Category Archives: Banned Book Week

Banned Book Week: Yup, More Favorites!

Can I just say, I actually find it heartening how many of the books on the Top 100 banned/challenged books of 2000-2019 list I really like?

Here are two of them,  two very different kinds of books.

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien

133518This book… I read this book multiple times, in different classes throughout college, that had titles like “Creating a Self”  Classes that explored that junction of memory and literature, that talked about unreliable narrators and crafting a great story.  It was a book I always knew a certain instructor would have on their syllabus, and I always looked forward to the chance to re-read it, with a slightly different lens.  It is an amazing story about war and human nature, and a brilliant exploration of storytelling.

One of the reasons it’s been challenged (and banned) in some high schools is the use of profanity.  I pose this question, I can’t say this for certain but… I would reason that it would be hard to make the same points, to portray anything resembling realistic about the Vietnam war without swearing and… let’s be honest here, the swearing that occurs in this book is nothing more than what most high school students are going to encounter in their hallways, on TV, in media, or walking down the street.

Junie B. Jones (series), by Barbara Park


I had heard about this book from my sister, an elementary school teacher, at some point when she and I were happily chatting away about children’s books (by the way, I LOVE that I have family that I can chat with about children’s books so much).  I hadn’t read them yet, and they were on my “to-read” list for a long time.

Finally the opportunity arrived in the past few years when I was working in the Learning Center at a Boys and Girls Club.  Part of my job was to organize programs that would help engage the kids in learning activities: reading, writing,social-studies, math and science.  Science was pretty easy (Harry Potter Science, Messy Science), Math and Writing I managed with competitions, but reading had proved to be a challenge.  Despite having a fairly decent library (which I did everything I could to make accessible to the kids) very few picked reading when there were computers, art, pool, ping-pong, swimming, basketball and so forth.

So we did “Cookies and Classics.”  Show up and listen to me read, get a cookie, eat the cookie while I read some more, and you might get another one if you stayed until I was done reading.  This was a great success!  But I struggled to find books that were short enough to be read in one or two sessions (beyond picture books), and often kids would come one day and not the next.

Then I picked up Junie B.

It was amazing!  Fun to read, and some of the children who were the most crazy, off-the-wall, “you can’t make me sit still unless you super-glue me to the chair,” kind of personalities not only sat down to listen, and came back the second day to hear more, but begged me to keep reading.  They didn’t care that the cookies were a little stale, or that I ran out of snacks to give them with three chapters remaining.  When someone came into the room being loud, the group of about 12 kids gathered around my desk “hushed” them faster than I could.  They were riveted by Junie B, her way of speaking, her adventures.

Why has it been challenged?  Well, for some of those very reasons my kids liked them.  Junie’s use of language isn’t perfect, she uses poor grammar, sometimes her words aren’t used the “proper” way, and she sounds… well, she sounds real.  And yes, she calls someone “stupid.”  Again… I challenge you to find a child who hasn’t heard worse.  She talks like these kids talk.   She is fun, and engaging.

The New York Times did an article about this matter back in 2007,  and I love one of the quotes that they shared from the author.  On the fact that she has made it to the top 10 frequently challenged authors of 2004 she said, “I’ve never been in such good company!”


Banned Book Week: Updates, a few Favorites, and Pinterest

There have been so many awesome posts out there for Banned Book week that I’ve decided to create a Pinterest Board for them as well.  If you have a post (or have come across one) that you like, go ahead and give me the link (I’ll make sure to check the spam-filters to make sure I catch them!) and I’ll add them to the board.

I’m hoping to start using Pinterest more, so will probably be making boards for other events of “The Season” as well (since the whole point of that is to connect and have fun!)

I’ve been trying, in this week, to touch base briefly on some of those books that have made the top 100 banned and challenged books in 2000-2009 list.

The Great Gilly Hopkins ,  by Katherine Paterson.

302761I read The Great Gilly Hopkins in elementary school, I think as part of my sixth grade curriculum.  Though I didn’t love it as much as The Westing Game (which isn’t on these lists… why not?  It had bomb making in it!) I enjoyed The Great Gilly Hopkins, though.  I was really interested, at that point, in books that had to do with foster-care systems, adoption, orphans, and other characters whose lives were in flux.  Gilly intrigued me, this brash, creative figure.  I didn’t want to be like her, but I admired her.

Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson.

2839Bridge to Terabithia, I did not encounter until I was in college.  Somehow I missed this one in my earlier years.  A great story though, I found it beautifully written and so rich.  Yes, it deals with challenging subjects, but that is part of what makes it such a good book.  One of the things that constantly confounds me about many of the challenges being made of books is this concept that someone having literature that addresses these issues is going to cause harm.  Stories are written about children who suffer abuse, who have to deal with death, who are ostracized and bullied, and who bully because these are things that children face in their lives.  And maybe, just maybe, being able to find a character in a book that faces these same challenges will help in making you feel not so alone in the world.

It is an amazing thing when you read a story and are able to find a character who you relate to, who you know would understand what is happening in your world.  When the books we give children access to is limited, whitewashed, of the conflicts and challenges, then we remove some of these opportunities for some of the children who may most need it, to see themselves in what they read.



Thursday Thirteen: Banned and Challenged Classics

Some great personal reflections on some wonderful books!


In case you haven’t heard, it’s Banned Books Week. Since I’m a fan of books and I love intellectual freedom, I feel as though it would be a sin to let the week pass without a banned books post. As I mentioned earlier today, Hannah Givens is hosting a week-long banned books blog party at Things Matter. I’m not sure whether or not I’ll get a post out for the blog party, so I’ve borrowed an idea (and a graphic) from Diana. Here’s a Thursday Thirteen from the ALA’s Frequently Challenged Classics list.

All the books here have influenced me as a writer and thinker. I read them all before I turned 21, thanks to a mother and a high school English teacher who share my love of reading and freedom of thought, and thanks to a public library that was way better than any town of 5,000 has a…

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Banned Book Week: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird


by Harper Lee

I still remember reading this book as an 8th grader.  I think it was one of the first books for school that we actually bought.  An avid reader by that point, I always loved when I got to read actual books for school.

Like many of the books we read for school, I really liked this one, and the book remained in my library.   I never quite got around to re-reading it, but I kept moving the book with me.  It made it onto my Classics ClubRe-read” list, and I knew I would get to re-reading soon.   Banned Book Week gave me just the excuse I needed.

This book has consistently made it to the list of top banned or challenged books through the years.

Every time I sit down and try to write about this book in terms of it’s being banned I find I just can’t.  I can’t think of anything terribly new to add to the conversation.

What I find myself thinking about instead is about the book itself.  For the longest time all I really remembered about the contents of the book was the chorus to a song a friend of mine in school wrote when we were studying it (to the tune of  “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”:

“To Kill a Mockingbirds a sin,

Jem and Scout are cool.

Boo is not stuffed up the chimney

and Tom didn’t do it.”

20140917_172744The copy of the book that I read this week is the same copy as I read as an 8th-grader… complete with my notes in the book (one of the first books I ever wrote in), and my doodles along the edge.  This poor book, it’s been through a lot.

Some of the notes inside were clearly things that the teacher had drawn our attention to, others I underlined and highlighted for reasons unknown.  I hadn’t quite gotten down my note-taking style yet (I like to pretend that I have now…but I know it’s just pretending.)  Some of what I had marked, though, still spoke to me so clearly and strongly.20140917_174445

Here’s the thing about the book — I feel like it’s almost a disservice to the story that so many people read it in school and never pick it up again.  In school the focus was on racism, on the time in history, and literary conventions.   Reading now, though, there was so much more that I found in the story.

The back cover of this version makes a note that “Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story.”

Sometimes I feel like the focus of the reading ends up being on the trail, on racial issues — and I certainly am not saying this isn’t an important theme, but there is so much more in the story.

This time I was drawn to the different threads that weave together, the way Scout learns about her neighbors, like Miss Maudie.  I enjoyed the way her interest in her mysterious neighbor, Boo Radley, grows and shifts as she grows and shifts.

It is a story about trying to stand in another shoes, about empathy and understanding, about pride and standing by your values.  It is about seeing people, really seeing people.  It’s about the fact that often what you see is not always what you get.

I could go on and on about this book.  I hope I don’t let another couple decades go by before re-reading, because I’m pretty sure that another read will cause me to catch sight of other things that I’ve missed, other quotes that I want to carry with me, other moments where I stop and smile, or feel my breath catch because I can relate.  Though it’s a story that takes place in a specific time, in a specific place, the reality is so much of what the story explores are human experiences.  The shifts that happen as we grow up, the surprise at seeing someone change their ways, or act in a way that surprises you.  Growing out of things, or not growing out of things, or having others seem to grow up before you are ready for them too.

It a powerful story, and it is a beautiful story.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a love story.

The Classics Club is a group dedicated to reading and writing about “the classics.”  It’s a great group, and I’m glad to be a part of it!



Celebrate Banned Books Week

I haven’t read The Handmaid’s Tale yet, but this is a great little review… and the reminder that Banned Books are not a thing of the past.

The Bubble Bath Reader

Banned Books

Did you know that this week is the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week? Some people laugh when they hear a reference to banned books. They think, “Well, thank goodness we don’t do that anymore!” Here is the scary thing – communities may not be turning out to burn books in the town square these days, but there is still a surprisingly vocal contingent of people who want to ban books. According to the National Coalition Against Censorship, there is currently a proposal in Virginia that would require parents to be notified if required reading in their children’s classes covered “sensitive” material. In Pennsylvania, teachers have been instructed to indicate if books in their classroom libraries contain “violence or sexual content” or “racial, ethnic, or religious material” that might be considered offensive. A local school board in Missouri has just removed Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five from their school libraries…

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Many More Write about Banned Books!

Sheila at Book Journeys has been posting links all week for different bloggers who have written about Banned Books… as well as her own reflections on challenged and banned books.
Check her posts out!

Today:  Morning Meanderings… by the time you read this I will be gone….

Also, Hannah Given‘s continues the Banned Book Blog Party!  Be sure to visit her blog for all sorts of posts and reposts of people’s explorations of Banned Books!

Banned Book Week: A Few More Favorites

Continuing my brief reflections on some of those books that made the 100 most banned/challenged books in 2000-2009:

Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

3984393This one, especially, I always found ironic (as have many).  A book about censorship, being subjected to censorship…

I fell in love with this book, perhaps because it was one of the first books I read that horrified me.  I love books, and to have people whose job it was to burn books…. to me that was the utmost evil thing someone could do.   This was another one of those books that I read when I was in school (middle school I think), that I carried with me for a long time.  I had intended to re-read it for this week, but time was not on my side, so it remains on my To Be (Re)Read list.

What I remember about reading this book in school was how many great conversations came up around it.  It was the first that some of the kids in the class had really thought about the issue of censorship, and it led to some real thinking and reflection.

The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss

1690075This book… this one making the list surprises me so thoroughly.  As I mentioned before, the Holocaust was a subject of early interest for me, and I ran through every book that the library had on the topic that was deemed “age-appropriate,” and then moved on to others.  I own many Holocaust books, memoirs and fiction, YA, Children and Adult categories, Analytic and personal.  Part of my undergrad degree ended up being about children’s experiences during the holocaust and I seriously considered doing graduate level work on the topic.  That is to say, I’ve read a fair amount of Holocaust literature, and The Upstairs Room was perhaps one of the most gentle of them.  So to see it on the list just, confuses me.

It is the story of sisters who are hidden in an attic room by a family during the Holocaust.  It’s been a few years since I’ve re-read it, but I recall the story not shying away from the fear that the main character felt, but also trying to portray it from her vantage point, the view of a girl who is being relatively sheltered from the very real dangers that they face.

Just a few more that I see on the list and am surprised by.  But, honestly, I think any books on a list would surprise me.

I’ve been re-blogging many posts this week about Banned Book week — be sure to check out the “Banned Book Week” link in the menu bar to see them all!