We get pretty excited about Banned Book Week here at the Topsham Public Library (Emma is absolutely giddy!) Every year during the last week of September the American Library Association (ALA) sponsors Banned Book Week. ALA coordinates this event to educate the public that censorship is still a thing. The ALA also maintains a list of the top ten challenged books, and the objections given for each title for each year.
In celebration of Banned Book Week, some of the Topsham Public Library staff members wrote about a favorite banned or challenged book.
I chose Summer of My German Soldier By Bette Greene. It has been a long time since I have read this book, but I remember that it is the first book to make me cry. This is a the story of a friendship that develops between a girl and a German POW, and it is set in Arkansas. Greene explores themes of personal value, kindness from unexpected places, and evil in those who are closest to us. I may just have to read it again.
My favorite banned book on this year’s list is Hop On Pop! According to Robert P. Doyle, from AL Direct, April 30, 2014, this book was challenged because, the book “encourages children to use violence against their fathers.” Hop On Pop was groundbreaking in 1963 when it was published because it was a silly book that was fun and accessible for the young reader. Easy readers, as librarians and teachers refer to books like Hop On Pop, feature controlled language, simple repetitive sentences and strong visual clues to put the words in context for beginning readers. The whole point of them is to encourage reading. No child that I have ever met has used Hop on Pop as an excuse to be violent to their fathers. On the contrary, most kids and Pops I know relish the silliness and fun word play with each other! After 51 years, it is still a classic and one of Theodore Geisel’s best!
This year I’m going for banned books that are enjoyable to read. In that category, the Harry Potter series wins hands down. They’re exciting, imaginative, and just plain fun. One doesn’t even notice that they deal with the problems every child faces while growing up or the many injustices which exist in our society. There are great lessons in these books and so much fun in the learning.
If you enjoyed the Hunger Games trilogy by Susan Collins or sci-fi films like Equilibrium or Snowpiercer then you have, in part, to thank Aldous Huxley and the vision of the future he put forth in Brave New World. Considered to be a dystopian classic along with 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and A Handmaid’s Tale, this book has consistently hit most banned and challenged lists since it was published in 1932. In fact, it was the 16th most banned book in the 20th century. Why? Here is the ironic twist: for a book that is critical of sexual promiscuity and numbing emotions with drugs, it has been criticized and banned for promoting the very same things (which makes one wonder if the would-be banners have actually read the book). Brave New World is by far my most favorite dystopian novel. I read it as a teenager, and it is, in my opinion, the one that has proved most prophetic. When I think of the world that Huxley predicted, I am astonished at how closely it resembles the world we live in today.
My challenged book choice is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. I really enjoy memoirs and this one was done well. I believe it is challenged for its description of the dysfunctional childhood the author experienced. This was the medium Walls chose to communicate her experience and it was successful.
She also wrote a follow-up true life novel, Half Broke Horses based on her mother’s childhood. Check that one out as well. There’s a bit of dysfunction in all of us!
Gone with the Wind is my choice. I read this years ago and really liked it. Scarlett is a force to reckon with as she goes about trying to survive during the times after the civil war. I would say that it is on the banned book list because of the slavery issue and the Civil War.
I read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian with my daughter who was a reluctant reader in the 5th or 6th grade. It was the one book that captured my daughter’s heart and her attention. She read it voraciously, several times and it is considered among her favorites. She read it for the some of the reasons it was banned, including “depictions of bullying.” Bullying is a topic profoundly present in middle school, and it is helpful for students to read about how other people lived with bullying or overcame it, because it can help a reader give voice to his or her own struggles. It’s also a story about a kid who lived in poverty and refused to be categorized as a lost cause.
Now Julie couldn’t pick just one. The following are her choices for this year:
The graphic novel tells the story of a young girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the reintroduction of a religious state.
The children’s book was inspired by a real-life story of two male penguins raising a baby chick.
Book about teens dying of cancer who find love.
Want to celebrate Banned Books Week with us? You can find banned book lists, social media banners and profile pics here: http://www.ala.org/bbooks/bannedbooksweek/ideasandresources/freedownloads or you could check out a banned book at the library (we have a display).