Sunday, February 25, 2007

By Request, I'm Chiming In

So, I've had many people request my opinion on the whole deal with the latest Newbery Medalist, The Higher Power of Lucky and its use of the word "scrotum" in the first chapter.

First, just let me say that the reason I haven't contributed anything about this topic previously is because I felt that so many other people were already writing things about it. You can read a summary of the affair here, and some other clever thoughts here and here. I just didn't think that people wanted more to read about dogs' bollocks. But apparently, I was wrong, and who am I to second-guess my readership? Plus, whenever I am ever specifically requested to blab about a topic, I'm usually happy to oblige. (And oblige and oblige.)

So: I think that anyone who has actually read the entire book would think that this knee-jerk censorship is rather silly. Librarians who have stated that they have seriously considered the book and still wouldn't purchase it under the softy excuse that "it just wouldn't be appropriate for our patrons" are wimps.

Come on, people! It's about a dog getting bit by a snake in the crotch! Do you think that your library patrons have never watched America's Funniest Home Videos? Sheesh!

But if you want to censor the book, fine. I guess I can't come over to your library and stop you. However, I can give you a slam-bangin' good plan for doing the said censoring of said book.

1. Find as many copies of The Higher Power of Lucky as you can.

2. Turn to the pages that contain the word "scrotum."

3. Black out the word and write the phrase "dirty pillows" above it.

As we all know from the book and movie Carrie, substituting all references to human and animal anatomy with non-descript guilt-inducing catchphrases will result in the spontaneous development of telekenesis.

That's right -- an entire generation of American children will grow up with the ability to move objects with their mind and be tormented ruthlessly by their classmates in high school, and then go on to wreak bloody havoc at their senior proms. No, really!

So, as a warning: don't chaperone the dances for the Class of 2015. Just to be on the safe side.


jules said...

Nice addition to the ongoing dialogue.

Julia said...

That, right there, is the best commentary ever on the subject! I knew you wouldn't disappoint!

Josephine Cameron said...

you said "dirty pillows"
seriously...couldn't agree more.

Anonymous said...

I did not see an email address on your site so I am sending you a press release via your comment box


Rubenstein Communications, Inc:
Katie Schroeder; 212-843-8036;

Scholastic, Inc:
Kris Moran, 212-389-3789;

For Immediate Release

Turtle Pond Publications and Lafarge EcoSystems Launch OWENANDMZEE.COM

Kid-Friendly Site will feature User-Generated Content and offer Updates on Remarkable Relationship of Beloved Baby Hippo and Giant Tortoise to Millions across the Globe

Scholastic Sequel “Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship” Debuts on New York Times Bestseller List

NEW YORK, NY – February 28, 2007 - Turtle Pond Publications and Lafarge EcoSystems today announced the launch of the official website for Owen and Mzee, the unlikely pair of friends that captured the hearts of millions when a giant Aldabran tortoise became a surrogate parent and inseparable friend to a baby hippo orphaned by the Tsunami in 2004. Owen and Mzee’s remarkable friendship sparked two best-selling children’s books published by Scholastic, “Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship” has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 41 weeks, and the latest release, “Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship,” which debuted at #10 on the New York Times bestseller list. The website that will also be marketed by, was conceived as an engaging and highly interactive way to update Owen and Mzee’s loyal fans on the pair’s developing relationship through weekly blogs and current photos. Unlike other children’s sites, features a set of kid-friendly, user-generated content applications including Owen and Mzee on-line filmmaker and karaoke singalong.

The book, “Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship,” is in stores now and the website is welcoming visitors. The groundbreaking site and the two bestselling Owen & Mzee books were showcased on WNBC’s Live at Five on Monday on February 26, 2007 and will be featured on WNBC ‘s Live at Five launched the original e-book two years ago at the Tribeca Film Festival that was then published by Scholastic.

Capitalizing on the spirit of friendship and social-networking for children, the site also offers a fun and educational trip to Owen and Mzee’s boma (Swahili for “enclosure”) in Mombasa, Kenya to check in on their extraordinary relationship. From Picture Pond, which chronicles their days through photos, to Explore Haller Park, which contains a weekly blog from Owen and Mzees’ caretaker Stephen Tuei, to updated press clippings and a recent documentary on the pair, the site is the one place to receive the most current news on everyone’s favorite hippo and tortoise.

The Kid’s Boma, the interactive section for children, features Singalong, which allows the user to record funny songs with animals including Owen and Mzee. The Video Maker is for the budding film aficionado in the family. Featuring videos of animals from Haller Park, the user can add original text and music to create their own documentary. Children aged 4 and up can experience The Wavumbuzi, a challenging maze where they are asked to help Owen and Mzee return home. Mzee’s Swahili Rebus teaches users of all ages Swahili words while reading stories. There are printable activities such as puzzles, coloring pages, and puppets for visitors to engage them after they log off. The website also features a photo gallery for children to submit artwork, an educational guide for parents and teachers, and global links to encourage all visitors to read and promote conservation across the globe.

The website also links to and other sites where the newest book, “Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship”, as well as the first installment, “Owen & Mzee: A Remarkable Friendship” and a board book based on the first, can be purchased.

The Language of Friendship

“Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship", is the second installment of the bestselling children’s read. The update on the heart-warming story that captured the world’s imagination, chronicles the first year and a half of the remarkable friendship formed between the two uncommon pals. Since rescued from the devastating Tsunami in December 2004 and arriving at Haller Park to live, Owen and Mzee have forged a bond that perplexes wildlife experts. Almost two years into their relationship, Owen and Mzee have taken their friendship to a new level – while continuing to live, sleep and play together - the baffling pair has created a language of their own, astounding conservationists across the world. They have created sounds unique to hippo or to tortoise and use gentle nods and pushes to communicate with one another.

“Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship” was again written by Craig Hatkoff, his 8-year-old daughter Isabella and Lafarge's Dr. Paula Kahumbu. Similar to “Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship” published by Scholastic, the second installment in the series has already hit the New York Times bestseller list and topped the children’s charts. Like the original, which has topped the Times bestseller list for 41 weeks, the book features the heartwarming photography of journalist Peter Greste. Also recently released for the youngest fans of Owen and Mzee is a board book abridged from the first book in the series. Both “Owen & Mzee: The Language of Friendship” and the board book were released on February 1, 2007.

“The first time Isabella saw the now-famous picture in the newspaper of Owen snuggling with Mzee shortly after the Tsunami she wanted us to write a children’s book together about the unlikely friends. We knew there was something very special about this story. Owen and Mzee give testament to the power of friendship. Their true story that borders on the unbelievable teaches us many beautiful lessons on many levels,” said Craig Hatkoff. “The website allows us to continually update the public on the pair’s current developments and offers kids new set of online creativity resources and applications at the same time”

To create the special features on the website and to ensure a truly interactive experience for the user, Turtle Pond enlisted ESI Design to develop

“We are honored to have played a role in this truly remarkable story of unexpected friendship and coexistence,” said Ed Schlossberg, founder and principal designer of ESI Design. “ESI’s work for the site is rooted in the fundamental principles of experiential design and explores the unique and symbolic story of Owen and Mzee beyond the pages of Craig and Isabella’s wonderful books, encouraging continued conversation and collaboration among visitors the world over.”

Hatkoff's publishing company, Turtle Pond Publications, acquired the story rights from Lafarge Eco-Systems Limited. Lafarge operates the Haller Park preserve in Mombasa, Kenya, where Owen and Mzee live together in a natural habitat. Lafarge EcoSystems is a subsidiary of Bamburi cement, a public company. Lafarge EcoSystems and has the responsibility of rehabilitating Bamburi Cement's Limestone quarries in Kenya ." For more information about Bamburi visit

“The Kenya Wildlife Service asked Lafarge to take Owen to their Haller Park after he was rescued during the Indian Ocean Tsunami. Though the company's main business is cement production, it is known that Lafarge's restoration activities have turned barren quarries into viable natural habitats. Haller Park is one of Kenya’s most loved places because of its contribution to the conservation of Kenya’s unique wildlife and plants, as well as the education of tens of thousands of Kenyan children,” said Dr. Paula Kahumbu. “There is little doubt that Lafarge's conservation actions made it possible for Owen, Mzee and many other animals to survive in the most unlikely of circumstances, and we hope that their relationship will inspire many to appreciate nature and halt the loss of our wildlife heritage. It is saddening that Africa’s hippos are still disappearing elsewhere even though we know how to save them. Owen’s story should be used to raise awareness and drive conservation action to protect one of Africa’s most magnificent species".

“The Owen and Mzee website is a great example of the kind of kid-friendly media that we think can and should proliferate on the Internet. We are looking forward to have an opportunity to see the empirical results from an operating website that will serve as a real-time laboratory for kids content creation,” said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media.

About Turtle Pond Publications, LLC
Turtle Pond Publications is a private entertainment and media company based in New York. Its interests include a variety of children's publishing ventures and other media investments including the Tribeca Film Festival; the company's principals, Craig Hatkoff and Jane Rosenthal, are co-founders of the festival along with Robert De Niro.

About Scholastic (

Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books and a leader in educational technology. Scholastic creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home, including children's books, magazines, technology-based products, teacher materials, television programming, film, videos and toys. The Company distributes its products and services through a variety of channels, including proprietary school-based book clubs, school-based book fairs, and school-based and direct-to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries and television networks; and the Company's Internet site,

About ESI Design
ESI Design ( is a leading global experiential design firm. ESI creates physical and virtual spaces for people to interact, exchange ideas and learn from one another. The firm’s clients comprise museums, retailers, corporations and cultural institutions including McDonald’s, Reuters, Best Buy, UBS, CVS, the Children’s Museum of Los Angeles, the American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island and Sony Wonder Technology Lab.

About The Lafarge Group ( and Lafarge EcoSystems Limited (

Haller Park, located in Mombasa Kenya, is a rehabilitated quarry with a thriving ecosystem and a place where visitors from around the world can come see Owen and Mzee in addition to other wildlife such as giraffes, hippos, antelopes and buffaloes to name a few of its many attractions of Nature.

As the world leader in building materials, Lafarge holds top-ranking positions in all four of its Divisions: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete, Roofing and Gypsum. Lafarge has long been committed to sustainable development and protection of the environment. Lafarge EcoSystems Limited commitment lies in sustainable management of restored landscapes and since 1971 have created Haller Park into a self-sustaining ecosystem and wildlife preserve, which it continues to manage today.

# # #

Greg T. said...

Nice rant...original and funny. Always a good combo.


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