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September 27, 2011

Banned Books Week: We're reading Katie-Morag

We didn’t have to go out of our way to find a book to read for ALA Banned Books Week, because Katie-Morag and the Tiresome Ted was already in our library haul. Our friend Melanie has written already about Katie Morag and her struggles with the censor (and it was actually Melanie who introduced us to Katie Morag in the first place, and her home on the Isle of Struay in the Hebrides). The main problem with the book is that Katie Morag’s mother feeds her babies during the narrative, and sometimes doesn’t put her breast away immediately. As you can see from the illustrations, Mrs. MacColl’s breasts are hardly sexualized, and neither is the rest of her really (except for in Katie Morag and the Riddles where Katie Morag tries her on her saucy nightie, but this just adds a marvelous new dimension to her character).

Mairi Hedderwick’s Katie Morag books have the kinds of illustrations (like Shirley Hughes’) that paint a household out to its very corners, and all the stuff tossed here and there, and picking out the details is fascinating for readers young and old. The breastfeeding and the breasts themselves are just part of the big happy mess, which also involves characters with complicated (and believable) gender roles, the good and bad of a close-knit community, the spirited Katie Morag with her huge emotional spectrum (also believable), and a story that doesn’t patronize its readers.

We’ve become Katie Morag devotees here in the couple of months, and it’s nice to mark Banned Books Week by reading a banned book that’s so wonderful. (Though a lot of them are, aren’t they? Do shitty books ever get banned? Do some books get banned, and liberals throw up their hands, and think, “Well, it’s probably for the best anyway…”)

3 thoughts on “Banned Books Week: We're reading Katie-Morag”

  1. melanie says:

    We have since purchased a couple Katie Morag books and there are more illustrations of her Mum hanging out and nursing the baby and it is really wonderful. Moira loves pointing it out because it has been such a HUGE part of her year as in “Mummy I think Fionnuala really just wants a boob right now.” And, “I’m sorry but Sookie and I aren’t going to get any sleep tonight if you don’t go in there and nurse that baby.” Also, the other morning Moira and I got married and as soon as the ceremony ended she said “well, I have to go to the hospital now and have a baby” and she wanted me to think of a good Irish name for the baby (because in her world there are no other names) but all my suggestions were vetoed in favour of calling the baby Katie Morag.

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