8 books for pupils withheld Concerns include magic, racial issues


WESTMINSTER -- Concerns about magic and witchcraft in child fantasy books, and about sexual and racial stereotyping, -- prompted Carroll County's Curriculum Council to withhold approval yesterday of eight among more than 200 books being considered for use in county schools.

The eight books the council temporarily pulled from consideration will be the subjects of separate votes on paper by the group, a book-screening committee that recommends books banning them to the school board.

Members will mail in their ballots on those books by next Friday.

Several of the parent members were concerned that the book, "If You Lived at the Time of Martin Luther King," by Ellen Levine, stereotyped white people. All members of the curriculum council who attended yesterday's meeting and those who attended other meetings this year were white.

One mother, who declined to be identified, said the book did not represent the fact that some whites supported the civil rights movement.

However, the book does say, on the second page, "It is the story of blacks and their white supporters working together to make a better world for themselves and their children."

The book also mentions support from Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Each year, the Curriculum Council, which has more than 90 members, meets to review any new materials to be used in classrooms. About 50 members attended the meeting yesterday Westminster High School. Most of them were mothers.

Each school appoints two representatives who serve with some students and other representatives from the community, such as the Carroll League of Women Voters. Perspectives ranged from conservative to liberal.

The council approved more than 200 textbooks and "trade" books -- novels and other books that are not texts. Those were the books about which no members raised concerns.

The council's final list of recommended books will go to the school board in June for approval.

The process is necessary for any books that are to be used in quantity in classrooms, said Gary Dunkleberger, the school system's director of curriculum.

Some of the books already have been in use because they were mistakenly used in classrooms before the Curriculum Council and the school board approved them, he said. When unapproved books are discovered, they go to the council for review with the new books.

Parent Patricia Stauffer of Hampstead said she would like teachers to have the flexibility to order books in the middle of the year, without waiting a whole year for the council to approve them.

"I trust the teachers," Mrs. Stauffer said. "I don't like to see their hands tied."

One parent suggested another council meeting in the fall so that teachers who learn of interesting books over the summer can get them approved for use that year.

Cheryl A. McFalls of Manchester, a former school board member, and two other parents objected to "The First Thanksgiving," by Linda Hayward, because it did not mention the religious motivation of the Pilgrims' arrival in the New World and their giving of thanks.

Another book still up for review is "Curious George Goes to School," by Shalleck Rey. One mother said she was concerned that the book encourages sexual stereotypes: all schoolgirls pictured were wearing dresses instead of pants and the only parents pictured at a school event were mothers.

In "Fudge-a-mania," by Judy Blume, a few parents did not like the way the main character, a boy, spoke in disdain about his younger brother and sister.

Parents defend book

Several parents rose to the book's defense, saying it is immensely popular among children for its lighthearted approach and fast pace, and is likely to encourage them to read more books.

"It's a very loving family," said Mrs. Stauffer, who represents Hampstead Elementary School. "They had problems with the baby, but that is life."

Mrs. Stauffer said her children were like the ones in "Fudge-a-mania." The mother who objected to the book said her children were, too, but that she didn't think books should encourage that behavior.

Parent Dee Davis of Finksburg said she was concerned about "The Magic of the Black Mirror," by Ruth Chew, but said she was unable to find a copy to read.

"I researched other books by the author, and all of them have to do with magic, witchcraft, wizardry. They're all representative of the same attitude," Mrs. Davis said.

The book was read by at least two members of the council. One, Dorothy Bennett, who represents Piney Ridge Elementary School, said she liked it. She said it was about a boy and girl who look into a shiny black stone and are transported back in time to an Indian village.

"It doesn't really have that much magic in it," Mrs. Bennett said. "It's a time-travel story."

However, because many parents hadn't read the book, the council pulled it back for a separate vote.

Concern about magic

Parents expressed similar concerns about the mention of magic in a fantasy book called "The Power of the Rellard," by Carolyn Logan.

The council also will vote on "My Name is Not Angelica," by Scott O'Dell. Mrs. McFalls and Carol Thomas of Manchester said they felt the book was good for its historical value but was not appropriate for fifth-graders.

The book is based on a slave revolt in 1733 in the West Indies.

Mrs. Thomas said the brutality depicted in the book and a reference to two men who, she said, "force themselves" on an African slave are inappropriate for children that age.

Mrs. McFalls objected to the mass suicide at the end, in which a large group of slaves jump off a cliff rather than surrender to an army. The main character, a female slave, chooses not to jump, referring to her unborn child as keeping her grounded to the earth and to life.

A few parents were concerned that "Mysteries of Ships and Planes" is out of date, because certain sinkings and air disappearances in the book have been explained since it was published in 1990.

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