The second book in the Loveable Lucy series was banned from Florida schools. (Courtesy Shayna Penn)

Author duo Norma Roth and Shayna Penn now live in Florida and Los Angeles, respectively, but the mother and daughter team is from the Philadelphia region. And last winter, a book from their children’s series was banned from a Florida school.

They’ve always viewed Philly as a symbol of liberty and freedom, they told Billy Penn, which is why they’re so distraught over the fact that Moms for Liberty is holding its annual conference in the city. Along with advocating against teaching race or gender in schools, the conservative nonprofit is known for backing book bans.

“It’s a direct antithesis to the City of Philadelphia’s spirit,” said Penn, was raised in Cherry Hill, N.J., right across the river. “This is a city that champions being progressive.”

Their Lovable Lucy children’s book series is geared towards kids aged 3 to 7. It follows the adventures of Lucy, a curly-haired dog based on Roth and Penn’s real-life pet of the same name. The series’ stories and illustrations aim to emphasize diversity and inclusion among other themes.

Which is why they believe it was banned, Penn said.

Roth and Penn’s second book, “Little Lovable Lucy, You’re so Big,” was set to appear at a Title I school in Volusia County, Florida, after a philanthropic business in the state volunteered to donate them. But they couldn’t be placed before the school’s Media Review Committee — a common entity, after recent Florida legislation that promotes strict oversight of media materials in educational settings — could examine them. 

When they received word in January of the committee’s decision to ban one of the books, the authors were disappointed, but not all that surprised.

A double-page illustration in the book shows two men holding a sign that reads “Go Lucy Go.” They’re pictured standing next to a rainbow mailbox. It was the rainbow imagery that was flagged, Roth told Billy Penn. 

“In this particular school, the majority of the students live in a family that are socioeconomically disadvantaged,” she said. “That means that they don’t have disposable income to take their kids to Barnes and Noble or a bookstore to buy a new book because they’re figuring out how to put food on the table and gas in the car to get to work.” 

Last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Parental Rights in Education bill into law, which limited instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. The state’s education board voted in April to expand the law through 12th grade.

Since then, the mother-daughter duo hasn’t even tried placing it in any more Florida schools assuming it would be disallowed. 

They considered editing the book, but decided it wasn’t worth it. They did, however, update some illustrations in their forthcoming third book in the series, which hasn’t yet been published, in the hopes it’ll be allowed in Florida schools. The rainbow imagery has been removed, and there won’t be two standing directly next to each other.

Roth and Penn plan to look for donors or literacy organizations to distribute their book series to schools in Philly, where protests related to the Moms for Liberty conference are planned throughout the weekend. 

“People do not want that presence in a city like Philadelphia,” Penn said. “I think what they’re hopefully going to learn this weekend is that Philadelphia will tell them that.”