Why One Official Wanted a Kermit the Frog Book Banned

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A Muppets book about children and poverty has been saved from an elementary school’s chopping block, despite a school board member’s effort to ban it for being “too graphic.”

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Mary Carney, a member of the Marshfield School Board in Marshfield, Wis., said she had a problem with the 22-year-old picture book — Jim Henson’s For Every Child a Better World, which contains illustrations of kids living in war and poverty — being taught in kindergarten classes. “I just have concerns that it’s too graphic, even though these are Muppets characters,” Carney told the Marshfield News Herald. “Unfortunately in this world there is a lot of war and strife and poverty; I understand that. I just don’t know how appropriate that is to be teaching that to 5-year-olds.”

Her objections and efforts to ban the book quickly garnered national attention and mocking on social media, including such tweets as “About time someone realized the danger of Muppets” and another suggesting Carney should perhaps “ban poverty instead.”

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Image: United Nations Publications

On Wednesday evening, after considering Carney’s concerns, an eight-member panel organized by school administrators — comprised of teachers, staffers, and community members — voted unanimously to keep the feared book in the kindergarten classes.

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“I think that a lot of times we want to protect these young kids from the reality of what’s going on in the world around them,” teacher Donna Smith said, according to the Marshfield News Herald. “But the reality is, in our classrooms every year, we have more and more kids who are homeless, and more and more kids who are hungry, and more and more kids who are victims of abuse in their households.”

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Image: United Nations Publications

The book, published in 1993, is currently out of print (but available on Amazon starting at $43.68 for the paperback and $68.94 for the hardcover). A Publishers Weekly lukewarm review from the book’s year of publication cited on the Amazon page notes: “This eager-to-please picture book wins plaudits for good intentions, though unfortunately for little else. Executed in a style that could well be called ‘Muppet multicultural’ … the work is dedicated to the memory of Audrey Hepburn and published ‘in cooperation with the United Nations’ … The double-spread pages present a series of happy/sad contrasts that employ minimal text (‘Every child needs food to eat’) and cartoon-like illustrations to depict the world’s haves and have-nots.”

A Kirkus Reviews take on the book, meanwhile, called it “a serious book, with appeal for a wide audience, that can do only good.”

Carney said that she was “disappointed in the outcome” of Wednesday’s meeting. But according to panel member and teacher Judy Nicksic, who agreed that some of the book’s images could be upsetting, the overall message was a useful one. “Many children would be disturbed, as they should be,” she said. “But it’s the dialogue that follows it [that’s important].”

Top photo: ABC


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