Traveling Pants Stays Put: A Parent's Failed Book Banning

A mom's effort to ban The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and six other books from her children's school library has failed, highlighting the ridiculousness of banning books in the first place.

Ann Wentworth asked the library at Thiesen Middle School in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin to eliminate not only Traveling Pants but also its three sequels, Julie Halpern's Get Well Soon, and two books by author Sonya Sones — What My Mother Doesn't Know and One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies. It's not clear exactly what Wentworth's objection to the Pants books was, but WISN points out that Mother Dies is "about a 15-year-old girl and deals with sex." Pants has appeared on banned book lists as far back as 2007, and one blogger speculates that "the sexuality in Bridget's story" could be the reason. According to WISN, Wentworth said, "I would just like to feel comfortable that my kids can walk into the school library and everything is appropriate, age appropriate."

Wentworth's request seems especially ridiculous in light of the fact that a system is already in place at Thiesen Middle School to allow parents to limit the books their kids can check out of the library. Wentworth could have banned the books from her own kids if she wanted to, but she felt the need to determine what was "appropriate" for all the children at the school. And although a committee unanimously voted last Thursday to keep Pants, they'll now have to meet six more time to consider each of the other books on Wentworth's list, using up valuable time that could be spent, say, figuring out ways to actually encourage kids to read.

At Thursday's meeting, one thirteen-year old said of One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies, "It's really what happens in school, making fun of and problems and issues. It's really what happens in school, it's life." And librarian Kathy Prestidge added, "When I want to entice these students to read I need to have materials that speak to them." If parents insist on thoroughly sanitizing the books their kids have access to, kids will probably respond by reading less, and by turning to media over which their parents have less control. And really, efforts to ban books from school libraries have come to seem almost depressingly quaint. I wish kids were sneaking into the library, of all places, to get their hands on edgy shit that would freak their parents out. The reality is that kids can get shocking material much more easily on the Internet, and books are so uncool in comparison (with, I suppose, a few vampiric exceptions) that parents who think the printed word will destroy their children's innocence are looking in the wrong place. Banning books in 2010 feels like banning Brussels sprouts — which, come to think of it, may be a good idea. I hope Wentworth's objections are actually a master plan of reverse psychology — but I fear they're just a misguided attempt to control her kids' brains.

Mom Wants Anti-Twilight Banned [Strollerderby]
Fond Du Lac Mother Tries To Get Books Banned From Library [WISN]
The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants By Ann Brashares [Books, Memes, And Musings]
Parent Adds 6 Books To Those She Wants Banned From School Library [FDLReporter]