- Benign Grandma? Or Dirty Wiccan? U Decide
Katherine Paterson, whose Bridge to Terabithia was the eighth most challenged book of the 90s according to the American Library Association—ahead of Heather Has Two Mommmies and Catcher in the Rye!—is set to become the national ambassador for young people’s literature tomorrow.
That swears-like-a-sailor Satanist?
The position, appointed by the Library of Congress’ Center for the Book and the nonprofit Every Child a Reader, features a speaking role at May’s Children’s Book Week in New York and September’s National Book Festival in Washington, as well as appearances across the country to audiences of parents, children and librarians, who will surely be subjected to her foul-mouthed lectures on devil worship.
Though Paterson or her novels haven’t appeared on the ALA’s Top 10 list of challenged authors or books since 2003, Bridge to Terabithia has been questioned since its publication in 1977 (the year it won the ALA’s Newbery Medal) on decency and religious grounds, most recently for its “occult/satanism and offensive language”. The characters say words like (decency alert!) “damn” and “hell” and sometimes take the Lord’s name in vain. “Then there are more complicated reasons,” Paterson told Bookselling This Week back in 2002. “The children build an imaginary kingdom, and there was the feeling that I was promoting the religion of secular humanism, and then New Age religion.” (Also, kids are disrespectful to their parents, the notion of Hell is discredited, a family only attends church on holidays—while another does not attend at all!—and a kid dies. Young readers, of course, can’t handle death.)
Don’t let Paterson’s missionary parents, clergymember husband, or own history of missionary work fool you! She’s as steeped in the black arts as J.K. Rowling.
Of course, if book burners really want to object to Bridge to Terabithia, they need look no further than a scene (unmentioned in this comprehensive rundown of the book’s offenses) in which the young male and female protagonists enjoy a wild scene of cow milking, the opaque fluid flying, soaking both as they giggle themselves silly. Even I raised an eyebrow.