Blogger Intellectual Freedom Committee

My Parents Open Carry

  • My Parents Open CarryWhat obligation do public or school libraries have to purchase materials that present a range of views on controversial subjects?
  • Must every controversy be treated the same way?
  • How do our personal biases affect our purchasing decisions?
  • Should libraries take the opinions of their patrons or the ethos of their communities into consideration when making these decisions?
  • If there are no materials that meet our selection criteria, should we add materials of poor quality simply to ensure that all viewpoints are available?
  • Should well-known titles on controversial topics be retained once better-written books are available?
  • Is there a difference between adding donated materials and spending taxpayers’ money to purchase them?

These are a few of the questions which occurred to me in response to the recent discussions about MY PARENTS OPEN CARRY by Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephew (White Feather Press). The publisher kindly sent me a review copy of the book in response to my emailed request and it arrived yesterday, giving me time to examine it carefully and to share it with my coworkers.

Though formatted as a picture book, the character whose parents “open carry” is a 13-year-old girl named Brenna. And despite the title, she doesn’t narrate the text. As the authors indicate in their, “…note to home school teachers: This book is an excellent text to use as a starting point on the discussion of the 2nd Amendment,” which suggests that they are hoping to reach a market with a broad age-range.

I was hoping the book would be well-enough written that I would find it a plausible purchase for our collection, but my hopes have not come to fruition. The text is tedious, the conversations are repetitious and attempts at descriptive writing fail to convey information.

Here are some examples of the writing:

“One morning, Brenna was sleeping and dreaming dreams only a 13-year-old girl would dream.” (p. 1)

“All in all, Brenna had a great day with her mom and dad. She again realized how much they loved her and how lucky she was to have parents that open carry.” (p. 21)

And then there are the creepier moments: “To increase Brenna’s awareness, her dad often tries to sneak up on her to catch her off guard; it’s a game they play.” (p. 15)

In addition, the robotic figures depicted in the illustrations with their stiff postures and eerie, fixed smiles are rather discomfiting.

I confess that the level of paranoia Jeffs and Nephew express to justify their need to carry guns in plain sight whenever they go out in public disturbs me, but I won’t debate the Second Amendment here. Whatever our personal opinions on the matter may be, we librarians still must grapple with the sorts of questions I’ve framed above.

I feel honor-bound, however, to point out that Jeffs and Nephew espouse the consumption of canned spinach and this is a sentiment that any right-minded person would find abhorrent. Fresh spinach is delicious and frozen spinach is an acceptable substitute in recipes calling for cooked spinach, but canned spinach is an abomination. The only proper use for a can of spinach that I can think of would be to aim at it during target practice.

But spinach aside, if this book had received a starred review, would you add it to your collection?

Miriam Lang Budin, ALSC Intellectual Freedom Committee


  1. ChristinaT

    While I don’t have a problem with people open carrying I do have a problem with poorly written books. Based on the excerpts you shared, I wouldn’t add it to my library’s collection.

    1. AnnMarie

      Me neither! The writing sounds awful. I appreciate your review that lets me know more about what this book actually is like. Does anybody know of any books that, in contrast, treat the subject in a more educational, rational, and age-appropriate way?

  2. Kelly Doolittle

    Great post! To me, the most important question you pose is, “Must every controversy be treated in the same way?” My answer is an unequivocal: “No.” I consider open carrying along the same lines as many other issues of power struggle amongst adults, such as the right to whack your kids and the right to drive a motorcycle without a helmet. These are just two examples of adult behaviors that can pose grave danger, cause great anxiety and teach children backwards notions about responsible humanity, yet are behaviors many adults think are either correct or worth the risk. As such I wouldn’t consider it appropriate content for picture books.

    I love Emily Jenkins “Little Bit Scary People” because it shows that even though people may seem a little harsh or rough, they are shown as human beings who have lives that may be filled with family and loving attention that you might not be able to witness in your own interactions with them. This is a book that really helps children (and adults!) look at folks who may be very different from them, and let’s them see their humanity. Unlike “My Parents Open Carry”, there is no obvious coercion to get you to accept these people, there is just the vision of what their private lives may be like, helping us realize that what we see of others is not always a complete picture.

    On the other hand, we own a book she also wrote called, “Sugar Would Not Eat It” which I will never share with a child. In it, a frustrated little boy screams at his kitten and appears to shake her because he can’t make her eat a piece of cake. This is after all kinds of “old-fashioned” advice from many adults in his neighborhood, not including the adult in his own house who seems to be ignoring him as he gets more and more frustrated! This is dangerous and potentially harmful behavior, and not treated as such in the context of the story, so I consider this an unsuitable picture book for children.

  3. Liz

    If it received a starred review, I would put it in our collection. There’s a definite audience for this topic in my community.

    As it is though. . . I’m so glad I don’t have to. (Yet. If someone made a request, I’d honor it, because there’s so little on the topic.)

    Though I much prefer Bill Peet’s Gnats of Knotty Pine myself 😉 Though that one’s a little weird too. . .

  4. Kelly Doolittle

    I’d like to add that I believe it would be a great topic for older youth, like our “hot topics” and debating series – books that look at both side of subjects. Do we NEED to bring such politically charged topics to our toddlers and preschoolers who read picture books? I don’t think so.

  5. V

    One could also argue that by representing their viewpoint with such a poorly-written and creepy book you’d be doing a disservice to people who have more reasonable opinions about why they own guns.

  6. Jennifer

    I grew up with a dad who was a cop. We had guns around all the time, and I guess he “open carried” when we went places. I don’t think I needed a book about it in particular. He might have appreciated a gun safety book, but he dealt with this pretty responsibly by hiding firearms, putting them in a gun safe, and putting gun locks on all of the guns. I also wasn’t allowed to have water pistols or to point weapons at people. Giving me a book that pointed out guns might have complicated the issue?

  7. brian

    Kind of a controversy topic, but never the less, the safety of your family matters. To live in a world with no crime would be nice, but anyone reading this knows this will never happen! But great article

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