Thursday, March 18, 2004

An elementary school in Wilmington, N.C., has put in its library a book about two princes who fall in love and “marry,” prompting outrage from the parents of a first-grade girl who brought the book home.

Michael and Tonya Hartsell want to know how the publishers of “King & King,” by Dutch authors Linda De Haan and Stern Nijland, determined it is appropriate for readers age 6 and up, as the publishers claim.

“I was flabbergasted. My child is not old enough to understand something like that, especially when it’s not in our beliefs,” Mr. Hartsell said.

The 32-page book tells the story of Prince Bertie, who rejects the chance to marry a bevy of eligible princesses and, instead, chooses Prince Lee, the brother of one of the royal candidates, as his mate. At the end of the book, the two princes seal their love with a kiss, and they “marry.”

A sequel due out later this spring, “King & King & Family,” describes how Prince Bertie and Prince Lee adopt a little girl named Princess Daisy, according to Nicole Geiger, founder and head of Tricycle Press, the books’ publisher. Tricycle Press is the children’s division of Ten Speed Press of Berkeley, Calif.

“Reality is changing. There are a lot of alternative families in this country, and we publish books for them. We want to show same-sex love as being warm-hearted and sincere. Any child in any situation needs to be recognized. They don’t deserve wrath and scorn,” Ms. Geiger said in a telephone interview.

“You can’t make children feel valuable by validating immoral behavior,” said Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, an affiliate of Concerned Women for America. He does not believe children in grade school should be reading “King & King” or its sequel.

Ms. Geiger noted that “King & King” was reviewed by a handful of reputable reviewers of children’s books, including the School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, the Horn Books Magazine and Publishers Weekly.

It received honorable mention in the “most unusual book of the year” category for Publishers Weekly 2002 “Off the Cuff Awards.”

The San Francisco Chronicle called the tome “progressive” and “inclusive.” The Philadelphia Gay News said it was a “great book to teach young readers about same-sex couples.”

But Mr. Knight is appalled with the message of both “King & King” and “King & King & Family.”

“What a message to send a little girl: that a mommy isn’t necessary,” he said.

Elizabeth Mars, principal of Rachel Freeman Elementary where the Hartsell child got the book, did not return repeated phone calls from The Washington Times yesterday, but she told the Associated Press that “What might be inappropriate for one family, in another family, is a totally acceptable thing.”

The school librarian, Barbara Hawley, declined to say if she knowingly selected a book about homosexual “marriage” for inclusion in the library.

Mr. Knight said the person or persons who chose the book should be fired.

“They were either ignorant of what it was about or think it’s OK to promote the homosexual agenda to schoolchildren,” he said.

The Hartsells plan to file a written complaint with the New Hanover County School District, which has a panel to reviews books whose appropriateness has been challenged.

“A decision will be made after the Media Advisory Committee has completed the appeals process,” said D. John Morris Jr., superintendent of the New Hanover County School District, adding that this is the first complaint he has received about the book.

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