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Wishing you all peace and plenty and a good book by a roaring fire.

posted by JANE    December 21, 2010 12:55 PM  




Well the Times broke the lamentable story today of the decision by the powers-that-be at Blue Peter to remove Andy Mulligan's widely praised novel from its Favourite Novel prize shortlist. So the shortlist revealed tomorrow will NOT be one the judges made earlier....
The reasons given by the BBC are that there is a scene in a police station that is too frightening for younger readers and that there are swear words that are unacceptable. Their decision was made a week after the publishers, the author and I were told of the shortlist place and happened because someone who had nothing to do with the judging, and no professional experience of childrens' books 'didn't feel right about it.' This 'feeling' has produced panic and chaos amongst people who readily admitted to not having read the whole book.
There are two serious issues here, apart from the natural disappointment of the author and the additional profile and sales of his book that would have resulted. The whole issue of 'suitability' is hugely complicated. TRASH is an action/adventure thriller set in a third world country. It is not in any way deliberately harrowing. The scene in the police station is one in which one of the 14 year old heroes is threatened by a corrupt, terrifying police officer and he is hung from a window to try to make him admit to finding something on the trash mountain where he scrapes a living. He is also called a 'piece of shit'.
This scene exists to show the bravery of the chlld and the brutality of the police. It is there - and it's a short scene - to heighten the excitement of the chase. (These boys MUST escape. They MUST find the clue...).
It was taken completely out of context by the producers. The book is described by the publisher as an 'all read'. Its structure is quite complex in that there are various narrators and for this reason it would be hard to follow for a reader below roughly bright 8 year old level. Because of the issues of third world morality and political corruption its reader level is officially described as roughly 10 - 14. However I as an adult think it is one of the most exciting books I have read for years  and I would have no qualm about giving it to an 8 year old. This 'what is suitable' debate is fascinating, but it is not one for Blue Peter to get involved with because....
they had appointed a judging panel of two people they describe as 'industry heavyweights' and one of their own staff! Three people who would surely have known what they were supposed to be looking for and who were FILMED making their decision. They were OVERSEEN by one of their own deputy editors, by two representatives of the prize organizing body Book Trust, and by an representative of an independent body called Beyond Dispute. Could TRASH be so 'unsuitable' as to have wrong- footed all these people?
I think this 'DUMPING OF TRASH' decision is part of an insidious 'we know what's best for you' culture. There is such terror of 'offence' that publically funded organisations like the BBC will risk the publicity that is already growing about this censorship of its own judges rather than say 'there's been a lot of debate about this title, but we'll tell you that and let you judge for yourselves..'
All I know is that this is a wonderful, exciting book with its heart firmly in the right place. I am immensely proud to be its agent. Buy it if you have a child (especially a boy) who doesn't read much and see for yourself.

posted by JANE    December 06, 2010 8:13 PM  



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