Raising Readers, Read-alongs, Reading Guides, Reflections, Resources, Series Posts
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SRC Blue Comet: Problems and Alternate Suggestion

**Please note: We’ve added an alternate reading option for this week.  Spy for the Night Riders: Martin Luther (Trailblazer Books #3)by Dave and Neta Jackson.  If you have already bought the book, we’d recommend either reading it aloud so a parent can edit the bad language or using a Sharpie to “delete” it.

Return with me, please, to a time about two months ago when we at Redeemed were discussing our books selections for the second summer reading challenge. Sometimes it’s not easy for me to come up with a recommended book list, not because I read too few children’s books but for the opposite reason. However, since our theme was time-travel, I knew just the thing; one of the first books I’d reviewed for this this website, which had impressed me with its atmosphere and narrative drive, not to mention beautiful illustrations. There was one drawback, according to my own review: a few instances of profanity (specifically, taking the Lord’s name in vain). That’s a serious issue to me, but as it’s unfortunately more common in children’s literature these days, I thought we might take the opportunity to specifically address it with our kids.

Then I re-read the book, and found many more instances of God’s name used—not always in vain, but primarily. I remembered about three, but obviously I shouldn’t be relying on memory (certainly not at my age!). So, dear Redeemed Readers, I must apologize; if I had taken the precaution of refreshing my memory on this book two months ago, I probably would have passed it up.

However . . . at this point on our journey, many of you have already bought the book, and so I plan to take a little more time and look at the issue of profanity in children’s literature. Of course, misuse of God’s name is all around us today, and the way it’s represented in On the Blue Comet is true to the time period and the Midwestern depression-era social milieu (one reason I was attracted to the book in the first place—besides liking trains–is that it reminds me of my east-Missouri in-laws!). People do talk this way; how do we as Christians respond in love? Young readers of the age target for this book—ages 9-13—are old enough to start thinking about that.

If you haven’t bought the book, we’d recommend purchasing the alternate instead: Spy for the Night Riders: Martin Luther (Trailblazer Books #3)

If you already have On the Blue Comet , some of the language should definitely be skipped. I’ve listed the pages where you can flag these references and avoid them during a read aloud. For children reading silently, you may want to flag the words yourself or ask more mature readers to mark problematic passages. The last thing we should do is ignore them, so we’ll turn this into a teaching moment when we finally get to this book in July.

Page numbers (and you might ask, are all of these instances of profanity? God is real to some of these characters, and though they might be referring to him a little too casually, it might not be “in vain”): 104, 136, 152, 155, 185 (?), 187 (the expression “hell or high water”), 205, 207 (hell), 208, 234, 282, 283, 285, 306 (curse word), 320.

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  1. Marion Stade says

    What do you think of the fact that approval of the use of the cautionable words in books written for 9 year olds (younger if they are precocious) is indicated when we purchase the books or check them out from the library? Does our contributing to the publishing company and author by purchasing the book indicate that we don’t mind that kind of language usage in books written for children? Money speaks loudly one way or the other. Does our willingness to use of the sharpie in the books make it ok for the authors and publishers to imply that it is good to include this kind of usage of offensive words in their products? Is swearing and cursing now considered normal or even educated since most books seems to have its usage? Whether the product is aimed at children or young adults or adults.

    Why is it best to keep going?

    • Emily says

      Marion, thank you for caring about this issue. We do not recommend that anyone buy The Blue Comet, and I’ve actually gone back through all our posts (including this one!) to make sure that we are clear about that. Thank you for your help in catching this oversight. We do hope parents will choose the alternate book in place of The Blue Comet. However, we do still plan to give an introduction and discussion questions for families who may have already read the book (or part of it) and may have even already sent it off to camp with their children. We are deeply sorry for the mistake, and we are putting in very strong standards for future read alongs to prevent this from happening again. Many thanks for your help and patience as we figure these things out as we go.

  2. In defense of books like these, though, I must cite my mother-in-law: she home educated seven kids and frequently said that she didn’t want them to be shocked by swearing or bad language. She felt that if they were too sensitive to the way “ordinary people” talk, their reaction to swear words would get in the way of presenting a loving witness to people who do not yet have a reason to hold back such language. Her goal was to raise kids who always spoke of God with appropriate reverence, yet could also ignore someone else’s rough language. It’s sort of like nose-picking. Just because you hang out with people who do it doesn’t mean that you are automatically converted to their pursuit.

    • Thanks for chiming in, Anna! I sympathize with this view, though I respect other parents’ sensitivities as well. Being “in the world but not of it” is a complicated balance Christians have to work out for themselves individually. I’m sure we can all agree about nose-pickers, though!

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