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Author protests book ban over phrase 'generous bazoongas'

Children's author Nikki Tate is taking her bazoongas to Saskatchewan.

The Victoria writer will be giving away copies of Trouble on Tarragon Island, a work of fiction banned at Elizabeth Elementary in Kindersley, Sask.

The publisher learned of the ban this summer after school librarian Debbie Wagner called to complain about scenes of bullying, one of which includes the use of the word bazoongas to describe part of female anatomy. "I feel so strongly that what's happened there is wrong," Ms. Tate said yesterday. "My message to the students is, 'If you want to read this book, here it is.' " The novel will be available free to any elementary pupil in Kindersley who requests the title. The public library in the town of 4,500 is helping with the give-away program (the Kindersley branch carries a single copy of the title, which is currently checked out). The combined student populations of Elizabeth and Westberry elementary schools is nearly 600.

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The book was released in 2005 by Sono Nis Press of Winlaw, B.C. The publisher describes it as a work of juvenile fiction appropriate for ages 8 to 13. The book was one of nine nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan, a reader's choice prize for works suitable for Grades 4 to 6. However, the ban prevents children at Elizabeth Elementary from having classroom access to the title. Voting by pupils ends next February.

The free copies will be distributed at a book signing to be held at the Kindersley Mall on Monday.

Trouble on Tarragon Island is the third in the series set on a fictional Gulf Island in British Columbia. It features a 13-year-old girl named Heather Blake who wrestles with her feelings about her grandmother's behaviour, which includes breaking the law to protest against clear-cut logging.

When the grandmother poses for a nude calendar as a fundraising gimmick, the girl becomes the target of schoolyard taunts.

"What they say about my grandmother is true," the girl says. "She does have generous bazoongas, and all of Tarragon Island has seen them."

Ms. Tate said she chose bazoongas over other more common but ruder slang terms.

"I was looking for something a little humorous without being obscene," she said. "The language that is used by children in schools can be quite foul."

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Nikki Tate is the pen name of Nicole Tate-Stratton, a prolific 45-year-old author whose most recent release is a biography of Karen Brain, a horse rider who overcame a broken back in a riding accident to win bronze medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games.

By coincidence, the author learned of the Tarragon Island ban after having already agreed to take part in a sponsored author's tour, including a visit to a Grade 2 class at Elizabeth Elementary next week.

She will be reading from her picture book Grandparents' Day, which is based on a true story about her grandmother surviving a snake bite in the jungles of Brazil. She encourages students to use the tales told by their friends and family as inspiration for their own storytelling.

Neither the school librarian nor the principal could be reached for comment yesterday.

Ms. Tate will be touring Saskatchewan as part of the TD Canadian Children's Book Week. Vancouver writer Dan Bar-el will also be on tour in the province, while British Columbia children will be visited by Teresa Toten of Toronto, Edo van Belkom of Brampton, Ont., and the illustrator Ron Broda, of Sarnia, Ont.

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