The Pencil Today:


“Censorship feeds the dirty mind more than the four-letter word itself.” — Dick Cavett


This is a call to arms.

Turn off your TVs, get up off your sofa, crank up your computer and start writing emails to the Monroe County Community Schools Corporation. I’ll supply some good addresses for you below.

First, the issue.

I have learned through a reasonably reliable source that someone — presumably a parent — has challenged the MCCSC to remove Maurice Sendak’s children’s book, “In the Night Kitchen,” from the Binford Elementary School library.

Details of the challenge are sketchy at this moment since Binford teachers and administrators have not even sat down together to consider the challenge. But “In the Night Kitchen” has had a long history of raising the hackles of bluenoses since its publication in 1970.

It’s the story of a kid, who looks to be two or three years old, who has a dream that he has fallen into a huge bowl of batter being prepared by a trio of chefs. The three chefs, all of whom jarringly resemble Oliver Hardy, are making a batch of bread dough.

The kid gets tossed around amid all the stirring and kneading. Soon, the kid learns that the chefs are missing a key ingredient for their dough, milk. So the kid fashions an airplane made of dough to fly around in search of the missing ingredient. He finds a giant bottle of milk and somehow manipulates it to pour its contents into the chefs’ bowl.

The bread is made, everybody’s happy, and the kid wakes up in his own bed.

So, what’s the problem?

This: the kid is naked as he’s tossed around in the dough. So naked that his little pizzle can be seen — his mini-danglers, too.

It’s not as if the kid’s full package is drawn in any excruciating detail. His baby penis is drawn in a general outline and is less prominent, naturally, than either of his thumbs. And his gonads are no more in your face than his big toes.

Only a very bizarrely obsessed mind could see this innocent little cherub and his male equipment as objectionable.

And it is to these bizarrely obsessed people we have to say, “Just shut up!”

Here’s a little more info on the Sendak book. It was named a Caldecott Honor Book. It was named one of the notable children’s books of the era 1940-70 by the American Library Association. The New York Times named it one of the best books of 1970. The Library of Congress has preserved it as exemplary of children’s books for that year.

Sendak is the beloved author of “Where the Wild Things Are,” for which he won a Caldecott Medal. He helped the Children’s Television Workshop develop the vision for “Sesame Street.” His work has earned him the Hans Christian Anderson Award, a National Book Award, a Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, and a National Medal of Arts. He even has an elementary school named after him in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Still, there are all those pesky — and potentially dangerous (to our liberties) — sex obsessives out there.

“In the Night Kitchen” has been named 25th on the American Library Association’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 list.

Man oh man. There’s a hell of a lot of whacked out people in this holy land.

So, be a good citizen. Pound away at your keyboard and let these MCCSC officials and teachers know we won’t be bullied by prigs, prudes, and hysterics. (BTW: I’m not going to hyperlink here because potential spammers could then scrape this site looking for these email addresses. So, just copy and paste — the extra step won’t kill you.)

  • Dr. Judith A. DeMuth, Superintendent of Schools, MCCSC:
  • W. Kelly Smith, Assistant Secretary, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Susan Wanzer, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Martha Street, secretary, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Jim Muehling, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Keith Klein, vice-president, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Dr. Lois Sabo-Skelton, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Dr. D. Jeannine Butler, MCCSC Board of Education:
  • Joe Childers, principal, Binford Elementary:
  • Melinda Hamilton, librarian, Binford Elementary:

Oh, and if you happen to know who the parent is who’s raising this stink, gently tell him or her to sit down, relax, and have a drink maybe, or go get a massage.

Because, really, neither Maurice Sendak nor the Binford school library means you any harm.


4 thoughts on “The Pencil Today:

  1. Michele says:

    So very sad to hear that parents would single out this book for nothing more then a depiction of a little boy.

    I can’t say that I would invite the parent that has this issue for a drink. In the back of my head, I would wonder if the loudest opponents to remove the book could just be the ones to sexualize children, and most likely are closeted abusers/pedophiles themselves (just as the loudest opponent of homosexuality is usually the closeted homo himself, or herself).

    My five year old just learned that when you point a finger at someone, there are always at least three fingers pointing back at you. Not applicable in every single circumstance, but still.

    Thank you for the links, I will email.

  2. John Bergman says:

    MIKE, PENISES ARE AS DANGEROUS AS THE GUNS THEY RESEMBLE! No, wait a minute, guns are good. Hold on a second, let me think about this…

  3. Oh, John, you had to say it, didn’t you?

  4. Susan Sandberg says:

    Thanks for posting about “In the Night Kitchen”. This is truly disturbing, and I’ve chatted it up via Facebook. Come on free-thinking people, this puritanical protest must not be given any credence. I will expect well-trained educators and administrators to stand up and defend Sendak. As if classic childrens literature needed defending! I think it’s time to re-read Fahrenheit 451.

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