Dear Mr. Bruel

I saw this in my Facebook feed today. After checking its veracity (yep! posted on Nick Bruel’s FB page, and just today, too!), I knew I had to share it. If you are that easily offended, maybe you shouldn’t be working in a library. Or with children. Or, really, anywhere near People.

Dear Mr. Bruel,

My name is W. and I am a library aide at L. Elementary in L, OH. Your books are very popular in my library. It was brought to my attention today by a parent that your books contain symbols ( #%&*@ ) in the dialog that most people would interpret as cuss words. This parent was asked by their child what the symbols meant and the parent had no other explanation. Please tell me that this was not your intention!!! If so, I am going to have to pull your books from my shelf and that is going to make a lot of kids disappointed.


Dear W.,

Thank you for inquiring. I embrace this opportunity to clarify this longstanding misconception. I was hoping that it would be obvious from the context of the story, but the symbols ” #%&*@” clearly stand for pineapples.

Personally, I love pineapples, but I have a peculiar relationship with them. I love them, but I can no longer eat them raw because they contain bromelain, a natural meat tenderizer to which I am unusually sensitive. If I eat pineapple, my tongue becomes numb to such a degree that I… I…

I’m sorry. I’m deflecting. I’m trying to distract you into a different topic rather than address the one at hand, and you deserve better than that.

I confess— ” #%&*@” are representative of cuss words. Which cuss words? Well, I leave that to the imagination of the reader as has been tradition for many, many decades. The use of ” #%&*@” has been a comic trope used by cartoonists for almost as long as there have been cartoons. Think Beetle Bailey and Sarge. Andy Capp and Flo. Garfield and Odie. I always imagine that if you were to put into words what Donald Duck was actually saying when he dropped a hammer on his webbed foot, it would look a lot like ” #%&*@”.

This brings us to my offense. I sense you are outraged by my use of ” #%&*@”. That is your right, of course, but I confess that I’m a bit bewildered by it. I’m not actually using cuss words. As you point out yourself, I’m using symbols that represent non-specific cuss words. So is it that you’re offended by my implying that cuss words actually exist? They do, but I didn’t really have anything to do with that. And I suspect that your students already know them. My daughter hears them virtually every time I drive on the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey. Have you ever driven it? It’s just… just horrible. No one uses turn signals. Cars enter from the left and the right. There are tolls all over it. The speed limit for much of it is 55, but if you’re not going 70 you’re taking your life in your hands and… I digress. Sorry.

The point is, my daughter knows these words because of my anxiety ridden death slaloms through New Jersey. As for your students, they didn’t learn them from me.

As to my punishment— I’m sorry you feel the need to remove my books from your shelves. I won’t talk you out of it, because those are your shelves and you should do with them what you feel is best. I’m not too concerned, since I’m fortunate and feel reasonably certain that your students can find my books elsewhere if they were to try hard enough.

I regret that your kids will feel disappointed, but not so much that I feel compelled to change they way I write my books. I imagine that your students will feel disappointed because they LIKE the way I write my books, ” #%&*@” and all. I will say that of all the things that will challenge them in their future readings, my symbols will likely be the least of them. But that’s a good thing. How dull our literature would be if we weren’t exposed to those things that bewilder us, perplex us, and possibly even offend us.

I will say one more thing. When you remove my books from your shelves, rather than dispose of them, I do hope you will consider donating them to another school, another library that might have use of them. But if the thought of exposing students other than yours to the crimes of ” #%&*@” concerns you, then you may send them to me, and I will gladly find them a happy home. I’ll even pay for shipping.

Thanks again,


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