State of the Stacks: Makeover Edition

Things have been a little hectic in the Stacks this weekend! After a few weeks of tinkering, I’ve finally unveiled a brand new blog layout that I hope is friendlier to readers. And while I’ve been putting the finishing touches on that, I also decided it was a great time to paint my kitchen and living room. So, all in all, it’s been a weekend of (exhausting) makeovers.

And that had me thinking about a case of some librarians doing a bit of unwanted painting for this week’s State of the Stacks.

Unwanted Makeover

Among librarians, there’s a story of censorship that’s circulated for years. In some ways, it’s skewed into mythic territory. That’s not to suggest that the facts are off or they’re exaggerated— rather, it’s a story that’s been continually passed along at conferences, classes, and among colleagues as a warning of what happens when the tenets of librarianship break down. And that’s why it feels like most every librarian knows the In the Night Kitchen incident.

In 1970, famed children’s writer Maurice Sendak released In the Night Kitchen, a richly illustrated picture book that tells the surrealist story of a boy, Mickey, who dreams about journeying to a kitchen where three bakers are making bread. It proved popular, with audiences, and critics, ultimately winning the 1971 Caldecott Honor.

However, it also courted controversy. In one scene, Mickey, who appears to be only a few years old, loses his clothes. Over a few illustrations, he appears naked, with Sendak choosing to depict him as anatomically correct.

Evidence suggests this was too much for some librarians, who then decided to take the illustrations into their own hands. Unwilling to potentially offend patrons and unable to allow a book in their libraries’ collections as Sendak intended, some drew shorts on little Mickey. While it’s impossible to discover exactly how many copies of In the Night Kitchen were edited in this manner, librarian Kathleen T. Horning explored this story in detail for School Library Journal in 2012, uncovering a few examples of the censorship that had been officially documented. In one instance, a school in Springfield, Missouri actually hired an artist to draw the shorts.

Drawing in a book is perhaps not the worst form of ‘editing’ censorship that’s ever occurred in a library. Patrons routinely mark through words they deem inappropriate, rip out entire pages, or even hide books they disagree with. However, there’s something especially disheartening about a librarian who’s unwilling to defend their collection as is.

Stack Chat

No worries over here, though. There’s no danger of me censoring any of these great-looking titles I was approved for on NetGalley this past week:

  • Coming Home to Glendale Hall by Victoria Walters
  • The Last Day of Winter by Shari Low
  • The Magnificent Mrs. Mayhew by Milly Johnson
  • A Wild and Precious Life by Edie Windsow

Publication Day

Several books reviewed here celebrated their Publication Day this past week. That means they’re officially out in the wild and you can snag your own copies from stores and libraries everywhere.

Reading About Books

If you’re not reading a book, the next best thing is reading about books. Here’s a selection of bookish news and essays I enjoyed this week:

  • Librarian Travis Jonker reveals what he found when he finally looked at his school’s copy of In the Night Kitchen.
  • Writer Colin Stokes explores Arnold Lobel and the love of Frog and Toad.

Have you ever come across a book a diapered Mickey or any book that’s been physically censored?

That’s that— the State of the Stacks.


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