It’s a special week. September 21-27, 2014, is Banned Books Week. This week, “is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community – librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types – in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.”
Here at BookPeople, we celebrate the right to read 365 days a year, and for the next month, there is a special display in BookKids highlighting some popular books that have faced challenges. Bookseller Merrilee says, “the banned book display is my favorite one all year. I love seeing people react to the books that have been banned and reading the cards as to why. It’s great fun.”
It is a varied group of books, and includes favorites such as Green Eggs and Ham, Harry Potter, Strega Nona, Winnie-the-Pooh, and Charlotte’s Web. In 2013 and 2012, Captain Underpants was the #1 most challenged book for “offensive language, unsuited for age group, and violence.” To us, and to many of our young customers, Captain Underpants is just good, silly fun, and a favorite of many childhoods. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and everyone is entitled to a choice of reading materials. There is a world of books out there, and the right book for the right reader can be found as long as there is a chance to discover it.
So come on in and take a look, learn why these books were challenged, and buy whatever book you want! Here are a few banned book favorites selected by our kids staff.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis.
This is such a beautiful book, with an inspiring message that it boggles my mind that it was ever banned.
Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
When I was a school librarian, a teacher requested that I remove these two books from our school library. What? and No! were my immediate thoughts. Fortunately, the school district had a procedure in place to deal with book challenges should it occur. A meeting was scheduled with my principal, the teacher, and me. Before the meeting, I had gathered reviews and standard lists of what should be in the poetry section of a school library and of course, both books were on the lists. After hearing the evidence, the teacher agreed to drop the request. So the books remained in the library and were checked out, read, and loved by hundreds of kids. But every time I hear about books that are challenged, I get a knot in my stomach. I can only hope that there are people and procedures ready to defend and protect the right to read.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The story of a young boy’s survival after his plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness was banned in some schools because the description of injury and trauma was apparently too well written. For me, who was not a fan of much of the required reading in school, the realism that the author brought to this harrowing tale was what made this book one of my favorites well after I left elementary school.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
I love His Dark Materials series – offensive though it may be to the devoutly religious. I love the way Pullman writes Lyra, because twelve-year-old girls are the heroes we need, even if they’re not the heroes we deserve. Plus, I always wanted to have my own daemon. Mine would be a huge golden retriever.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
There have been a lot of people talking about the importance of diversity in kids books lately. With that in mind, think about kids books that prominently feature Native American characters. Chances are, the first books to come to mind are historical fiction titles – there are a lot of those out there. I really love and actively seek out historical fiction on a regular basis, but contemporary stories are just as important for educating young readers. Alexie’s semi-autobiographical novel about living on a Spokane reservation while going to an all-white school is funny. It’s also very sad. And, at times, uncomfortable to read. Above all, it is an incredibly honest book that lives up to its title. This story is valuable because it relates a Native American experience in a modern context, a rarity which helps to further raise cultural awareness in children’s literature.
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Twilight would have to be my favorite banned book of all time. Believe it or not Twilight was one of the first books that got me reading again when I got out of high school. It made me realize that reading can be fun and I think Twilight, as well as Harry Potter, were the movies to get people who don’t usually read to go back and read the books!!! Anything that gets a non-reader to read is amazing!
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
This book is about a society where people are kept “happy” by taking away and destroying everything – especially books – that could spark disagreement, debate, or insult. This novel is incredibly important in our digital age where everyone is a critic and everyone has a voice. Bradbury encourages the constructive expression of opinion as opposed to the destructive censorship so many people still face.