Tackling the Debate on Inclusion and Censorship in Youth Literature.
In an increasingly divided society, the arena of books and literature has found itself at the epicenter of controversies surrounding diversity, inclusion, and age appropriateness. The latest in line to bear the brunt of such scrutiny is the young adult graphic novel “Beetle in the Hollow Bones” by Aliza Layne, a Stonewall Honor Book that aims to resonate with readers aged 8 to 12 but has also found an audience among older teens.
The book, aimed at middle graders, centers on a young goblin witch named Beetle, navigating her way through friendship, romance, and supernatural escapades. What has primarily brought the book into the crosshairs of critics is its depiction of a lesbian romance and elements that some detractors label as witchcraft.
Yet, Layne insists that her work is a fantasy adventure that incorporates a lesbian romance in much the same manner as one would find in any novel featuring straight protagonists. Speaking recently in an exclusive interview, she highlighted how her book adheres to standard age-appropriate guidelines set forth by libraries.
“My book is commercially published through Simon & Schuster,” Layne noted, “and my publisher and I worked together to determine what age group was the correct age group for my book, and we decided that it was for kids aged 8 to 12.”
Published through Atheneum Books, one of Simon & Schuster’s imprints, “Beetle in the Hollow Bones” has found its way into libraries nationwide and even internationally, with versions translated into Italian and French. However, some community members and organizations question its placement alongside middle-grade books, sparking a debate about the role of librarians and the importance of inclusion.
Defending the authenticity and importance of her work, Layne emphasized that challenging books like hers could be counterproductive and potentially dangerous. According to her, libraries offer a controlled, safe environment for children to explore themes they might otherwise encounter in less safe ways. “They can always just close the book and walk away if they’re uncomfortable,” she said.
The topic of banning youth literature that delves into LGBTQ+ themes also brings up a larger issue about representation and the challenges that queer youth face. Aliza, in her interview, underscored that, based on state-collected data, LGBTQ+ kids are statistically more likely to experience abuse and suicidal tendencies. For this reason, among others, she advocates for maintaining these kinds of materials within reach of young readers.
While Layne has two sequels forthcoming in the series, her vision for the future is firm. She remains steadfast in her commitment to not tone down her work. Instead, she aims to become “more aggressive” in portraying a range of experiences that young people encounter as they grow up.
The controversy surrounding “Beetle in the Hollow Bones” serves as a broader mirror reflecting societal norms, fears, and biases. It raises vital questions about how we want to prepare our children for the world they will inherit—a world that includes a spectrum of sexual orientations, diverse experiences, and complex issues that can’t simply be closeted away.
Watch in this exclusive Royal Examiner video.
Safety First: ACES Drives Initiative to Protect Pedestrians on West Criser Road
Push for High-Visibility Flex-Stakes Aims to Secure Prominent Front Royal Routes.
In Front Royal, the ever-busy West Criser Road plays a pivotal role for pedestrians, cyclists, and students. Recognizing the road’s prominence and inherent dangers, the Advisory Committee for Environmental Sustainability (ACES) is spearheading a crucial fundraising campaign. Their objective? To install high-visibility flex-stakes, enhancing the road’s safety and ensuring a secure passage for all.
West Criser isn’t just any road in Front Royal; it forms an integral connection between Eastham Park and the esteemed Skyline High School, creating a widely frequented loop. Cyclists, joggers, and walkers often use this scenic route to revel in the town’s natural beauty or engage in daily exercises. Moreover, the pathway is indispensable for students traveling to and from Skyline High and Skyline Middle School.
However, the increasing foot and vehicular traffic warrants a closer examination of the road’s safety features. The proposed flex-stakes, with their high-visibility feature, are specifically designed to draw attention to the pedestrian shoulder, offering a clear and safe boundary. This installation is not only expected to shield pedestrians and cyclists but also act as a reminder for drivers to slow down, particularly in this densely populated zone.
ACES’s commitment to environmental sustainability has always been evident in its various initiatives. With this campaign, they extend their dedication towards ensuring that Front Royal’s natural beauty can be enjoyed safely by all its residents. This fundraiser isn’t just about installing stakes; it’s about building a more secure community, one flex-stake at a time.
As ACES pushes forward with its mission, community support becomes paramount. Donations, both big and small, can play a part in safeguarding the residents of Front Royal and enhancing the overall safety of West Criser Road. With collective effort and community backing, these high-visibility flex-stakes will soon become a reality, offering peace of mind to many.
Please consider donating to help make this section of roadway safer for everyone to use.
Adverse Weather Can’t Dampen Spirits at Celebrate Kids Day
As dark clouds loomed and Tropical Storm Ophelia made its presence felt on September 24th, the Warren Coalition’s 10th annual Celebrate Kids Day proceeded with a vigor and energy that the storm couldn’t dampen. A change in venue to the Health & Human Services Complex did little to deter hundreds of families from partaking in this beloved event.<br><br>
The popular inflatable rides found a new home at the 15th Street Gym, thanks to a quick-thinking reorganization plan. Nearby, Diversified Minds from Warren County Public Schools offered their conference room for local agencies to set up shop. The sheer number of attendees highlighted the event’s significance: rooms brimming with activities, face painting sessions in the “band room,” and games galore.
Though the pony ride vendor had to cancel, the rest of the outdoor activities, like the pitch burst and petting zoo, stood their ground. Nearly a thousand visitors, both young and old, made their way through the attractions, enjoying everything from a T-ball challenge to inflatable rock walls.
Inside, organizations like the Salvation Army, St. Luke’s Community Clinic, and the Department of Social Services, to name a few, had tables set up, offering a range of activities and information. As children flitted between buildings, taking in all the fun, some were drawn to the pitch burst. There, brave volunteers sat poised for a splashy surprise, all in good fun and for a charitable cause, raising over $6,000.
Thanks to generous sponsors like Front Royal Dental Care, Fraternal Order of Police, and City National Bank (which covered the entire petting zoo’s expenses), the event’s price remained a mere dollar per child. Local businesses, from Horton’s Nursery and Garden Center to Martin’s, also chipped in, showcasing a heartwarming communal spirit.
Reflecting on the day, Christa Shifflett, Executive Director of the Warren Coalition, remarked, “This is a testament to our community’s resilience and togetherness. Everyone, from sponsors to parents, played their part, ensuring that Celebrate Kids Day was a roaring success, even in the face of unpredictable weather.” The Warren Coalition, a beacon for health care and substance abuse awareness since 1994, remains dedicated to fostering a safe and nurturing environment in Warren County.
Shenandoah Rail Trail: An Ambitious Vision On Track
Stitching Towns and Nature Together with a 50-Mile Thread.
A broad coalition of elected officials, economic development leaders, business owners, nonprofit partners, and state legislators gathered last week in Front Royal to discuss progress on the proposed Shenandoah Rail Trail. This ambitious 50-mile multi-use trail would convert an abandoned railroad corridor into a shared-use path connecting nine towns and three counties along the Shenandoah Valley.
The meeting provided an opportunity to update Senator Tim Kaine on the status of the project and emerging funding opportunities. Kaine has been a longtime supporter of the trail, noting during the discussion that he’s an avid cyclist familiar with the region’s trails. “When I first heard about plans for the Shenandoah Rail Trail, I thought it would work great, and it’s exciting to see the progress made,” he said.
Kaine emphasized the value of demonstrating successful trails to gain local buy-in, saying, “The more model trails are up and running, the more small towns can see the benefits and want to get on board.”
The diverse group highlighted how their coordinated efforts are building momentum for the project. Natasha Skelton of The Conservation Fund, which is negotiating the acquisition of the corridor from Norfolk Southern, said: “We have strong localized support up and down the corridor, with all nine towns and three counties in agreement that this is what they want to do with the vacant rail line.”
The newly formed Friends of the Shenandoah Rail Trail will spearhead private fundraising efforts. The trail partnership is also pursuing federal funding through a $25 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. At the state level, $35 million has been allocated so far from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Proponents emphasized the potential economic benefits of the trail for tourism and small businesses focused on outdoor recreation. “We see this as an asset that businesses can build off of,” said Joe Petty, Executive Director of the Front Royal/Warren County Economic Development Authority.
Others highlighted community engagement progress, including a series of public meetings that collected input on trail preferences from over 700 residents. Outreach to diverse populations, such as non-English speaking poultry plant workers who could use the trail to commute, is also underway.
The scenic value of trail bridges slated to cross rivers and rail lines was noted as iconic attractions for visitors. Local connections via trails and greenways linking to the main corridor will also help residents access the amenities.
Senator Kaine’s visit gave the partners a high-profile platform to share their vision and progress. With strong local alignments, funding pursuits underway, and engagement efforts to spread awareness, the Shenandoah Rail Trail initiative appears to be building unstoppable momentum.
Behind the Badge: A Day in the Life of a Warren County Sheriff’s Animal Control Officer
Protecting the Animal Kingdom, One Day at a Time.
At first glance, Deputy Greg Long of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office may look like any other law enforcement officer. But, his daily encounters with animals of all kinds, from snakes to stray cats, set him apart.
Deputy Long serves as the county’s primary animal control officer. This role sees him overseeing the annual statistics of received animals, ensuring that the training requirements for the animal control division are up to par, and liaising with the general public about animal-related matters.
Not just limited to domesticated pets, Deputy Long’s responsibilities also extend to inspecting commercial kennels twice a year and managing the dangerous dog registry. These dogs, once identified as ‘dangerous,’ are subjected to yearly checks to guarantee public safety. Even hybrid animals, which surprisingly find their homes in the county, aren’t exempt from these periodic checks.
Despite what some might think, animal control isn’t a one-person job. The department also employs several animal control officers who aid in handling various situations. These situations range from dealing with livestock to answering calls about injured wildlife. Their collaboration with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries ensures that injured wildlife, such as deer or birds of prey, receive the proper care they need.
When asked about the necessity of having deputies handle animal control, Deputy Long explained the intricate legal framework surrounding animal control. Officers go through rigorous training, amassing 120 hours of comprehensive learning. This training educates them on first aid for animals, recognizing different species and breeds, and even discerning potential rabies cases.
One of the many commendable initiatives under the purview of the department is its emergency sheltering plan. Echoing the challenges faced during hurricanes in states like Florida and Louisiana, where animals were left stranded due to inadequate shelter provisions, Warren County’s response involves a fully equipped trailer. This trailer, loaded with essentials like cages and ID tags, aims to ensure that no pet is left behind during natural or man-made disasters.
The vehicle that Deputy Long operates may appear ordinary, but it’s specially adapted for animal transport. Designed with the comfort and safety of the animals in mind, it boasts air-conditioned cages, ensuring animals aren’t exposed to extreme temperatures. From dogs to ducks, this vehicle can transport a variety of animals safely and comfortably.
One challenge that Deputy Long highlighted is the issue of stray cats. While many might think that animal control should handle these felines, the reality is more complex. The shelter’s policies allow them to accept cats only under specific conditions.
At the end of the day, whether it’s assisting a neighbor distressed by a barking dog or untangling a dog that’s gotten itself caught up, Deputy Long and his colleagues are committed to serving both the human and animal residents of Warren County.
VDOT: Warren County Traffic Alert for September 25 – 29, 2023
The following is a list of highway work that may affect traffic in Warren County during the coming weeks. Scheduled work is subject to change due to inclement weather and material supplies. Motorists are advised to watch for slow-moving tractors during mowing operations. When traveling through a work zone, be alert to periodic changes in traffic patterns and lane closures.
*NEW* or *UPDATE* indicates a new or revised entry since last week’s report.
Mile markers 6 to 9, eastbound and westbound – Overnight single right lane closures for inspection of bridge over Norfolk Southern Railway and Shenandoah River, 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. Wednesday night.
*NEW* Mile marker 9 to 7, westbound – Right shoulder closures for sign work, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mile marker 299 to 300, northbound and southbound – Overnight lane closures as needed for road and bridge work, 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. through the night of November 27. Shoulder closures 24/7. Work zone speed limit: 55 miles an hour. Work is related to southbound acceleration ramp extension and bridge widening, with estimated completion in fall 2024.
Route 340 (Stonewall Jackson Highway) – Shoulder closures between Route 619 (Rivermont Drive) and Route 607 (Rocky Lane) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 522 (Remount Road) – Flagger traffic control between Route 665 (Chester Gap Road) and Route 604 (Harmony Hollow Road) for tree removal operations, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday.
Route 702 (Baugh Drive) – Flag traffic control between Baker Plaza and Route 661 (Fairground Road) for paving operations, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through October 6.
Vegetation management may take place district-wide on various routes. Motorists are reminded to use extreme caution when traveling through work zones.
Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511. Traffic alerts and traveler information also are available at www.511Virginia.org.
A Salute to General Daniel Morgan: Virginia’s Revolutionary War Hero
Honoring a Legend: SAR Dedicates Plaque at the Historic Burwell-Morgan Mill.
Millwood, Clarke County, Virginia – General Daniel Morgan, a stalwart of the American Revolution, was honored with a dedication ceremony hosted by the Colonel James Wood II Chapter of the Virginia Society Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) on 15th September 2023. The picturesque Burwell-Morgan Mill served as the backdrop for the event, with a bronze plaque celebrating the General’s extraordinary life taking center stage in the meadow.
Daniel Morgan’s journey from a young New Jersey lad to a Virginia legend is one for the books. As a youngster who could hardly read or write, he ventured to Virginia, making the Shenandoah Valley his home. From his humble beginnings as a teamster to playing a crucial role in the War for Independence, his life was nothing short of extraordinary. Morgan’s resilience was evident when, after receiving a near-fatal injury from an ambush outside Fort Edward, he carried the scars and stories proudly. His tactical brilliance shone brightest at the Battle of Saratoga and later, Cowpens, setting the stage for Cornwallis’ eventual defeat.
The event was a grand spectacle, with the Virginia SAR State Color Guard presenting colors and dignitaries from various societies paying their respects. Marc Robinson emceed, while Paul McComb undertook chaplain duties. The guest list was illustrious: Mid-Atlantic District Vice President General James Engler, Sr; Virginia Society SAR President Ernie Coggins; representatives from DAR and C.A.R., among others. Dale Corey painted a vivid picture of Morgan’s life after which numerous SAR Societies and DAR Chapters presented wreaths in the General’s honor.
As James Graham, Morgan’s biographer, once wrote, his “strength and spirit, his frank and manly bearing, his intelligence and good humor” made him beloved by many. This sentiment echoed throughout the ceremony as attendees remembered the General’s influence on the colonial victory.
The event reached its crescendo with Anita Bonner and Jocelynn Wilson leading the attendees in a rendition of “God Bless America,” culminating in a musket salute by the Virginia State Color Guard.
In an era where heroes often emerge from the pages of fiction, General Daniel Morgan’s story stands as a testament to the mettle and spirit of real-life warriors. This dedication serves not only to commemorate his incredible life but also to inspire future generations to value sacrifice, strategy, and resilience.