As the march toward censorship moves onward in my district and around my state and country, I found myself thinking about my editor at Scholastic Professional Books, Gloria Pipkin. Gloria “discovered” me when I wrote a piece about writing tests for the Orlando Sentinel. My two books were among the last she edited before she retired. As I got to know Gloria, I became acquainted with her story. She and fellow teacher ReLeah Cossett Lent tried to teach Robert Cormier’s book I Am the Cheese in their middle school in the 1980’s. A group of parents tried to ban the book. Before the dust finally settled, Gloria had received death threats and ended up leaving teaching to become an editor. They told that tale, and the tale of ReLeah’s later experience with school newspaper censorship, in their book At the Schoolhouse Gates: Lessons in Intellectual Freedom.
After Gloria and I had collaborated on my books, she was involved in a library event in the Florida panhandle to mark the anniversary of the I Am the Cheese censorship. She asked me to draw a series of strips about censorship that they could put on display. I happily complied, and though I was not able to make the drive all the way to the panhandle, she told me the event had been a success.
Sadly, Gloria passed away in 2018, but I think of her often – and even more often lately with what I see going on around me. I got out my copy of At the Schoolhouse Gates, and another Gloria-ReLeah collaboration, Keeping Them Reading: An Anti-Censorship Guide for Educators.
I hadn’t reposted this series since it originally ran in the Daytona Beach News-Journal. So here is the Gloria Pipkin-inspired series – “The Tale of Schmoopy Boopher”! Let free reading ring!
Of course, this is a simplistic, humorous version of a dark, complex problem – and I can only wish the real-life resolution was this simple. Nonetheless – I think it’s fun, and makes some very valid points.
And may more censors have the epiphany Mrs. Ginger did.
We see what we’re looking for, which says more about us than it says about what we’re looking for.
When I drew those empty shelves in Mr. Fitz’s classroom, I never dreamed we’d reach a point where I’d feel my own shelves were threatened for real…
For now the books are still there. And there they should stay.
-David Lee Finkle