David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books — Censorship, Children


• L. Frank Baum’s books, including The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, have occasionally been censored. In 1957, Ralph Ulveling, the Detroit Library Director, ordered the book taken off library shelves because, he charged, it had a “cowardly approach to life.” The Detroit Times had an interesting response — it serialized the children’s novel, adding a notation that this book had been banned.


• Zelda Fitzgerald, the wife of F. Scott, was named after a character — a gypsy queen — in a novel. Throughout her life, she liked to have attention drawn to her. When she was a little girl, she telephoned the fire department, told them that a little girl was stuck on a roof, and gave her own address. She then hung up the telephone, crawled out on the roof, and enjoyed all the commotion she had created. When she was a young unmarried woman, her house was still the center of commotion — young military pilots used to perform aerial stunts over her house to get her attention.

• While attending school in Berkeley, California, Yoshiko Uchida was a member of the Girl Reserves, along with several white girls. One day, a photographer from the local newspaper arrived to take a photo of the Girl Reserves, and he tried to move Yoshiko out of the photo. Fortunately, a white friend, Sylvia, saw what was happening and said, “Come on, Yoshi. Stand next to me.” The two friends linked arms and stood firmly together, forcing the photographer to photograph them. Later, Ms. Uchida became the renowned author of Journey to Topaz.

• The first of the two most important events in Orville Prescott’s life (the other was becoming daily book critic for The New York Times in 1942) occurred when he was six years old and his Grandmother Sherwin offered him a $5 gold piece if he would learn how to read. Although he didn’t quite know what a $5 gold piece was, he knew that it was desirable, and therefore, a few days later, he read a few pages out of a first grade primer to his grandmother and received his rewards — the $5 gold piece and the discovery of the joy of reading.

• Playwright Lillian Hellman was born in 1905, and she was a young girl when the United States fought Germany in World War I. Determined to help the war effort, she and a friend went looking for German spies in Manhattan. They spotted two men wearing raincoats. One of the men carried a violin case, which young Lillian thought might hold a machine gun. She reported the two men to a police officer, who investigated and discovered that the two men were a concert violinist and a college professor.

• In addition to being a practical joker, Hugh Troy was a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Often, he made up series of stories to tell his little niece. One series starred the popular child actress Shirley Temple, but eventually Mr. Troy got tired of his heroine, so he ended the series by having Shirley Temple run over by a steamroller and flattened like a pancake. His niece loved the ending.

• As a school child, Madeleine L’Engle Camp entered one of her poems in a school contest. She won first prize, only to have a teacher accuse her of plagiarizing the poem. Young Madeleine’s mother successfully defended her by showing the teacher other poems and stories that Madeleine had written. As a grownup, Madeleine became famous as Madeleine L’Engle, the author of A Wrinkle in Time.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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