The New Zealand Daily Herald has criticised, in unequivocal editorial, the selection of Into The River by Ted Dawe as New Zealnd Post Children’s Book Award winner:
Good, well-written stories that go to the heart of a reader and touch the truth of any human experience, including sex, can help a young mind rise above smut. That is why it is a worry when a national award for children’s books is given to a novel that needs to carry a warning.
Some booksellers, we report today, are refusing to display Into the River by Ted Dawe, which took top prize in the recent New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards. One explained that it was “unnecessarily graphic” and contained themes the bookseller considered inappropriate for young teenagers.
It contains obscenities and shock references that worthwhile literature does not need. We can only wonder what the judges were thinking, or how much worse the other entries could have been.
Nobody has to wonder at the embarrassment of the award organisers. Last week they sent out parental warning stickers to shops stocking the book, advising them to put it on its covers. The 2013 Kiwi Kids Good Book Guide lists it for children aged 13 and over but one national booksellers’ chain has told all its managers to mark it for over-15s.
The editorial ends, “Teenagers would never say so, but they do not want this sort of fare from their school any more than they would want it from their parents.
It is not prudish or patronising to maintain a certain standard, it is re-assuring them that quality exists and people they respect can recognise it. For many, their early teenage years might be the last in their lives when they read literature worthy of the name.
Reading it might not be easy but it can reward the effort with pleasure far exceeding anything that needs an age warning. The only warning that Dawe’s material really needs is that reading it almost certainly will be a waste of time.”