The Henrico School Board voted unanimously Thursday to follow the recommendation of its Instructional Materials Review Committee and keep a book in elementary school libraries that had been challenged by parents who believe it is inappropriate.
Several parents had challenged The School for Good and Evil, by Soman Chainani, telling committee members that it contained too much “glorified violence” to be appropriate for elementary school students. Prior to the committee’s March 15 hearing about the book, the parents had discussed their concerns about it with the principal and librarian of their student’s elementary school and also with the school system’s elementary education director.
The book, which was published in 2013, spawned a series of related books from Chainani and has since been made into a movie by Netflix. It is a fantasy novel that attempts to help children understand that stereotypes can be misleading and that “shows readers a hyperactively imaginative way to leave black- and-white thinking behind,” according to publisher Weekly Annex.
The book is a fairy tale and its overarching theme, committee members concluded, is one of empathy. It teachers children how to get friends and be friends, they wrote in a March 21 report, and teaches them that they still can be loved even if they have done something bad.
After meeting with the parents, committee members concluded that although the book did contain some violence, it was consistent with that seen in other fairy tales and that the violence the parents had questioned was “taken out of context.”
The parents told the committee that they felt the book was appropriate for middle school and high school students, just not for younger students like the fourth and fifth-graders who had read it at their child’s school.
Committee members wrote that there was “a lot to like in this book” and said that it was clear from the beginning that the book was one of fantasy and that some of the violence it depicted was in the context of fantasy.
There are 14 copies of the book in circulation in Henrico County’s public schools.