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Book Reviews, Reflections on Reading, all things reader/book related!

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!


Banned Books Week: “The Most Famous Challenged and Banned Books” Event

“Fun facts aside, Dr. Hutchings’ thesis was, “It’s never about what it’s actually about.” You have to ask the question, “Who is trying to keep what out of the hands of whom, and for what reason?” ”
A great reflection on what sounds like an excellent talk about book banning!

Hannah Reads Books

banned-books-imageIn the interest of time, instead of a book profile today, I’ve got an event to talk about! “The Most Famous Challenged and Banned Books” was a talk given by Dr. William Hutchings of the UAB Department of English at one of my local libraries. The audience was about twenty to twenty-five people of mature years. I was the youngest there by about thirty years. So, huzzah for all you older folk turning out to support the freedom to read! Dr. Hutchings teaches on British drama, but taught a special topics class on censorship last year. This event was an hour-long survey of the history of book bans, with some pretty fun stuff in there.

  • Plato wanted to keep poets out of his republic because they were liars.
  • In 1958, there was a big stink here in Alabama over The Rabbit’s Wedding, a picture book featuring a bunny with white fur marrying a bunny…

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Banned Books Week: Blog Party

Yes! I have been very challenged by one of the reasons many of the books have been Challenged or Banned being “unsuited for age group.” I read “Little Woman” when I was in elementary school, it had a lasting impact on me and helped solidify my love of reading. What if someone had decided that this book shouldn’t be in a K-6 library? Or the librarian had told little 3rd or 4th grade me that I was too young to read it? What is someone had thought that Beth’s death (so sad…oh so sad), or the references to war, or talk of religion, were not appropriate for me to read? That’s just one of many books I read that were, perhaps “unsuited for my age group,” but were NOT unsuited for me. As is said in this excellent post, “Blanket bans are not the answer.”

Jedi by Knight

It’s Banned Books Week!  Sponsored by the ALA and other groups, this annual event celebrates the “freedom to read.”  Come join in with the Banned Books Blog Party hosted by hannahgivens at Things Matter.


The most frequently challenged books of the past year (2013) were:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking…

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