Amid breaking news about a major publisher on the block and distribution woes, the topic that has many book people up in arms involves the use of a single word to describe a component of the male genitalia. organ.

At least that's what been happening at watercoolers and on listservs in the children's book world because the recent Newbery Award—winning novel, The Higher Power of Lucky, uses the word "scrotum" on its very first page!

As PW's e-newsletter Children's Bookshelf reported last week, some librarians are declining to put the offending book, published by Atheneum/Richard Jackson, on their shelves. "My principal and I discussed it," wrote one, "and I will not be purchasing this particular Newbery." If she did, she fears that she will have "angry parents in [her] office" protesting it. Another agreed that she expects the book to be "challenged" —by parents or teachers, she doesn't say—and besides, she doesn't want to "cover the vocabulary." To be sure, there are plenty of librarians who are at least as shocked by this outcry as others are by the book itself—"I'm thinking of reading it aloud [to the] seventh grade," one said, but he seems to be well outnumbered. "I think [this flap] is absurd," he adds.

I'll say. First of all, the book—about a girl named Lucky trying to find herself in a tiny California town—is much less violent than many of the fantasy novels regularly published for this age group; besides, the more protective parents among us might say that the defining moment in young Lucky's life—her mother is electrocuted and dies during a storm—is by far more disturbing than a mention of a testicular sack. (Ditto the fact that Lucky regularly listens to rock-bottom stories from alcoholics, gamblers and other 12-steppers.) Not to mention that the novel is also altogether less sexually provocative, than, say, the average article in US magazine that describes Britney Spears's sex life. And while it's not unheard of for prize-winning, popular novels to spark this kind of controversy—Judy Blume was once banned, remember, as was 1978's Newbery winner, Bridge to Terabithia, the movie version of which was coincidentally released last Friday—this time the hue and cry is just wacky. "It really brings to light how bad things are," one librarian wrote.

Certainly, parents and teachers have a right to decide what they do and do not feel comfortable having their children read—I remember in the seventh grade a group of mothers (though not, happily, my own) laid into the science teacher because he had proposed that we study Brave New World. (He dropped the requirement, which convinced my mother I absolutely had to read it.) And surely, librarians must pay attention to their various constituencies. But really, in a world where 10-year-olds have access to images of war and terrorism and hate, is a single biological term really worth getting worked up about?

Oh, and did I mention one other thing about that worrisome scrotum? It belongs to a character named Roy—and Roy is, literally, a dog.

Agree? Disagree? Tell us at