My Northern Wisconsin

Covering Ashland, Iron, Lincoln, Oneida, Price, Rusk, Sawyer, Taylor, and Vilas Counties

What do you think should happen with the challenged books?
They should remain as they currently are at the library.
They should be properly labeled but still in the Children's Section.
They should be in a special Parental Guidance Section.
They should be banned from the library.
27 vote(s)
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The Phillips Public Library has over 7,000 books in the Children's Section, and 26 of them were a large focus of an over 3 hour long board meeting held the end of April.  The meeting was attended by at least four dozen people with 25 public comments.

The concerns started being voiced over the last couple years from parents who were noticing books that concerned them in the Children's Section.  More recently, there was a small display of some of these new books by the children's toys at the library, and multiple parents voiced their concerns.

One group of people believes the 26 challenged children's books should be available to children throughout the Children's Section, shelved as any other book would be at the library.  Another group believes that six of the books should be permanently removed from the collection, and the other 20 books can be at the library but should be in the adult section or on a special parenting shelf.  A separate categorization would allow parents to decide if they want their child to read a certain book.  If they do want their child to read it, the parent could provide guidance in understanding subjects such as LGBTQ topics, Critical Race Theory, police brutality, transgender, and other modern social situations.  There are also stances in between these beliefs.  Children seven and older are allowed to be unsupervised by a parent at the library and are able to check out library materials, as well.

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At the meeting, Sally Kopecky shared her thoughts.  "Children’s books should serve two purposes.  One, to act as a mirror reflecting a child’s own life and culture, and two, a window allowing children to see into the lives of others and recognize the diversity of their world.  For that reason, the library should be filled with mirror and window books....I also feel that if you don’t want to read the book, then don’t.  If a child brings home a diverse book, it is a great opportunity to teach them about the world's differences and that everyone is unique and recognizing our individual differences.  The public library is there to provide books of all subjects; it is your responsibility as a parent/guardian to provide your child with the knowledge of your family morals and set guidelines for them when going to the library."

Shirley Smith voiced that children generally already share the views and values of their parents.

Jackie Barnes stated she was addressing the library board and not addressing the audience.  She also remarked that she knows the board and staff are all great people and do a great job.  She said her views were not about censorship of books, but asked, "If a child who was sexually abused would see these types of books, what do you think would happen to that child?  Could the child perhaps misconstrue what he/she is seeing and be affected by them and act on them?"  She wondered what the legal liability could be to the county if a child acted on what he/she read in the books and how much it might cost the people of Price County.  She addressed Bruce Marshall with the legal questions, and he replied it was a good question.  "It’s not about censorship," Jackie shared, "but placing the books up so the parents have access and not the children."

Some people feel the group challenging the books are bigots who are voicing hate speech.  Pastor Christian Markle stated that, while they have a right to their opinions, this is simply not the case.  He said he feels everyone needs to be careful with anything regarding children.  He used some props to make his point.  He held up a paper bag and explained there was an object that some people may find dangerous, though he was not there to hurt, harm, or scare them.  He explained the item in the bag was a useful tool when used properly.  The tool was a sheathed French chef knife.  He explained that while it is a useful tool in the kitchen, and one parents would want to teach their children about with guidance, no one would want to find a number of them lying around in a child's toy box or playground.  He stated knives are not bad but they need to be appropriately shared with children under parental guidance, much like the books in question.  He further shared with My Price County, "At minimum, I believe the books should be adequately labeled.  That might simply be a regular library label that is already in existence."  He explained there are two different labels for religious books, and there are other labels in the children's section that are categorized by topic.  However, the books up for debate are not currently put into a category.  Rather, they are spread across the children's section.  Religious books, however, are isolated in their own category.  He suggested that these books could be put in a parenting section so that if people want to parent their children in a certain direction, they can choose to do that, but he feels children should not come across these books on their own without parental guidance.  He believes there needs to be a combination of answers to address these concerns, but he does not believe in a book burning or other drastic measure.

Jake Wyrzykowski, librarian, shared his thoughts on the topic.  "The bottom line is every book on our shelves is appreciated by someone in the community.  Certain individuals are offended and concerned, but, ultimately, it's a difference of opinion.  Concerned parents have a responsibility to decide what their children read.  A primary function of the library as a free service of democracy is to allow those with different opinions equal access to the books and the opinions / ideas contained within."

Becky Puhl, Library Director, has a similar viewpoint.  "The accepted stance of public libraries is that we exist to serve everyone in the community.  We do not censor or ban materials.  We buy and catagorize materials based on a board-approved collection development policy.  Everyone, regardless of age, has a right to information and materials.  Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the parent or guardian to decide what is appropriate for their own children to read, and no person has the right to make that decision for anyone other than their own children."

Ten of the 26 books will be named at the May 26, 2022 board meeting.  People will have until a week before the June meeting, usually scheduled for the last Tuesday of the month, to submit challenges for any of the ten specific books via a challenge form.  Those first ten books will be reviewed by the board at the June meeting.  Each meeting thereafter will address a group of books until all 26 have been reviewed by the library board.  The challenge form can be obtained at the Phillips Public Library.  General concern on books as a whole can be sent to Rebecca Puhl, Library Director, at, and she will gather and send those comments to the library board.  Library board members include Rick Morgan, Bruce Marshall, Jenny Markle, Becky Steinbach, Brittany Weisrock, Galen Azbel, Meredith Hueckman, Tara Belle, and Laura Tomaszweski.

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The following text information is a synopsis of each book on the challenge list, provided by  Ana on the Edge, Call and Response - The Story of Black Lives Matter, Use of Force and the Fight Against Police Brutality, and You Be You are juvenile children's easy readers, and the other titles are children's picture books, so all the books would generally be viewed by children ten and under.  To get a greater understanding of the content, these books can be viewed at the library or on YouTube or other video sources.  My Price County has provided video links for some of the titles listed after the synopsis.  The first six books on the list are facing possible removal from the library.  The remaining 20 titles are requested to be moved to another area or permanently removed from the library.  Aside from the first six books facing possible removal, the books are listed in no particular order.

Not My Idea, a Book about Whiteness (by Anastasia Higginbotham)
A white child sees a TV news report of a white police officer shooting and killing a black man. "In our family, we don't see color," his mother says, but he sees the colors plain enough. An afternoon in the library's history stacks uncover the truth of white supremacy in America. Racism was not his idea, and he refuses to defend it.
See and listen to the book at

Race Cars, a Children’s Book about White Privilege (by Ben Sand)
Race Cars is a children's book about white privilege. It was created to serve as a springboard for parents and educators to facilitate tough conversations with their kids about race, privilege and oppression. Race Cars tells the story of two best friends, a white car and a black car, that have different experiences and face different rules while entering the same race.
See and listen to the book at

What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns (by Katherine Locke)
Ari knows a lot of words for neighbors, including the pronouns each prefers, and with help from Uncle Lior, who always asks "What are your words," figures out which pronouns, and other words, fit best today.
See and listen to the book at

Antiracist Baby (by Ibram X. Kendi)
Illustrations and rhyming text present nine steps Antiracist Baby can take to improve equity, such as opening our eyes to all skin colors and celebrating all our differences.
See and listen to the book at

You Be You - The Kid's Guide to Gender, Sexuality and Family (by Jonathan Branfman)
You Be You! is an illustrated children's book for ages 5 and up that makes gender identity, sexual orientation, and family diversity easy to explain to children. Throughout the book, kids learn that there are many kinds of people in the world and that diversity is something to be celebrated. It covers gender, romantic orientation, discrimination, intersectionality, privilege, and how to stand up for what's right.

Ana on the Edge (by A.J. Sass)
Twelve-year-old figure skater Ana strives to win her competitions while learning about gender identity - Ana's own and that of a new friend - and how to navigate the best path forward.

Heather Has Two Mommies (by Leslea Newman)
Heather's favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, and two pets. And she also has two mommies. When Heather goes to school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy, but Heather doesn't have a daddy. Then something interesting happens. When Heather and her classmates all draw pictures of their families, not one drawing is the same. It doesn't matter who makes up a family, the teacher says, because "the most important thing about a family is that all the people in it love one another."

Jacob’s New Dress (by Sarah Hoffman)
Jacob, who likes to wear dresses at home, convinces his parents to let him wear a dress to school too.
See and listen to the book at

Stella Brings the Family (by Miriam B. Schiffer)
Stella brings her two fathers to school to celebrate Mother's Day.

Introducing Teddy (by Jessica Walton)
Errol's best friend and teddy bear, Thomas, is sad because he wishes he were a girl, not a boy teddy, but what only matters to both of them is that they are friends.
See and listen to the book at

Julian at the Wedding (by Jessica Love)
"Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It's not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side."
See and listen to the book at

Melissa’s Story / George (by Alex Gino)
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl. George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their fourth-grade class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part...because she's a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte - but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Calvin (by J.R. Ford)
Calvin has always been a boy, even if the world sees him as a girl. He knows who he is in his heart and in his mind but he hasn't yet told his family. Finally, he can wait no longer: "I'm not a girl," he tells his family. "I'm a boy - a boy in my heart and in my brain." Quick to support him, his loving family takes Calvin shopping for the swim trunks he's always wanted and back-to-school clothes and a new haircut that helps him look and feel like the boy he's always known himself to be. As the first day of school approaches, he's nervous and the "what-ifs" gather up inside him. But as his friends and teachers rally around him and he tells them his name, all his "what-ifs" begin to melt away. This book is inspired by the authors' own transgender child.
See and listen to the book at

Jack (Not Jackie) (by Erica Silverman)
Susan loves her baby sister, Jackie, but as Jackie grows older and behaves more and more like a boy Susan must adjust to having a brother, Jack, instead.
See and listen to the book at

Papa, Daddy, and Riley (by Seamus Kirst)
When a classmate insists a family must have a mother and a father, Riley fears she will have to choose between Papa and Daddy until her fathers assure her that love makes a family.

My Rainbow (by Trinity and DeShanna Neal)
A dedicated mom puts love into action as she creates the perfect rainbow-colored wig for her transgender daughter based on the real-life experience of mother-daughter advocate duo Trinity and DeShanna Neal.

Dress-Up Day: All Kinds of Clothes (by Lisa Bullard)
Chloe is excited to pick out a special outfit for school, but she isn't sure of what to wear. Readers will learn how clothes can show a person's interests, personality, culture, and more!

Different Can Be Great: All Kinds of Families (by Lisa Bullard)
Makayla's family is about to change with her baby brother's arrival. She goes on a mission to see how families are each unique. Readers discover how families are different and that different is great!

Sewing the Rainbow (by Gayle E. Pitman)
Sewing the Rainbow is the powerful story of Gilbert Baker and the creation of the rainbow flag. This book takes readers from Gilbert's childhood in a small town in Kansas where he didn't fit in to his historic artistic career in San Francisco. Today the flag is everywhere, even in the small town where Gilbert grew up! This book shows that when you see a rainbow flag, you'll know it's okay to be your colorful self. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with more about Gilbert and the flag's history.

PRIDE: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag (by Rob Sanders)
Traces the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today's world.

Everything You Say About Me That’s Wonderful is True (by Dr. Casey)
An A to Z prescription for happiness! With the help of his friends, both human and doggy, this book is an alphabetical adventure through 26 poems and pictures of positive qualities we all possess.

Beauty Woke (by NoNieqa Ramos)
Beauty is a Puerto Rican girl loved and admired by her family and community. At first, she's awake to their beauty, and her own - a proud Boricua of Taíno and African descent. But as she grows older, she sees how people who look like her are treated badly, and she forgets what makes her special. So her community bands together to help remind her of her beautiful heritage.

Love, Violet (by Charlotte Sullivan)
Only one person makes Violet's heart skip. Of all the kids in Violet's class, only one leaves her speechless: Mira, the girl with the cheery laugh who races like the wind. If only they could adventure together! But every time Violet tries to tell Mira how she feels, Violet goes shy. As Valentine's Day approaches, Violet is determined to tell Mira just how special she is.
See and listen to the book at

Our Skin:  A First Conversation about Race (by Megan Madison)
An age-appropriate introduction to the concepts of race, gender, consent, and body positivity, developed by early childhood and activism experts, combines clear text with engaging artwork to help the youngest children recognize and confront unjust actions.

Call and Response, The Story of Black Lives Matter (by Veronica Chambers)
During 2020, widespread protests rooted in the call-and-response tradition of the black community gained worldwide attention in the wake of high-profile wrongful deaths of black people. From the founders to watershed moments, follow the activists and organizers on their journeys and discover the ways that protest has been fundamental to American democracy, eventually making meaningful change.

Use of Force and the Fight Against Police Brutality (by Elliot Smith)
In 2020, police killings caught on bystander video placed US police under scrutiny and spurred activists to call for reform. Learn the history and factors behind police brutality in the US, especially in black communities.

UPDATE ON 5-23-22:  The Phillips Public Library Board will meet on Thursday, May 26, 2022 at 5:05 p.m. in the City Council Room at the Municipal Center on Eyder Avenue.

The first eight titles have been released for the challenged books, which will be considered at the June meeting.

The books include Antiracist Baby, Not My Idea:  A Book About Whiteness, Race Cars:  A Children's Book About White Privilege, Beauty Woke, Call and Response:  The Story of Black Lives Matter, Our Skin:  A First Conversation About Race, When We Say Black Lives Matter, and Use of Force and the Fight Against Police Brutality.

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(This post was last modified: 05-23-2022, 05:11 PM by My Northern Wisconsin.)

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CHALLENGED BOOKS DEBATED FOR HOURS AT LIBRARY BOARD MEETING - UPDATED 5-23-22 - by My Northern Wisconsin - 05-05-2022, 02:24 PM