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posted on fri, may. 19, 2006


parent loses fight to ban book
committee votes to keep 'abduction!' on library shelves

pioneer press

denny thurman never contacted his son, matt, until he needed money for his gambling addiction.

with a gun in hand, thurman devised a plan to kidnap the kindergartner for ransom money. his plan: take matt's terrier, pookie, to lure the boy away.

the father and son are fictional characters. but for at least one apple valley parent in district 196, peg kehret's mystery novel "abduction!" is too close to reality.

an 11-member advisory committee of parents, teachers and librarians voted unanimously thursday to keep "abduction!" despite shiuvan harris' testimony that it was too violent. harris had filed papers to have the book pulled from the shelves of two middle- and eight elementary-school libraries.

harris didn't allow her daughter, 10-year-old coa murrell, to finish reading "abduction!" after she had checked it out from the echo park elementary library in burnsville. harris said the book was too violent and made her daughter fearful.

"this is something you would see on lifetime tv or a movie rated pg-13," said harris, who read the 215-page book. "as a parent, i want to be able to control what my children have access to."

librarian linda carlson of westview elementary in apple valley said while parents should have control over what their children read, what one parent wants for her child should not be universal for all. she added that all books are carefully screened before a school purchases them.

it's a battle playing out nationwide.

according to the american library association, at least 405 books were challenged nationwide in 2005. the actual number could be four to five times what is reported, said judith krug, director of the association's office for intellectual freedom.

the last time a book was up for reconsideration in the rosemount-apple valley-eagan district was six years ago; "darwin on trial" was kept, while "darwin's black box" was banned.

books, mainly those about sexuality, are often debated, indicating a shift toward more conservative views across the country, krug said.

"what we're dealing with is a minority of people who are very vocal," krug said. "these people are small in number but they start screeching, and people start getting concerned."

conservative or not, advisory committee member and parent janet westenberg shared harris' concern, though she voted to keep "abduction!" westenberg, who doesn't allow her kids to view some disney movies, said there must be a balance between access to information and appropriate library materials available to students.

bill allyson, another parent and committee member, agreed with westenberg but said "abduction!" also could be used as a teaching tool. allyson's kids will read the book, he said.

a majority of committee members praised harris for taking an active role in her daughter's reading.

kehret, the author of the disputed book, said in an interview that if her book was too staid, readers wouldn't get the message: the potential danger of a stranger approaching a child.

"what i object to is one parent trying to keep other people's kids from reading the book," said kehret, whose book was nominated for a 2005 edgar allan poe award. "i'm a 69-year-old woman, grandmother and widow. what harm could i be?"

toward the end of "abduction!," matt's sister also is abducted. but the siblings are able to outsmart thurman.

matt uses a ball to knock over thurman when his sister yells, "zinger," their code for "throw." thurman drops a small handgun that his sister throws in the water before the two are rescued.

harris acknowledges that no actual violence takes place in the book, but that the threat of it is still too much for young children.

"kids are like sponges," harris said. "we have to help them find right and wrong."

bao ong can be reached at bong@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5435.





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