Recently I ordered 6 books about different animals because they seemed to have good photos/pictures. When I read them, one had info that could be interpreted to refer to evolution and 2 of them had photos of animals mating.
So I showed them to about 10 people to get their opinions on whether they thought they were appropriate for our library. There was no consensus. While I think the mating animals would be perfectly fine (I was raised on a farm) most of our library staff didn't think they were ok because, parents might not be prepared to answer questions their kids had. After much thought I remembered a library seminar leader saying that there are so many good books published that we don't have to have books that are questionable. So my question is, do you know of a series of books or publisher that has good quality books, by that I mean books that tell about animals with good photo or illustrations, but without mating and evolution...I'm laughing as I'm writing this...it seems ridiculous to have to be concerned about these things in children's books.
You didn't mention what grades you were selecting these animal books for and I'm presuming this is for a church library, not a church school library? All of those factors make a difference.
What I would recommend you do next time is locate a large regional public library, and go take a look at the book series before you purchase them (check their online catalog over the Internet to see if they have the ones you're interested in). I'm assuming you bought them from a regular (secular) publishing house. Keep in mind that very few publishing companies can cater to the Christian market when it comes to an extensive series of books - and animal series can be very extensive. Also, they need the public school market, so they are going to cater to the larger states' "State Standards" for education. That means they will cater to what Texas, California, and New York want. Texas is the most conservative of the three.
I mention the standards because there is probably a standard refering to "reproduction." When kids write their reports, they may be asked to include information related to this, such as gestational time and number of births per year or per pregancy, or number of eggs, etc., and how long the parents care for the brood, etc.
If you have a children's librarian at the public library you feel comfortable working with, s/he may have resources to assist you. I'm referring to professional review sources. S/he might be able to loan you some review sources to read within the library - they probably don't allow those to go out. Booklist is one that only lists books they recommend for schools, but their criteria might not be as conservative as you want. Some review sources print reviews of books and give you a thumbs up or down on them. I find it is very educational to read the negative reviews so I can be a better evaluater of what to look for and what to avoid. (I also work for a public school library in addition to my volunteer work at our church library).
Besides the mating issue, you mentioned the evolution issue. That is going to be trickier to avoid in a secular book since most, (possibly all) states require teaching evolution as a fact. How they handle it at each grade level will be different. Again, check the state standards to look for the wording they use at each grade level - it is a progressive thing.
You might also contact the book publisher or vendor rep and ask if you can order the books on approval, and then send them back if they don't suit you. They will be shipped out unprocessed so they can be returned. I would only request this if it is a new release and/or you cannot view them at the public library in advance.
Cute story to share: When my son was about 5 we took him to "Lion Country Safari" here in California. Since animals aren't shy about mating we encountered several pairs "going forth and being fruitful" and my son looked out and said, "Hey look, the lions are playing piggy-back!" Our son is now an adult and we still get a chuckle out of that innocent comment, which we didn't feel obligated to correct at the time!
Thank you Joanne, for giving me a direction to go for animal books for our library. I will check out my great grandson's school library, the public library in our town and in a large library in our area. I am friendly with our town's public librarian, she may have reviews and/or recommendations for me.
have you thought about flagging the book in your computer system and adding a disclaimer to the physical book about what parents might see/read inside? we do that on some questionable materials. the flag in the system reminds you on check-out to have a quiet discussion with the parent to alert them to the possibility of hard questions. i am one who considers stuff like that to be a teaching opportunity for my own kids, but of course all that would have to be age appropriate depending on how graphic the pictures are and the child's maturity.
Thanks Melanie for your input, I understand what you're saying about this being a teaching opportunity. But most of our kids come into our library without their parents so we wouldn't have an opportunity to talk with them. I wish we could come to a consensus about what our policy should be. I didn't think this would be such a problem, but I just can't sort out in my mind even what I think we should do.