United Poultry Concerns April 19, 2001
Children's Book Celebrates
Chicken Killing as Boyish Mischief

Protest to Publisher & Others
(They especially need to hear from Humane Educators)

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
    Ph: 212-414-3703
    Fax: 212-414-3396

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."

What Can I 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. Contact :
      Barbara Sargent
      Assistant to the President
      National PTA
      330 North Wabash Avenue #2100
      Chicago, IL 60611-3603

  • Contact:
      Assistant Secretary
      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: 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 speciesist.

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.

Related links: United Poultry Concerns. April 19, 2001

United Poultry Concerns, Inc.
PO Box 150
Machipongo, VA 23405-0150
FAX: 757-678-5070

(Action Alert - Children's Book Celebrates Chicken Killing as Boyish Mischief)