Less than a week after This One Summer by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki was removed from three elementary schools in Seminole County, Florida, the critically acclaimed graphic novel is now under fire in the district’s high schools as well.
A new report from the same local TV station that previously issued a heavily biased story on the matter says that Seminole County Schools has undertaken “formal steps to label the book inappropriate, removing it from three high schools as well.” A search of the district-wide library catalog, however, shows that This One Summer apparently has not in fact been removed from high school libraries–yet. Out of three copies left in the district, two are currently checked out and one should be on the shelf at Lyman High School. We hope this means that the school district is following its challenge policy (4.36, section V) for those copies, which may be what WFTV interpreted as “formal steps to label the book inappropriate.”
If that is the case, of course, then the book’s removal from the high school libraries is by no means certain. The lengthy challenge policy includes multiple levels of review: building principal, school-level review committee, superintendent (who may appoint a district-wide review committee), and finally the full school board. At each juncture, if the parent who challenged the book is not satisfied with the result they may appeal to the next level. In this case, that parent will apparently be the mother of a third-grader who originally found the book in an elementary school library–even though those elementary copies have already been removed.
Despite WFTV’s continued vendetta against This One Summer, which the new report says is “filled with obscenities and sexual situations,” there is no question that the book is age-appropriate for high school students. Its publisher First Second recommends it for ages 12-18. Last year it received both a Caldecott Honor for illustration and a Printz Honor for outstanding teen books, as well as starred reviews in Booklist, The Horn Book, Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and School Library Journal. Some libraries and schools have admittedly been caught off-guard by the book’s more mature content due to the common misconception that Caldecott Honorees are always appropriate for elementary-age readers, but there is no reason to consider removing it from high school or even middle school collections.
WFTV has also asked several other Orlando-area school districts if they have This One Summer in any of their libraries. So far, Orange County Public Schools has replied that it has no copies; Osceola County removed it from one elementary school and scrapped plans to add it at another one, but kept it in high school libraries; and both Lake County and Brevard County have it in high school libraries with “no plans to pull the book from the shelves.”
We will be closely watching developments in Seminole County. For librarians and teachers who may need to defend This One Summer in their own collections, check out our resource guide which brings together reviews, praise, and award lists that included the book.
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.