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Tuesday, May 08, 2007


This weekend, I was at the Princeton Teen Book Bash, which was a very good time. Free Monkey was there with me, enjoying the sun and all of the good company. I got to meet some of you, which is always a pleasure.

Several people came up to my table to talk to me about the Battle of Bartlesville. A lot of those people were librarians with words of support for this campaign. Librarian after librarian came up and said things like, “It was interesting hearing what it was like for you—but weird because this is what happens to us all the time. We are constantly dealing with challenges. It’s good to know that the authors are willing to fight back.”

Yup. I know. I find it shocking, and Free Monkey is always rendered speechless by this fact, but it’s true.

A confession: there were moments in this like I felt like kind of a jerk, like I was giving people who were probably otherwise quite nice a hard time.

But here’s the thing . . .

I don’t for a moment think that people who challenge books or who serve on committees that recommend book removal wake up each day, rub their hands together gleefully, and ask the human skull by their bedside, “What eeeevil shall we do today, my boney friend?” The decision to ban/remove/challenge/burn a book is always dressed up as something else, something noble, or something administrative or biological that simply can’t be helped, like taxes and death.

As E. Lockhart, who is currently sitting next to me, just said, “Nobody calls themselves a book banner.”


Bad things are sometimes not as obvious as they could be.

Good things have come out of the actions of some otherwise reprehensible people, and some terrible decisions have been made with the very best of intentions. We all have to sit in the naughty corner from time to time. So I stand by everything I’ve said, and I object to the action.

So let’s get to the update!

One of the committee members—the same one I spoke to on Friday—has written to me today to reiterate the fact that the book is not banned yet. He said that the committee sent a recommendation to the superintendent, and apparently he will make the next move.

I asked this committee member the following questions directly:

1. What was the committee’s recommendation?

2. Since the book is now only mid-ban (whoopee!), would they accept a box of donated copies?

3. Has he had the chance to read the book since the meeting on Friday, April 27th?

The responses:

1. He won’t say. He asked me to write to the head of the committee, and her e-mail address is toast. The local newspaper is trying, too. So I just don’t know what they said! (I’ll bet I can guess, but guessing doesn’t count.)

2. No answer on the donated copies. I’ll take that as a “Yes, please!”

3. He said he read the book LAST WEEK. Yes, that would be after the meeting at which (as far as I know) the still-secret decision was made. And yeah, I’d read it too if the paper was calling me and hundreds of well-spoken readers were dropping eloquent notes into my inbox . . . so that if I was asked, I could SAY I’d read it, even if I hadn’t read it when it really mattered.

Do I think that the people on the committee are covering their posteriors? I’ll say this . . . I think there was a reason it took a full week and a hundred or more letters and a call from a newspaper before I got a somewhat fumbling reply of any kind—and the best anyone can tell me that the book hasn’t been banned yet.

One of the more bizarre aspects of all of this is the secrecy in which this action was conducted. Without the actions of the librarian, no one would have known this happened. Book banning often happens in small meetings, out of sight. If you’re going to do something like this, I think you have the responsibly of making it public. It’s amazing what happens when you just add public knowledge to the equation.

And now this whole affair is public knowledge, why couldn’t he just tell me what the committee’s recommendation was? What’s the big secret?

Well, who knows? And maybe just asking that question here will get me an answer. I can’t seem to get the Law and Order people, but I sure can get a lot of seriously proactive book lovers. When I post questions here about this issue, they seem to get answered, like magic.

In any case, I can’t change what happened in the last few weeks, and I can’t do anything except speculate on the bureaucratic cha-cha that’s going on now. The good news is that now, because of everyone’s effort, the outcome is still open. Now it remains to be seen what the recommendation was, and whether it will be taken.

For me, a few really important things have come out of this whole experience.

- When you let people know that book banning is going on, they (and by they, I mean you guys) will act. I never expected the response I got when I first put this news out there.

- I think some potential book removers have been put on notice. When you try to take books out of libraries—WE MAY ALL TALK ABOUT YOU. Shame is an amazingly powerful thing.

So, now I’m going to pack up a box o’Bermudez and send it down to the school, then I’m going to wait and see what happens next. You can be assured that I will tell you guys the minute I know something.

While all of this has been going on, the Girl At Sea release date has rolled closer. I was shocked when I looked at the calendar and saw how soon it was coming!

FREE MONKEY, however, has been on top of this. And he has something to say.

Those of you who subscribe to my newsletter, (that little box to the right, top of the page) already know that FREE MONKEY is planning something special for the release of Girl At Sea. You see, I can only go so many places for the tour. I also have a book I’m working on right now, and while my editor Emma Lollipop has not yet superglued me to my desk chair, that may be something she considers in the future.

So, FREE MONKEY has offered to do some of the traveling for me.

Yes, you heard it right! Free Monkey wants to get out there and meet you! Here’s how that can happen. Send me an e-mail using the link below explaining who you are, where you live, and what you would like to do with FREE MONKEY. Will you take him somewhere exciting and take pictures? Will you care for him?

Those selected will have 48 hours with Free Monkey! Then you have to send him back to me. You must be very trustworthy! And not hurt him!
FREE MONKEY himself will make the selections, and there can only be FIVE visits--so make your letters good! He is very discriminating.

He’s just set the deadline for these entries. Get your letters in by Wednesday, May 23rd!

Where will FREE MONKEY end up?

And rest assured, there will be more Girl At Sea events, and more videos are on the way. In the meantime, here’s hoping for the Battle of Bartlesville. What do you think will happen?

UPDATE: check out this video from Bartlesville . . . Viva la Internets!

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Anonymous Joa said...

Have you gotten in contact with any of the students in Bartlesville? Maybe they have something to say on the matter, excluding the beat-around-the-bush response that you seem to get from that committee member. And you can sort of have someone inside to tell you what really happens with those books you sent (whether they notice them in the library the next day on a big display, or the school spontaneously schedules a community bonfire).

2:16 AM  
Anonymous Nuwon Wearspants said...

I'm proud of us as fans for correctly representing you in the Bartlesville book ban-proposal/thingy (since the book hasn't officially been banned, and all). I think it's kind of ridiculous how the members of the commitee are acting like they, too, have just now heard of this. Maybe, though, they have and/or will realize the judgmental mistake they have made and reconsider things - this time and next time a situation like this occurs. I hope this is not wishful thinking, but as the song goes, "We're not gonna' take it!" (Twisted Sisters). So, we're not going to take it! No, we ain't gonna' take it. We're also going to "fight for our right" to read books.
Also, Maureen, you rock. Just so ya' know.

2:24 AM  
Blogger Cassandra Mortmain said...

Was I the only one who read this lengthy entry about exposing secret inner workings others are trying to keep hidden, and then saw Maureen's mention of wanting to play a corpse on Law and Order and thought WOW, they could have a "ripped from the headlines" plot about a YA author investigating the banning of her book and getting killed! There could be clues in the Green brothers' video blogs, or I Heart YA.

Maybe it's more Murder She Wrote than Law and Order.... but either way, I think it's got real promise.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I think Free Monkey needs to come visit us in B'ville. Obvi.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Check your email...

4:58 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

I'm thinking I'm the only one MJ has talked to here in Bville

hey Amy, where are you in Bville, Mid-High or High School?

I'd love to see an episode of Criminal Intent (Law and Order spin off, fyi) with this as a subplot. Awesome!


6:45 AM  
Blogger Penni said...

Ah, bureaucracy and book banning. It doesn't really surprise me that they're, like, dating.

Hopefully the Superintendent will put an end to this madness. And not maketh more madness.

Go you, anyway.

8:14 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

Go Laura!!

and Maureen!!!


8:19 AM  
Blogger Becs said...

Awesome video. :)

8:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can free monkey visit across the pond? because that would be really cool:D

Rock on!!!


6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(I meant England, UK btw)

6:57 PM  
Blogger Jessica Burkhart said...

Stay strong and keep fighting, Maureen! I'm getting the book tomorrow and can't wait to read it. :)

7:53 PM  
Anonymous Nuwon Wearspants said...

I admire the courage the girl who posted the video has. I think it's people like that that also need to be acknowledged. Because, yes, I'm sure there is more than ONE person that thinks the book should be banned (a la committe) but, at the same time, I can figure that there are a lot of students who disagree with the situation. I think that a consideration should be made towards the many people that disagree with the actions taking place in Bartlesville. Again, at the same time, I don't agree with the idea to ban a book based on one persons opinion. And, I love Oscar Wilde! And Maureen Johnson! =)

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

YAY!!you no in the e-mail i sent you it said that i was getting the books on Thursday? Well they came today(tues)!!! im happy now :)

2:27 AM  
Blogger Sarah Beth Durst said...

Hi Maureen,

So great to see you (and Free Monkey, of course) at the Princeton Book Bash!

Hope all goes well with the Bartlesville saga. Thanks for keeping us all updated.


7:06 AM  
Blogger Jez said...

This girl rocks, I'm very proud of her for voicing her opinion like this with the controversy it's causing at her school.

I hope the administration and the book banners see this, because she has great points (especially with what she said about pulling off Wilde and Marx too).

Good luck saving your book in Bartlesville, Maureen! I'm off to find some way to join in the fight without an email (because their boxes are stuffed and they're probably just hitting the delete button anyway) and to figure out where I'm going to take Free Monkey if he chooses to come to Chicago.

7:55 AM  
Blogger A.R.Yngve said...

The girl journalist in Bartlesville who posted that video has admirable integrity, especially as it's a small town and she's bound to get a lot of grief from small-minded small-town people...

Kudos to her and best of luck fighting the book-banning cabal, Maureen.

(Actually, I'm still surprised that book-bannings occur in America in 2007. Some parts of it are stuck in a time warp??)

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Laurel- neither. I'm a big kid now. :)

6:34 PM  
Anonymous kiersten said...

is free mokey a girl or a boy? just wondering. not really sure why. i was imagining what i would do with free monkey for two days. we would have to visit forever 21 and get him/her one of the cute baby shirts they sell there. every monkey deserves a forever 21 shirt. and a pirate costume.

11:12 PM  
Blogger Laurel said...

ahhhh, for some reason I thought you were schooling in Bville.



12:26 AM  
Anonymous cep program said...

thank you nice sharing

3:46 PM  

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