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Saturday, May 05, 2007


Friends, it’s been a weird day.

As you must know by now, today was the day I said I was going to call the committee. The day went something like this:

Around 11 AM or so, I put up an update on yesterday’s post, giving the e-mail address of the local Bartlesville paper. I had contacted them days ago, but received no response.

12:30: I get a call from the local Bartlesville newspaper. (Amazing, huh?) I wasn’t asked many questions, but was allowed to talk pretty much to my heart’s content. I asked the reporter if she had contacted the committee members, and she said that she had tried, but had been unable to reach them.

2:00: I call all three committee members. I reach no one, but leave voice mails for all.

5:00: I get a call back from one committee member.

This is when things get weird.

He denied the whole thing.

“You’re telling me the book wasn’t banned?” I asked.

“We can’t ban it,” he said. “That’s for the school board.”

“So,” I said, “you’re telling me that you didn’t have a meeting last Friday around ten in the morning, with the participants listed. And that you didn’t vote to remove the book. And that you didn’t send word to this effect to the library at two that afternoon?”

He said maybe he remembered something about there being a meeting last week and maybe it was Friday. There was no answer to the rest.

I tried to get some kind of clear sense of what was happening, and the only thing I could get was that their ban—which he still didn’t seem to remember—is a non-binding ban until they get approval to ban. And something clearly happened last week, but as to what . . . there was no recollection. I got the idea that he was very unhappy about the fact that so many people were writing to him. He made this very clear.

It was a weird conversation. I spent a while when I got off the phone tapping my teeth and wondering why—if there was no ban—didn’t they just tell me that a week ago? Why did it take a week, plus a few hundred letters? And why did this phone call follow so closely the phone call from the newspaper?

And really, what kind of an answer did I really get?

I don’t particularly like confronting people or giving them a hard time. I also don’t like accusing people of things. But do you know that part in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where Cindy Lou Who catches the Grinch sneaking off with their tree in the middle of the night and asks, “Santy Claus, why? Why are you stealing our Christmas tree. Why?”

And the Grinch is on the spot, and so he says, “"There's a light on this tree that that won't light on one side! So I'm taking it home to my workshop my dear. I'll fix it up there, then I'll bring it back here!"

It felt like that.

Something about this conversation didn't add up.

So I did a little digging around, because as this has gone on, I’ve gotten to meet some of you from Bartlesville, including someone I will only refer to as Bartlesville’s own Veronica Mars. For good and sensible reasons, people have asked not to be identified or quoted—because there is trouble to be gotten into and jobs potentially lost (it’s amazing the trauma that can be created over talking about a book)—but here is the bottom line of what they have all told me:

1. There was a meeting last week.

2. It became painfully clear to this quite surprised committee that hundreds of people were suddenly watching them.

3. YOUR LETTERS WORKED. At least, they slowed whatever was happening and brought it out in the open.

I was just coming to all of these conclusions when Oscar Gingersnort called me. It was midnight in England and he had just come home from the pub, but that didn’t stop me from giving him a highly detailed rundown.

“So what you’re saying,” he said, “is that he called to deliver the good news that you have not yet been banned. They’re just halfway through it. They will ban you, they just need some time.”

“Right,” I said.

“That’s not much of an answer,” he said. "In fact, it's a #$&^#& answer."

“Right,” I said. “And it’s getting complicated. Lots of hemming and hawing and who said what to whom.”

“Things always get messy when people are caught in the middle of doing something they shouldn’t be doing,” he Obi-Waned on. “They start making excuses, and there are always lots of meetings, and people getting their stories straight. It's called saving face. Not they they even seem to be saving face much. It still sounds like the want to ban your book--they just don't want everyone watching.”

“Right,” I said. "Welcome to the world of book banning."

“Meanwhile,” he said, “all of this attention and all of these people reading your blog, and still no one has asked you to play a dead body on Law and Order.”

I was dumbstruck. He was right again!

“It’s not over,” I said.

“Far from it,” he agreed. “If anything, it sounds like you’re having an impact.”

I’ve spoken to Ninja Librarian Susan, and we’re agreed. We don’t stop until they say that the book stays on the shelf. My threat to come there and dance is still valid.

In all of this, maybe it seems like I’m saying that Bartlesville is a bad place. No way! Bartlesville seems like an excellent place. Ninja Librarian Susan is an inspiration, and I’ve spoken to many great people. Plus, they’re doing Oklahoma as the high school musical. In Oklahoma.

Come on. That deserves some serious credit.

Now, on a different note (just to keep my promise that I would eventually talk about something else) let me tell you my exciting SURPRISE NEWS! I’ve been bursting with this for days.

I am officially the SECRET SISTER OF JOHN AND HANK GREEN. That’s right. You’ll be able to see the girly side of Brotherhood2.0. (I’m leaving a space for you to write your own joke here.) I won’t be posting every day, like a real brother. But you’ll see me there.

As my very first act, here is my Hank Green birthday video. Didn’t you know it was Hank’s birthday?

If you take nothing else from this video, take this . . . I am going to see this thing through, if I have to dance my way there yet.

Maybe I'll see some of you at the Princeton Teen Book Festival. Please let me know what you think of this situation and my moves.

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Anonymous Ally said...

John told your secret before you got to tell it :( thats why i commented on the video before you posted it..like i said hilarious!! i LOVE it!

7:18 AM  
Blogger John Green said...

There is nothing improper about any of that dancing.

7:55 AM  
Anonymous Keisha said...

Ohhhh, I see, so it's a non-binding ban. They are just awaiting for approval before they ban it. Well, that is so much better. We shouldn't have written to him at all, especially since it appears that he is suffering from a severe case of amnesia. *sarcasm over* Seriously, what I take away from this, is that our letters actually did something. I find this very empowering. And your video was great Maureen!! I can't wait to see more of them!

8:03 AM  
Anonymous Ally said...

the first guy that danced made me smile..he was nice :) oh i didn't know Hank was going to be 12, i thought it was more like oh say 27..haha just kidding

ohhh i just bought Devilish and the Bermudez Triangle like 20 minutes ago!..I was shooting to pre-order Girl at Sea too but my mom said i need to wait after I read these books

8:37 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

I am going to talk to the librarians in person tomorrow, maybe even the principals (I saw them this evening, but didn't get the chance to say anything since I was watching the musical Oklahoma =) ).

My mother is on the library board, maybe she can provide some info...

-Veronica Mars

8:38 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

By the way, I researched Veronica Mars, and thanks a lot! =D

Also, nice video! =)

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Malcolm Tredinnick said...

My first reaction to the committee member's excuse when I was about halfway through the article (before the "what the...!?" Grinch moment) was similar to Oscar Gingersnort's response, although I didn't use all the punctuation when I said it (I'm allegedly an adult, I can swear in my own home).

I think the obvious hasn't been stated here: regardless of whether the school board can hide behind the "it's not our final decision" excuse, they didn't stand in the road and stop this problem, either. Standing by and doing nothing is hardly the epitome of responsibility for people in that position. They are apparently the first step in the process, so it would have been an appropriate point for this issue to have been stopped. "No, Mrs. Concerned Parent. We aren't going to recommend that this book be banned from the library to the detriment of all the children here." End of story, nobody loses. Well, okay, Maureen doesn't develop all these new friends that have come out of the woodwork as part of this mess, but she would have won us over with the videos eventually.

The committee members in question have sunk a bit lower in my opinion. Before I thought they had screwed up and they could fix it; now it's willful negligence.

[And I agree with John Green: none of the dancing in that video was inappropriate. Except maybe the stuff in subway carraige, but only because you put your feet on the seats, which we all know is a no-no, Maureen.]

9:47 AM  
Blogger Tobias said...


are all school boards that ignorant? because this week I read about a boy who made a map for the video game "counterstrike" (a shooter) which resembled his school. and a part of the school board didn't even show up to discuss what should happen..

it turned out the boy didn't mean anything bad (like the VT-shooting). but still, do school boards actually care about their students?

now I just hope that the bartlesville school board won't say something like "we never meant to ban that book". ooh well.

12:09 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Oh man, I'd love to go to the Princeton Teen Book Festival. Unfortunately I'm stuck at home doing a project with my loser project group. And today's the day Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer is coming out, and I can't even go to Barnes and Noble to scour the shelves for it. *sob*

5:35 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

Keep fighting!

I haven't a Christmas tree, nor a Hannukkah bush. I do, however, have cat-shaped ornaments. One is Sylvester. He is cooler than Tweety, much like you are cooler than bannies.

That's right. I'm making up a word.

Bannies: (noun) Those who would ban books.

Bannies are always humans (because why would any other animal ban a book?) and they are typically close-minded and/or responding to peer pressure (because even adults are subject to peer pressure).

I think we should write a new show called Degrassi: The PTA, because Degrassi -- it goes there. (Of course, that will really make no sense unless you are familiar with Degrassi.)

The phrase "phone tapping" caught my eye, then turned out to be not what it seemed.

Congratulations on becoming a Green girl and a Secret Sister. That video is the best birthday video I've ever seen.

9:11 PM  
Anonymous Shaolin Librarian said...

My God, you're awesome. I envy your chutzpah. Seriously, I do.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous iulia said...

oh oops didn't see this thing before anyway yea cool i would get your book, cause i read the little thing about it and it sounds really great, but my mom wont take me to the book store until the end of school, because she is evil, and thinks books destract me even though they don't. but she has decided to torture me anyway. yea glad it's not baned yet, and happy birthday hank.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Little Willow said...


9:58 PM  
Blogger Jordyn said...

I can just hear the committee meeting now.
Bannie #1: So, uh... we seem to be getting some, uh, flack from people about the book.
Bannie #2: Yeah, we keep getting all these letters. I thought nobody was supposed to know about it.
Bannie #1: Yeah! What's up with that?
Head Bannie: Okay, this is our plan; DENY EVERYTHING.
Bannie #1: Deny everything?

11:23 PM  
Blogger Becs said...

Ummmmm.... I think they're BSing you. My suspicions are that once they got wind of the fact that they could be sued for this, and once they realized that hundreds of people were calling them on it, the committee decided all of a sudden that the book hadn't actually been banned. Maybe I'm cynical. Maybe not.

"do school boards actually care about their students?"

In my experience, they do not. You have to get lucky. I've been lucky. I haven't had problems. My little brother has not been. He's had one screwd up teacher after another, and no one, school board, principal, whatever, has really ever bothered to do anything about it. They care about punishing kids, not teaching them.

I may have issues with school systems. :P

YAY!! Congrats on being a Secret Sister! :D

3:16 AM  
Blogger Ashley said...

I move that we officially adopt the term "bannie" from here on out, and use it similar to the term "The Others" from Lost.
They are just as creepy, mysterious, and make no sense.
Watch out before The Bannies start taking our own. (John had better watch his back -- he could be next.)

3:32 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

I would lying if I said I wasn't glad to hear others using the term bannie. People I don't even know. Oh yeah.

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Joa said...

So I have been thinking this issue through (how could I not? It's everywhere! All the people of the world, or at least Brotherhood 2.0, love you, Maureen!) and just realized that this whole thing could very well be a blessing in disguise. Most people are actually more inclined to read a book if it has been banned somewhere, regardless of the reason (or, in this case, pretty much lack thereof). Soon there will be no such thing as banning a Maureen Johnson book (the 28th Amendment, the 11th Commandment, the 6th Brotherhood 2.0 Rule) and this Oklahoma library will have contemporary young adult novels out of their ears, so many will have been donated. See what I mean? And then again, this could be just the popularity you need for that dead-body issue. And if that doesn't work out, maybe you can just make up your own episode with strangers on the street dancing madly, accidentally kicking you, and you die. Plot-twist involves Free Monkey!

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Dawn said...

I loved that video!! You have officially EARNED your place as The Green Secret Sister. :)

5:41 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

People who have been using the term bannie, I move to cease use of the term. I think it is demeaning to the committee members here in Bartlesville. I would like to only be fair since we haven't gotten a full response from all committee members about their actions, plus you do not know who voted what. Many committee members wanted to keep the book. Here in Bartlesville, few people actually know about this book incedent aside from the parent who made the complaint and the committee members and other individuals involved. I found out when the librarian Susan Hunt informed the journalism advisor at the high school, who told me. The reason this is not a big deal is because the parent has not made a big fuss about it other than trying to ban the book. The letter sent to the editor by Beth DeGeer did not seem to attract much attention here. The most people who know about this are outside of Bartlesville, and that impacts Bville very little, other than our reputation, which really saddens me to be quite honest. Because Bartlesville is not in a burning conflict over this book (although the waterpark issue is a different deal...) is one reason why the committee members may not have responded. I hate to sound like Devil's Advocate, but I would like to show both sides of the issue as fair as possible, though I think the actions of the parent involved are inexcusable.

I still have not been contacted by any committee members, though I sent them emails yesterday. I hope to get some information soon.

-Bartlesville's Veronica Mars

7:34 AM  
Blogger Little Willow said...

I was not using the word to specify the person or persons involved in this incident in that town. I was creating a noun in general - and in all fun; see: Degrassi reference - to simply mean someone who has banned a book. I did not mean to offend. I only mean to support this book and its author.

8:15 AM  
Blogger Laurel said...

I realize that, but as an outsider view, or a view from one of the people on the committee, it seems directed towards them.

I don't remember that specific Degrassi reference... I need to watch more new Degrassi =D

12:42 AM  
Blogger charly geater said...

I just want to let you know that I have recently discovered that my local library system has three copies of the Bermudez Triangle (I hadn't checked before because it usually doesn't have any good YA - it's in a pretty boring part of England - but after all of this banning mess I thought I'd have a look). I've totally reserved one of them, it looks amazing!

Anyway, hope you manage to get them to... not ban your book. Ugh, so ridiculous!

2:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The committee member's comments just sound way too much like Alberto Gonzales and the Prosecutor Purge Scandal.

4:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's propably the funniest videoclip I've seen in a while. I fell in love with that sweet nerd who really wanted to dance. I bet he was just waiting for someone to look at him dancing. :)

I really would love to comment on that whole book banning scenario but I'm just speechless and stunned by the whole thing. You never really pay attention to stuff like that. Hmmh... more power to you!

-Olli, from Finland

9:17 AM  
Blogger Jordyn said...

Regarding the use of the term 'bannie'.

I propose we keep the word. It is fun to say, fun to write, and funny.

I was not using it in regards to the entire committee, just the few anonymous members who pushed the banning.

1:07 AM  
Blogger NightDrive said...

The first time I saw this (on youtube) I was like...woah...how did she get that woman to dance on the subway? That is so awesome. Then I kept watching in amazment...and slowly realized that it was you. And I was still amazed because you danced on the subway...but slightly less amazed than before. But yay!

11:45 AM  

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