On May 5th, I blogged about “Presenting Controversial Situations to Child Readers” and the book The Shepherd’s Grand-daughter by Anne Laurel Carter. My apologies for not getting back to this sooner. I had just started reading the book when I looked at the calendar and realized that I had to get the book club selection read NOW. Unfortunately, that means I didn’t get back to The Shepherd’s Grand-daughter until yesterday.
I say unfortunately because I stayed up until 1:16 finishing the book. Shame on you Anne Laurel Carter! Depriving another writer of her sleep.
Those who want to censor the book should read it first. The whole book. From cover to cover. I say this because it is clear that they haven’t. One objection that I saw repeatedly was that the first Jewish person the main character meets is a soldier who shoots one of her sheep. Anyone who states that has not read the book.
Or they have really bad reading comprehension.
The person who shoots the sheep is not the first Jewish person she encounters. Secondly, he isn’t a soldier.
Still, I can see why would-be censors are upset. Israel does not come off looking particularly good in this story, but fact is fact and this does not represent one of their shining moments.
Carter gives a very balanced account (see my review here for more info on the book itself) and this book is an excellent example of how to deal with potentially volatile topics. Depict realistic characters on both sides of the situation. Show positive traits in your antagonists. Show negative traits in your protagonists. Otherwise — create realistic characters. You’ll still have to defend your work but you will have created a book that gives young readers something to think about and shows that you respect their abilities to consider both sides of even the most complex situations.
So, fellow writers. Do you dare take the plunge into a controversial topic?