Hi All! It’s Becky. One of my favorite book celebrations is Banned Book Week. I love highlighting books that some people may have limited access to because of politics outside their control. These are books that have many reasons have been misunderstood and I love that I have opportunity to highlight some of these books. A quick note: I am endorsing these books based on their merit and a firm belief that library’s should not limit access to anyone. Library are in place to access to material and services that people may not be able to access otherwise and this access must be unhampered. However, I have a strong opinion that parents should use their discretion when picking what book their children read. The library gives access to books it is the parent who should place restrictions on what their child (and just their child) reads. And now I will get off my soapbox and talk about the books!
Looking for Alaska by John Green
ALA’s Most Challenged List 2015
Reason for Banishment: Offensive language, Sexually Explicit, and Unsuitable for Age Group
This is the book that introduced as to the wonder of John Green and is soon to be a limited series on Hulu. It has become a classic in the world of YA lit. We all know the story of Miles who transforms into Pudge when he begins to attend a boarding school in Alabama. Pudge’s quest for the “Great Perhaps” is joined by Colonel his prank planning, scholarship student, roommate and Alaska his beautiful classmate who Miles loves and loses. The book is beautiful and haunting but not something I would consider unsuitable for it’s intended readers (SLJ suggests grades 10 and up). Yes, there are curse words and yes, there is some sexual activity. However, if you think the average tenth grader is going to learn anything shocking from this book then you’re average tenth grader is very different then the tenth graders I know.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor has done something that it is possible no other YA author has done. She created a series that spans over twenty book and 50 years of the life of Alice Kathleen Mckinley (later Alice Kathleen Long, sorry for the spoiler). We get to experience everything with Alice. Alice learns to live a life without a mother, then with a step-mother, she get a first crush, a first kiss, her first break-up, loses her virginity, gets married, and by the end has her own children. This book is a girl’s guide to life which may be why parents don’t like it. Naylor is honest. She writes about what girls experience in all of it’s blush-worthy details. There are details about periods and birth control which is basically the answer to all the questions teen girls are afraid to ask. I understand that parents are nervous about their children being exposed to certain concepts too young but Naylor doesn’t hide the facts but instead encourages a dialog between adults and children which makes the books a valuable addition to the library.
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
ALA’s Most Challenge List: #29 on the list of the Most Challenged Books from 2000-2009
Reasons for Banishments: Sexual Content, Challenge to Authority, and Inappropriate for Age Group
One day during lunch Janie Johnson steals her friends milk and realizes that it is her picture next to the words “Missing Child”. Janie has a good life. She has loving parents and a good home. She can’t be kidnapped. But it is her on the milk carton. Janie must go through a journey of discovery that spans two homes with two very different families and five books. When I began looking over the lists of the most challenged books I was never expecting to find one of my favorite books from when I as in middle school but here it is. Almost every girl in my eighth grade class read about Janie. We all watched the made for TV movie starring Kellie Martin playing Janie discovery her past and trying to fit in with the Spring family. This book is what so many YA books are about which is discovering who you really are. Janie is on the same journey that so many other characters have travelled just much more literal. This book in no way encouraged me to challenge authority figures. I wasn’t damaged by Cooney’s series. I am a functioning member of society who as an adult read “Janie Face to Face” when it was released in 2013 just to revisit with the characters who I love in my childhood that were now all grown up.
Bone by Jeff Smith
ALA Most Challenged List 2013
Reason for Banishment: Political Viewpoint, Racism, Violence
The three Bone cousins have been run out Boneville and as they travel an unknown land they come across Thorne and her Grandmother together they will embark on an epic journey that will change the course of a kingdom. First things first, I am a proud Ohio State University graduate (Go Bucks!). You know who else is an OSU graduate? Jeff Smith. The delightful characters in Bone started their lives on the pages of The Lantern (OSU newspaper for those readers who did not matriculate in Columbus). Even not considering my alma mater pride I love “Bone”. This is epic story telling filled with adventure and comedy and, of course, stupid stupid rat creatures. This is a graphic novel for readers who love “Lord of the Rings” or who will day become a fan of LOTR. I have read the entire collection more than once and I do not remember any strong political viewpoints beyond trying to get Princess Thorne back on the throne. Also, I don’t really see any of it being racist. Yes, I’ll give you that there is violence but that violence is cartoony and fits the story. This is a quick read for reluctant readers that is just a good time.
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sonnes
ALA Most Challenged List 2004
Reasons for Banishment: Offensive Language, Unsuitable to Age Group, Sexually Explicit
Sophie wants to be popular, she wants to find her place in the world, and she wants to fall in love. Sophie does find love but it is with a boy that is not beautiful and popular but he is perfect for her.
I have to admit something. I read this book because of this article:
I love how Sones defended her work in a way that suggest it doesn’t need to be defended; an opinion with which I totally agree. Sophie feels like such a real girl; all of her thoughts and feelings seem like something a girl just coming into her teens years would experience. I loved the characters and their words which are beautiful crafted in verse. The language is realistic and it may be offensive but so is the real world. There are some aspects that are sexually explicit. There is a physical interactions and a description of how female bodies respond but that is life. Plus, this book is a perfect illustration of the age group. It’s not unsuitable for them. It is them.