The Leading Lady's Year

One woman's quest to become the heroine of her own life


St. Louis, Missouri, USA
December 31
SheBasilisk is a writer, history nut, artist, aspiring florist, and recovering theater geek from Saint Louis, Missouri. Her past work has appeared in, The Collinsville Herald, The Granite City Press-Record, The Madison County Record, LegalNewsline, The Northwest Herald, The Kane County Chronicle, The Galesburg Register-Mail, The DeKalb Daily Chronicle, the St. Louis Beacon, and other publications. She is currently working becoming "the leading lady" of her own life.


AUGUST 26, 2009 4:13PM

Passings: Karla Kuskin, children's author/banned book author

Rate: 1 Flag

This is a little late but, regrettably real life intervened for me a bit.

Mulling my way through the New York Time's "Obituaries" section, I ran across this the other day: Children's author Karla Kuskin had passed away.

To read her complete obituary, click here.

My thoughts are with Ms. Kuskin's loved ones.

I regret to say, I have not read her work. Her bibliography of over 50 works includes these notables:

-In the Middle of the Trees

-City Dog

-The Philharmonic Gets Dressed

The Times calls her a "witty" writer, and as I love wit, I plan to request some of her works from my library during the next few weeks. I adore wit, particularly in children's books.

However, in searching for more information about Ms. Kuskin, I found that not everyone adored her wit. Ms. Kuskin's books made their way onto at least one banned books list.

The American Civil Liberties Union prepared this 2002-2003 report on Texas and books that were banned or challenged in the state's public schools. To read the full report, click here. It's a scan, I warn you, but readable.

Ms. Kuskin's The Philharmonic Gets Dressed joined the likes of Stephen King, Judy Blume and Harriet Beecher Stowe (yes, the "little lady who started this Great War.)

The 1982 book (at this point, I admit again I haven't read it) was a Reading Rainbow book. A mark in its favor, in my most humble opinion. I adored that program and, as a Star Trek: the Next Generation fan, can't help but smile at Lavar Burton hosting.

The book, recounting from my reading of's summary features what basically the title says: an orchestra getting ready for a night's performance. The book has won several distinguished awards including a Library of Congress mention.

Okay. Hmmm. Now, I'm wondering. The ACLU report does not mention why the book was banned or challenged in Texas. I wish that it had and would have found it helpful (wink to any ACLU staffer who may ever read this post.)

Amazon features 18 customer reviews of the book. If you want to read all of them, click here.

But, I'll focus those that don't give it five stars. Fourteen of the 18 reviews do.

-Review 1: Gives two stars. Complains about illustrations of people in various undergarments or "(none at all)." Does not deem suitable for a five-year old nephew.

-Review 2: Gives one star. Wants more emphasis on music. Not her cup of tea.

-Review 3: Gives one star. Discusses the illustrations in great detail and how they are not appropriate for a classroom. Writes that is "not a prude" but that has issues with certain pictures that seem to depict butt cracks or bras or women whose adult parts are concealed only by powder or spray.

Review 4: Gives two stars. Also a teacher, thinks illustrations would cause too much laughter in the class but would use for her own children at home. Just not in class.

Hmm. I begin pondering. Will this be a theme, I wonder? With the children's books I will encounter is the prose or the the picture more controversial?

Anyone with thoughts, weigh in. I plan to have posts discussing various children's picture books in the "Year" so I doubt I'll lack for examples.

.Dobhanyi Orchestra of Budapest, Ritter Alexa

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Thank you for this honourable mention of an author whose work sounds perfect for me as a child therapist! I've been using a book called 'In the Night Kitchen' by Maurice Sendak, recommended by Redstocking Grandma here on OS. It had the same blinkered reaction from a certain segment of the population as 'Philharmonic'. In my experience these prejudices and anxieties about illustrations are aroused by adult considerations but the children focus on the narrative. What to do? Small minds make for small worlds. Maybe we'll start a movement, with full orchestration, in four-part harmony...;)
What an insightful comment! It sounds like this book is right up your alley. I have a feeling a number of other children's books may fit this bill. Please watch for the full on start of the "Year of Reading Dangerously," for more! Just a few more weeks until the big kickoff. In the meantime, I'll be keeping everyone posted on the world of challenged and banned books for all ages.