On April 15, just as we were getting ready to leave for Chicago and the C2E2 convention, the mother of an elementary school boy officially petitioned to have the BONE series banned from all the schools in the district. I learned about it from an article in the Sun Newspapers Minnesota Local News.
Yesterday, a review committee met and heard both sides of the case. At the conclusion of the hearing, a letter I sent was read aloud. The committee then voted 10 to 1 against the ban.
The decision could be appealed, of course, but this was a very decisive statement by the review board.
Whew. I am obviously relieved and happy with this conclusion!
If you want to follow the story in more detail, here are some more links:
Robot 6, Jeff Smith Responds to Bone Ban
Local TV news KSTP Minneapolis and St. Paul, Parent wants graphic novels pulled from schools
Publishers Weekly, Jeff Smith Responds to Bone School Library Challenge
The Pioneer Press TwinCities.com, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Egan panel votes not to ban elementary school book series
The contents of the letter I sent to the review committee follows:
To Whom It May Concern:
Thank you for giving me an opportunity to make a statement in light of this most serious situation.
The complaint against BONE, as I understand it from news reports, concerns the depiction of gambling, alcohol and tobacco use, and “sexual situations between characters.”
First, let me say BONE is a book about courage, conviction, and loyalty. The setting is a medieval town and the tavern is a realistic meeting place for the locals. The two main protagonists, Fone Bone and Thorn do not partake in any activities at the tavern other than meals. At no time in the entire series is anyone rewarded for bad behavior.
The main troublemaker, Phoney Bone does try to win bets, and he cheats, but his plans always, ALWAYS backfire. His moneymaking schemes make him look like a greedy loser. That’s the point of the whole series: selfish, immoral behavior is wrong.
Beer and gambling are depicted in BONE, but only as props or as story devices (even Smiley Bones stogie is little more than a Vaudeville/Groucho character prop). These things play a very small role in the overall BONE story. I will also point out that beer and gambling can be seen in many Bugs Bunny cartoons, Disney movies, and just about anywhere you look. The trick is portraying them correctly. These characters are the bad ones, and kids know the difference. Phoney and Smiley scheme and gamble and get their comeuppance. The story’s heroes do not participate in any of these behaviors.
As far as “sexual situations between characters” are concerned, I know of none.Nor was it ever my intention for there to be any. The main character Fone Bone has a crush on the young woman Thorn, but its innocent, and certainly goes no further than holding hands.
Many, many children have learned to love reading because of BONE. I know this from meeting and talking to kids and their parents, teachers, and librarians at hundreds of book signings and school visits. I suspect that there are members of the review committee who can attest to this. Since the mid 90s, millions of parents all over the world have read BONE with their children. This is the first time I have ever heard it suggested that it was age inappropriate. It is hard to imagine that any bad behavior could be seen to be encouraged in these stories. Frankly, I believe it is just the opposite.