Children’s book author Robie H Harris’ and artist Michael Emberley’s million+ copy bestselling book, It’s Perfectly Normal, A Book About Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, Gender, and Sexual Health, has been continuously challenged and/or banned since it was first published in 1994 and continues to be challenged even in recent days. In November of 1994, NCAC supported the book and fought efforts to ban the book from schools, libraries, and bookstores as well as other books on sexual education by those who object to sex education books even for older kids, pre-teens, and teens, who are entering and going through puberty. Harris, a member of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) board, was pleased when a recent Book Riot cartoon story about It’s Perfectly Normal ignited an outpouring of continuing support on social media.
The eight-page cartoon story entitled Book Bans tells the story of a 10-year-girl who checked out It’s Perfectly Normal from a Delaware library with her mother. After reading the book’s chapter on sexual abuse, the girl shared it with her mother and said, “This is me.” The information in the book helped the girl tell her mother that she had been sexually abused by her father.
Harris explained that “This is a true story and an important story that was first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer. It is important because it exemplifies that when kids have the freedom to read any book they choose, a book can be life-changing, and as depicted in this cartoon story, abuse can be stopped. And for the child depicted in this cartoon, what stopped was that the father was sentenced to over 60 years in jail. Nevertheless, the trauma will always remain, and this is discussed in the book. This cartoon story also shows others that if a child of any age is abused and when a book is not banned and accessible to kids, a book can help a child learn the truth about and tell the truth about being abused to a trusted adult, who can help them get further help by talking with an adult or a health-care professional.”
Book Bans at https://www.instagram.com/p/Csl4-M0OgVZ/ offers eight different cartoon scenes. Clicking on a faint arrow to the right will allow you to navigate through the story.
Harris also explained, “Kids have a right to have accurate, truthful, and when needed researched information that can help to keep them healthy and safe. They need to know how to get help to make any abusive behavior stop.”
Book Bans caught the attention of celebrity, author, activist, and actor Viola Davis, who posted the cartoon to her Instagram account, reaching more than 340,000, and to Twitter, reaching more than 22,500 million, sparking a robust conversation on challenges and banning of sexual health materials. Davis wrote in her post, “This is why books are important.”
The Society of Secret Library Friends also posted the Book Bans cartoon series to Twitter, which received over 20.3 million views, and was retweeted over 29.3 million times.
Harris and Emberley believe that writing the “truth” with accurate, responsible information and facts can help protect kids, their friends, and families.
Harris went on to say, “I will continue to speak out on the freedom to read and write for kids of all ages, no matter what the perils have been for the creators of children’s books and the perils that are continuing to occur at an alarming and even faster pace than in the past few years. Even though my own safety and so many others’ safety have been threatened over the years, and pages of my books and others’ books have been ripped up and thrown in the trash and/or burned in bonfires with adults and children watching those pages being ‘disappeared,’ I will not be silenced. Many of you have taken the same stance. We need even more of you to join us. And what about our nation’s children? Most children of all ages know about the tragic deaths of their peers, or family members, or friends they have known and those they have not known but know that they have died. And yet, I have hope. Our kids and teens are our hope for the future of our democracy because so many of them have not been silent and are continuing to speak out and protest and petition for the principles of the First Amendment. Even with the threat of being jailed for writing the books I write and for speaking out in defense of free expression, I still will not be silenced. A giant and heartfelt thanks to all those who also will not be silenced and continue to defend free expression and the principles of our nation’s First Amendment.”
—Robie H. Harris