Banned Book Week 2017

 

323.  That is the number of challenges reported to the Office for Intellectual Freedom in 2016.  Check out the Top Ten Most Challenged Books of 2016 here.

The right to read is a precious gift that so often we take for granted.  If I hadn’t been allowed to read Charlotte’s Web, A Light in the Attic, Stargirl, The Color Purple or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I would have become a very different thinker and person.  These books (and many, many others) allowed me to experience life outside of my own experiences, expand my views and understanding, and appreciate lifestyles other than my own.

As I look at the 2016 list, I’m reminded of how grateful I am to live in a country where, though these books are challenged, we can still read them, grow from them, and share them!  What banned books shaped you as a reader?

Miss Marta

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Banned Books Week Staff Favorites: Stargirl

This week, in honor of Banned Books Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite banned or challenged children’s and young adult books.  Check back every day for a new favorite!  Want to share some of your favorites?  Check out these lists and share in the comments!

stargirlJerry Spinelli’s novel Stargirl introduces a beautiful character that, as a kid, would have terrified me for one simple reason: she is completely herself.  She doesn’t care to try and blend in.  And yet, I adore this character.  Why? Because Stargirl draws out a part of me that I was too afraid to explore on my own as a kid.  That is what great characters do.  They push us to reflect on ourselves and the world around us.  While some people have taken issue with the age of the book’s characters versus the
intended audience, the strong messages on bullying, non-conformity, and peer pressure are spot on for 5th grade and up.

Stargirl completely defies the social norms most highschoolers live by.  She marches to the beat of her own drum and is confident in who she is.  She has the whole school talking about her crazy stunts before the end of the first day.  I mean, come on.  Who wouldn’t notice the girl playing a ukulele and carrying around a pet rat?  Not to mention the girl who is willing to be friends with the socially undesirable at school?  These very acts of confidence and defiance of the social norms are exactly what skyrockets her popularity at school with everyone wanting to know more about her.  Leo, who narrates this story, is more comfortable keeping his inner drum quiet, yet he is mesmerized by Stargirl.  He has never met anyone like her before.  She is fearless of the social backlash that keeps the pecking order at school in place.  As they spend more time together, Leo quickly falls for her.  Suddenly, however, Stargirl goes from the it girl to the outcast for the same reasons she became so popular in the first place.  Leo wants desperately to save her from being a total outcast and suggests she try being more normal.  Stargirl tries, for Leo’s sake, to blend in.  In the end, however, she is not destined to be anything but her own brand of normal with the novel ending on a note that stays true to the characters’ individual personalities.

Marta

Marta

Banned Book Week Staff Favorites: Crispin: The Cross of Lead

This week, in honor of Banned Books Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite banned or challenged children’s and young adult books.  Check back every day for a new favorite!  Want to share some of your favorites?  Check out these lists and share in the comments!

crispinI enjoyed Avi’s Crispin: The Cross of Lead, the 2003 Newbery award winner, because through the writing I felt as if I was in a 14th Century English village. A fast paced story about a boy who is wrongly accused of a crime and must escape the hunting parties after him or lose his life.

He is befriended by a man called Bear.  The boy and Bear travel through England avoiding the hunting parties. They met many colorful characters in their travels. Who can they trust? No one.

 

 

 

 

Sarah

Sarah

Banned Books Week: Junie B. Jones

This week, in honor of Banned Books Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite banned or challenged children’s and young adult books.  Check back every day for a new favorite!  Want to share some of your favorites?  Check out these lists and share in the comments!

junie b jonesBarbara Park’s Junie B. Jones series was challenged because of its poor grammar, punctuation and often disrespectful attitude. However, it is wonderfully told from the point of view of a kindergartner trying to figure out the world, often going about it the hard way. Each book is humorously told giving the reader a “what not to do” approach to the world.

A great example is the book Junie B Jones is Not a Crook. In search of her lost mittens, Junie B. finds a wonderful four color pen. She knows she should take it to the lost and found at school but she doesn’t want to. Instead she puts the pen in her pocket thinking of the phrase “finders keepers, losers weepers”. When she later tells her grandfather about the lost mittens, she explains to him that the Lost and Found doesn’t work very well since a lot of people do not return lost items. He tells her a story about someone who returned a lost wallet to him – the same special wallet he now carries which has a picture of Junie B. as a baby.That story makes Junie B. rethink taking the pen and she puts it in the lost and found at school.

The fact that the stories sound like they are told by a precocious Kindergartner is what makes them believable, lovable and funny.

Chistina

Chistina

 

Banned Books Week Staff Favorites: Harriet the Spy

This week, in honor of Banned Books Week, we’re sharing some of our favorite banned or challenged children’s and young adult books.  Check back every day for a new favorite!  Want to share some of your favorites?  Check out these lists and share in the comments!

harriet the spyHarriet, the Spy was one of my favorite books growing up.  I loved that Harriet was fearless, because I was afraid of everything.  I loved that Harriet was sneaky, because I always tried my best to follow the rules.   She was brash, rude, and stubborn, and this was a revelation to a kid that always tried to please.  Harriet was an escape for me.   When I read (and re-read) the book, I always felt like I was living in Manhattan, writing in my secret notebook, and being looked after by Ole Golly.

My childhood reasons for loving Louise Fitzhugh’s 1964 novel are the same as the rationale for challenging and banning the book.  Harriet was a bad role model, and “didn’t spy, but rather gossiped, slandered, and hurt other people without feeling sorry about her actions.

But that seems to imply that young people cannot take lessons from a book character’s less than noble actions.  Through Harriet, I could see the consequences of gossiping, without having to participate.  I could see that sneaking may be fun, but could also get people that I care about into trouble.  I learned that it is great to be fearless, but it is important to think about how my actions effect other people.  Fitzhugh may not have created a great role model, but she created a protagonist that allowed me (and countless other children over the last 50 years) to learn from her mistakes, even if Harriet didn’t.

Amanda

Amanda