Book Title: TOM
Author & Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher: Penguin Putnam
Target Audience: Kindergarten & Elementary School Children
First Published 1993. Republished 1997
Mr. Doug Whiteman, President
Penguin Putnam Children's Group
345 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
Victoria Wells, Editor
G.P. Putnum's Sons
345 Hudson Street
New York NY 10014
TOM centers on the relationship between a boy named Tommy and his
grandfather whom he is named after. The two of them do different
things together until the action moves to the grandfather's butcher
shop, butcher table, and the killing of chickens at the shop. The
cover of TOM shows the grandfather smiling at his meat counter with a
row of defeathered chickens hanging upside down in shackles with
their faces still on in the background. In the book, the grandfather
is shown in his back room chopping up chickens while others he has
killed there hang upside down in shackles. The grandfather hands
Tommy a dead chicken's head to bury in the ground to grow a "chicken
bush." Then the grandfather teaches Tommy to scare his classmates and
teacher with dead chickens' feet. Several pages show Tommy perfecting
this tactic. He paints the claws' toe nails bright red.
"Grandfather: 'See that little white string thing? It's called a
tendon. If you pull it, the chicken foot opens and closes. Try it.'
"Tommy tried. It was scary, but it made him giggle. Tom put two
chicken feet in a bag and tied it with string."
In response to United Poultry Concerns' complaint, Penguin Putnam
replied on April 5, 2001, "we received many starred reviews citing
the book's way of 'reinforcing the bond between generations' and
praising the author for championing 'the special relationship he had
with his grandfather.'" And, Tommy "was sent to the principal's
office as punishment" for his "prank."
TOM is an irresponsible book with a desensitizing message. It treats
chicken killing and butchering animals as humorous. Scaring women and
girls with body parts is presented as hilarious. Tommy is sent to the
principal's office for his "prank," not for the cruel and sadistic
delight he exhibits. This book gets away with its machismo and
inhumaneness by being placed in a "cultural diversity-old world
charm" perspective. The theme of "boys will be boys" is presented as
integral to family humor, "male bonding," and a cute old grandfather.
TOM is unfit for children. It teaches that it's cool to be cruel
without any comparable teaching about what animal slaughter truly
entails or how "girls" feel being taunted by fresh little boys. At
the end grandfather and grandson are "wink[ing]" and "think[ing] of
something else to do."
- Write to Penguin Putnam (see contact information for Doug Whiteman
and Victoria Wells above) and politely request that TOM be removed
from its booklist immediately.
- Express your concerns to Our Children, the official publication of
the National PTA, which addresses education from preschool through
grade 12, including how to create safe and nurturing environments.
Assistant to the President
330 North Wabash Avenue #2100
Chicago, IL 60611-3603
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-6100
1-800-USA Learn (872-53276)
- Contact your State Department of Education. To learn who to write
to and where, go to: www.ed.gov/Programs/EROD/ERODmap.html. You
will see a map of the United States. Click on your state.
- If you have a child in school, see if TOM is on the library shelf
and if so, request that it be removed. The book is both sexist and
Please request written replies from everyone you write to. Please
keep your own letter short, firm, professional, and to the point.
Thank you for helping to get rid of TOM.
United Poultry Concerns.
April 19, 2001
United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
(Action Alert - Children's Book Celebrates Chicken Killing as Boyish Mischief)