"The Kosher Booklist: An Assessment of Children's Books for Parents and Teachers" is hysterical. This is a 126 page document that classifies over 2000 "secular children's and young adult books" with the objective of assisting parents and teachers with the provision of appropriate books for elementary to high school students. There is an introduction, a cover letter, cover page,and then an extensive table that lists books according to the following categories: Author, Title, Intended Grade Level, Appropriateness Rating, and Comments.
Anyway, in case you don't have the kinda time I apparently do, I'll present some of the highlights.
First. in the introduction the authors present three instructions. One of them is: "Make sure to only give out to students the approved book list without the comments". This sentiment is then reiterated in the cover letter.
The three page cover letter to teachers/parents explains the rationale for the list. The authors express that the list was created by concerned mothers who understand that: "the words a child (or adult!) reads can leave a permanent impression on his or her neshama" [soul]. So kind of these moms to take one for the team, and soil their own neshamas so that their children's neshamas can remain pristine. Anyway, standard religious bla bla bla - moving on.
Here are the ratings they have designated for books:
OK - acceptable
OK? - generally acceptable; parent should read comments to decide if appropriate
N - not acceptable
N? - significantly problematic but may be acceptable in certain situations as determined by parent
C - Classic. Generally would not be read as independent reading.
So, I'm not going tell you what's kosher. A)That's boring, and B) Most literate non-fundamentalist people would consider all of 2000 the books on the list fine, i.e. "kosher". However, it's interesting and - for me, at least - entertaining to see what the Bible Belt (in this case the Jewish one) might consider out of bounds, and why. There are a ton of "N's" on the list. I'm going to stick to the highlights.
1. Louisa May Alcott's "Little Men". For grades 6-8. Gets an N? because it has "minor religion scattered throughout". But don't wory! The list authors let you know that "2 pages of J-- - can be torn out." They also object to: "Minor women's liberation", and a "Minor push for co-ed education". Jennifer Armostrong's "Steal Away… To Freedom" (rated: N) about a white girl and slave girl who run away together is also ousted for - among other things, discussing women's rights and emancipation.
2. Andrew Clements' Things Not Seen is rated N for, among other things: Mild chutzpah.
3. Frank Asch's, Pearl's promise about a white mouse who "rescues his brother from a snake tank in a pet store" is cited as having "Minor romantic mouse 'negiah', some mouse 'boy/girl'. On a similar note, Lynne Reid Banks', I, Houdini got an N for the "Horrible chapter of hamster's attraction to female hamster".
4. J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan!!!!! Frontal topless mermaids, undressed lost boys. I don't know what can be done for the poor souls of those children already contaminated by Disney's The Little Mermaid. Thankfully at least she wasn't topless.
5. Ian Beck'sThe Secret History of Tom True Heart gets an N? for "Many tongue in cheek references to famous fairy tales like Cinderella, Snow White, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunsel, Sleeping Beauty, etc." Lots of fairy tale type romance - instantly falling in love and asking for hand in marriage. I'm confused. Now marriage is bad? Oh, no! Just falling in love.
6. Berenstain, Stan and Jan Berenstain Bears and the Nerdy Nephew: N. The only reason cited: "Cool tough-guy's girlfriend is attracted to nerdy intellectual." OK . . every Yeshiva boy's dream. Objectionable because . . .???
7. Seven out of Nine Judy Blume Books got N's (including "It's Not the End of the World for "Messy Divorce". No other reason.) Interestingly, "Are you there God? It's Me, Margaret", wasn't even listed. That must mean it's OK ;).
8. Susan Bonners The Silver Balloon was described as "Wonderful till end" where there's the unfortunate "
page long lecture on dinosaurs." Adult guidance was recommended for that page. I'm surprised they didn't just recommend ripping it out.
9. Walter K. Brooks's Freddy Goes to the North Pole N? for: Plot about visiting Santa at the North Pole. Lots of presents, goodwill, reindeer and sleighs. No real religion
10. Mark Brown's There's no Place Like Home is a "Picture book about different homes. Page 2 - Illustration of family with x-mas tree and menorah together". OMG - a page about religious tolerance! Sacrilege. Malka Drucker's, picture book: A Jewish Holiday ABC also gets an because "Girls wear yarmulkas for Yom Kippur".
Have you noticed that I haven't even gotten past authors whose last names begin with B yet????
Other comments on the list of note:
Ray Bradbury's Farenheit 451: "I wouldn't give it to a teenager as independent reading."
Jeff Brown's Invisible Stanley": gets an OK? but notes: One scene where helps a shy couple get engaged
and they kiss. Easy to tear out page". Several books with the Ok? got the comment: "But do kids this age need it?"
Sid Fleischman's The 13th floor - A Ghost Story gets an N? for : "nothing really horrible, just overall tone"
The abridged versions of Dickens' Great Expectations and Oliver twist, and an N? for The Count of Monte Cristoe
And finally, Anne Frank's The Diary of A Young Girl also gets and N. Anne Frank!!!!!!!!! You know who else censors Anne Frank? Neo Nazis and Holocaust Deniers.
Ok. Now this has stopped being funny.