of the controversy. It was my first understanding of the power of "buzz and spin."Maybe I need to go off and write something racy…..;-)


  3. Yes, I know of many authors who go to sleep at night, hoping their book will be banned–for commercial reasons, alone.I think, like so many other things in the world that are backwards, banning comes out of fear. People think that if they shelter children from material they deem inappropriate, that they are somehow protecting them. That, perhaps, if a girl doesn't know about date rape, it can't happen to her. These banners must realize that well educated is better prepared. IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN is an adorable book! I couldn't believe that this made the list!!Great post, Mary! And, yes, Barb. You should write something racy! 😉


  4. Shawna – I doubt that those who challenge books, bother to read them all the way through. It's like they're only looking for something that offends them so that they can flaunt their high moral standards. I don't really understand it either.Barb – Excellent point! Your college art story brought to mind the Robert Mapplethorpe fracas back in the 80's. His shows were mobbed after the Corcoran Gallery refused to show his work. Maybe in your next 'Tex & Sugar' book, you could have Tex trying to make a living taking photos of studly male cats without their shirts, and Sugar could try to make a go of singing, Lady Gaga style!Lynda – interestingly, in the piece that Scroggins wrote about SPEAK, he also slammed sex education and teaching kids about reproduction, because he was sure it would promote the idea of teens going out and "using condoms to have sex." Thanks, ladies for your comments!


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