Saturday, December 5, 2009


I just received an email from an adult student who is doing a paper on my Gus and Grandpa books for a children's literature course she is taking at Nassau Community College. She had a number of questions to ask me to assist her in writing the essay, and of course I felt enormously honored and flattered by the whole experience.

One of her questions was whether any of my books had been the subject of controversy. My answer was: not really, though one review of Gus and Grandpa complained that Grandpa receives a book on wine as a birthday present, and one review of Gus and Grandpa and the Christmas Cookies was upset that Grandpa lets Gus eat raw cookie dough. But I don't think that amounts to full-blown controversy. To my knowledge I have never had a book that was banned, let alone burned.

I feel sort of guilty about this. I remember a poem I loved in high school, called "No Enemies?" that begins, "You have no enemies, you say? Alas, my friend, the boast is poor." The poet says, of enemies, "If you have none, small is the work that you have done."

And yet . . . okay, I didn't use the word "scrotum" anywhere in the Gus and Grandpa books, but does that mean that small is the work that I have done? And there is no sex, or scandal, in the Gus and Grandpa books, but it wasn't as if I left them out because I was afraid of the wrath of the censor. They just didn't fit into the stories I was writing of the deep and enduring friendship between a seven-year-old boy and his beloved grandfather. There IS a Halloween book in the series, Gus and Grandpa and the Halloween Costume, and one kid in the book does dress up as a vampire, but there are no REAL witches, wizards, or vampires to attract the ire of conservative Christians - but again, it wasn't as if I left them out for that reason.

Oh, well. At least Gus did eat raw cookie dough!


  1. One of the main characteristics of your books that has attracted me so much is their high class, clean and wholesome treatment of all kinds of life issues. --Carol Linda

  2. Thanks, Carol Linda - I confess that my own favorite books are those that have a certain old-fashioned sweetness, which is why I was so glad that The Penderwicks won the National Book Award the year I was a judge - it reminded me so much of the books I had loved as a child.