I attended an event this afternoon put on by Bloomsbury Children’s Books to celebrate their author Brian Conaghan’s book When Mr. Dog Bites. Conaghan spoke about his protagonist, who has Tourette’s syndrome, and the fact that his book resultantly includes bad language. Conaghan went on to talk about how his young readers express that they aren’t phased by bad language in books like his, namely because it’s not gratuitous–it’s part of the character and makes the character more genuine and fully fleshed out.
As a librarian who has responded to caregivers’ concerns about language in books for youth, I think Conaghan’s point is incredibly important. For many people, the way they speak and the words they use are absolutely intertwined with who they are. And genuine characters–characters to whom young readers connect–may be all shades of different from the readers themselves, and the values of their caregivers. That doesn’t make a book objectionable. It makes it real.