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Privates And The Public

July 07, 1991

Maurice Sendak, writer-artist of children's books, is justified in his complaint (June 16) about librarians who select his book, "In the Night Kitchen," which depicts a nude boy, and then blot out, in various ways, this boy's penis and testicles. He asks why these nervous Nellies buy his book and then decide to commit such "outrageous mistreatment" of it?

On the other hand, it is unreasonable for Sendak to maintain that it is the duty of children's librarians to buy books like his under the assumption that unless children see pictures of their peers in the nude they will not come to understand "the dignity and truth of the human body." I know of no scholarly evidence that supports Sendak's insistence that unless young children see such pictures they will become "ashamed of what is natural and good."

What Sendak fails to comprehend is that it has been and will continue to be a basic professional responsibility of children's librarians to make censorious judgments as to which books are fit to be offered to children. Society in general, as well as parents, agree.

Sendak's depiction of this protection of children as "smug philistinism" proves nothing beyond his bitter resentment of generally accepted moral values.

PATRICK GROFF

Professor

San Diego State U.

SAN DIEGO

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