School, Library, Drinking? Put Them All Together & Kaboom!

by Leah on December 7, 2009

slj coverSeems there was a big flap over School Library Journal’s November cover. (at left). A handful of readers wrote angry letters taking issue with the cover photograph, which showed several notable children’s literature bloggers, some of whom happen to be librarians, holding alcoholic beverages (pink, Mad Men-esque cocktails). I had to admit I got a little nervous reading this snippet from one of the letters: “It certainly doesn’t fit to combine blogging with drinking.” Hmmmm.

I say: Most, if not all, readers of School Library Journal are adults, and kids viewing the cover know that many adults (legally) drink, so what’s the problem here?

I think the real issue is the coexistence of three things: Drinking, School & Library. As one letter-writer wrote: “The cover of the November issue is offensive. It does not portray an image of a school librarian with which I want to be associated.” Yikes!

For some reason, I thought of the scene in School of Rock where Jack Black takes the principal (played by nerd-girl extraordinaire Joan Cusack) out to a bar to butter her up. I remembered how squeamy it made me feel to see Cusack in her prissy teacher persona knock back a few beers and start moving and grooving to Stevie Nicks. Just like we all have to face the fact that yes, our parents have had sex, we also have to accept the reality that the people who work with our children are humans, not saints, and that some of them might occasionally enjoy a cocktail. Is that really so taboo?

And isn’t it better for teens to see responsible members of the community modeling responsible drinking, rather than some unattainable idea of Pollyanna perfection?

My favorite response to the letters was the blogger over at “Collecting Children’s Books, who suggested that anyone offended by the “liquored-up” cover–“Mormons, teetotalers, AA members, anyone who lives in a “dry country,” as well as old fuddy-duddies”–should send away for a “replacement alcohol-free” cover, which can be pasted over the offending illustration.”  (See below for her GOT MILK? Cover)

P.S. According to Elizabeth Bird, one of the women on the cover, the drinks were actually non-alcoholic, made from a “dishwater-like concoction of lime juice and pink food coloring.” The beverages in the alternate, GOT MILK cover, were..Milk of Magnesia!

P.P.S. Another great thing that came out of the cover controversy was the blog post by Liz B. over at A Chair, A Fireplace & a Tea Cozy, where she asked readers to list books for kids & teens “that don’t paint alcoholics and drug addicts as evil people.” Here are some that she (and others) listed: Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr, Rules of the Road and Best Foot Forward by Joan Bauer, Lush by Natasha Friend, Crash Into Me by Albert BorrisThe Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron, Tempo Change by Barbara Hall, and Last Night I Sang to the Monster by Benjamin Alire Saenz.  I would add Elizabeth Scott’s Love You, Hate You, Miss You. Anyone else?