Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, whose This One Summer, landed at the top of the American Library Association’s list of 2016’s most challenged books, issued a statement about the book’s frequent challenges:
This One Summer is a book about two girls’ summer at a cottage in Northern Ontario. When we wrote this book our goal was to create a story that explored the experience of summer and of adults, from a young person’s perspective.
This book was not created for elementary readers, but for young readers. The publisher lists it for ages 12 to 18. There has been some controversy as to its inclusion on the Caldecott Honor list, so maybe it bears repeating that the ALA defines children as up to and including age 14. We agree the book is not for young children, nor was it intended for that audience.
We worry about what it means to define certain content, such as LGBTQ content, as being of inappropriate for young readers. Which implicitly defines readers who do relate to this content, who share these experiences, as not normal, when really they are part of the diversity of young people’s lives.
A book doesn’t stop existing by taking it off the shelf. Nor do the ideas contained within. Pulling a book from a library shelf makes it inaccessible to kids who depend on the library for books. It’s an infringement on the freedom to read, to explore, to experience things outside of your world, to see yourself and your story in the pages of the books you read.
The main character of This One Summer, Rose, is often afraid, confused, exposed to things outside of her comfort zone, things she doesn’t completely understand. We believe that is part of growing up. Life is often upsetting. But upsetting things in books are not actually happening in real life, but at a safe distance. You can read about an experience outside of your own, and gain the opportunity to better understand someone who it happens to in reality. You get to experience some of those emotions, without a personal price.
Connecting to an experience outside of your own, or inside your own, is the core of social-emotional education, of developing empathy, which is very much needed in our current climate.