Welcome to this week’s edition of Friday Book Round-Up. This week, the book/reading community has been celebrating and promoting Banned Books Week. What is it? It’s simply a week to recognize and spotlight those books that are deemed to be inappropriate to read. According to the American Library Association, hundreds of books are removed or challenged from schools and libraries. It’s censorship at its worst and I won’t stand for it anymore. Every person, no matter the age, has the right to read. I’ve had the pleasure to read several banned books and it honestly opened my eyes to the world and to life experiences I will never have to go through. Here are my top ten banned/challenged books and why I believe they’re must-reads:
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Fifty years ago, Madeleine L’Engle introduced the world to A Wrinkle in Time and the wonderful and unforgettable characters Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe.
When the children learn that Mr. Murry has been captured by the Dark Thing, they time travel to Camazotz, where they must face the leader IT in the ultimate battle between good and evil―a journey that threatens their lives and our universe.
A Newbery Award winner, A Wrinkle in Time is an iconic novel that continues to inspire millions of fans around the world. This special edition has been redesigned and includes an introduction by Katherine Paterson, an afterword by Madeleine L’Engle’s granddaughter Charlotte Jones Voiklis that includes photographs and memorabilia, the author’s Newbery Medal acceptance speech, and other bonus materials.
A Wrinkle in Time is the winner of the 1963 Newbery Medal. It is the first book in The Time Quintet, which consists of A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time.
A Wrinkle in Time is soon to be a movie from Disney, directed by Ava DuVernay, starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon and Mindy Kaling.
This title has Common Core connections.
Why I love it: This was one of the first fantasy books I read and while there is a “dark entity”, there’s nothing scary or offensive in this book. It’s the whole good versus evil battle to save the world and it’s still one of my favorite fantasy books of all time. The fact that Disney is releasing a movie in 2018 should plainly state that it’s just fine for kids to read and enjoy.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in the United Kingdom in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written throughout in vernacular English, characterized by local color regionalism. It is told in the first person by Huckleberry “Huck” Finn, a friend of Tom Sawyer and narrator of two other Twain novels (Tom Sawyer Abroad and Tom Sawyer, Detective). It is a direct sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
The book is noted for its colorful description of people and places along the Mississippi River. Set in a Southern antebellum society that had ceased to exist about twenty years before the work was published, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an often-scathing satire on entrenched attitudes, particularly racism.
Perennially popular with readers, ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN has also been the continued object of study by literary critics since its publication. It was criticized upon release because of its coarse language and became even more controversial in the 20th century because of its perceived use of racial stereotypes and because of its frequent use of the racial slur “nigger”, despite strong arguments that the protagonist and the tenor of the book are anti-racist. (more at wisehouse-classics.com)
Why I love it: Huck Finn is one of the greatest historical portrayals of 19th century South society I’ve ever read. While millions will point to the language and say it must be pulled off of library shelves and out of school curriculum, I disagree. I first read Huck Finn in the 5th grade and it opened my eyes to what life was like during those times. Yes, the racist language shouldn’t be repeated or said ever again but it is a great history lesson. Twain wrote about life he witnessed and what happens in the book really happened, to a certain extent. Middle grade children and up will find value in reading this and so will many adults. You can’t sweep history under the rug unless you want to repeat it.
Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck
While the powerlessness of the laboring class is a recurring theme in Steinbeck’s work of the late 1930s, he narrowed his focus when composing “Of Mice and Men” (1937), creating an intimate portrait of two men facing a world marked by petty tyranny, misunderstanding, jealousy, and callousness. But though the scope is narrow, the theme is universal; a friendship and a shared dream that makes an individual’s existence meaningful.
Why I love it: I first read this when I was eleven. It was a great novel of the Depression, displaying some people’s reactions and the dark side of human nature. The friendship of the two men is the main theme and it is moving. Again, another history tool to show children what life was really like during the 1930’s. I found myself sympathizing with others after reading this book.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred, available now for the first time as an e-book.
One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father-a crusading local lawyer-risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.
Why I love it: One of the greatest books ever written, To Kill a Mockingbird tells the story of a young girl, her father, a black man wrongly accused of a horrific crime and the racism prevalent in a small town. I can’t stress this enough: THIS IS A MUST-READ! If you want to understand how evil racism is and how prejudice is a disease that needs to be squashed, read this book. It is told from the viewpoint of an innocent young girl so it is age-appropriate. There is so much honesty and truth in this novel, it’ll change your perception on today’s society.
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein
From New York Times bestselling author Shel Silverstein, the creator of the beloved poetry collections Where the Sidewalk Ends, Falling Up, and Every Thing On It, comes an imaginative book of poems and drawings—a favorite of Shel Silverstein fans young and old. This special edition contains 12 never-before-published poems.
A Light in the Attic delights with remarkable characters and hilariously profound poems in a collection readers will return to again and again.
Here in the attic you will find Backward Bill, Sour Face Ann, the Meehoo with an Exactlywatt, and the Polar Bear in the Frigidaire. You will talk with Broiled Face, and find out what happens when Somebody steals your knees, you get caught by the Quick-Digesting Gink, a Mountain snores, and They Put a Brassiere on the Camel.
Come on up to the attic of Shel Silverstein and let the light bring you home.
Why I love it: Really? This is a banned book? Somewhere, Mr. Silverstein is shaking his head sadly. It’s a hilarious book of illustrations and poems. Silly poems. Its message is clear: use your imagination, laugh often and your life will be good. It promotes kindness, goodness and understanding. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Since it was first published in 1954, William Golding’s classic debut novel has remained a stark allegory of civilization, survival, and human nature. As dystopian stories like Hunger Games and Battle Royale surge in popularity, this haunting tale of a group of young boys stranded on a desert island still captivates schoolchildren around the world, raising timeless and profound questions about how easily society can slip into chaos and savagery when rules and order have been abandoned.
When a plane crashes on a remote island, a small group of schoolboys are the sole survivors. From the prophetic Simon and virtuous Ralph to the lovable Piggy and brutish Jack, each of the boys attempts to establish control as the reality- and brutal savagery-of their situation sets in.
A teacher himself, Golding clearly understood how to interest children with a gripping story and strong, sympathetic characters. The novel serves as a catalyst for thought-provoking discussion and analysis of universal issues, not only concerning the capabilities of humans for good and evil and the fragility of moral inhibition, but beyond.
The boys’ struggle to find a way of existing in a community with no fixed boundaries invites readers to evaluate the concepts involved in social and political constructs and moral frameworks. Symbolism is strong throughout, revealing both the boys’ capacity for empathy and hope, as well as illuminating the darkest corners of the human spirit. Ideas of community, leadership, and the rule of law are called into question as the reader has to consider who has a right to power, why, and what the consequences of the acquisition of power may be.
Often compared to Catcher in the Rye, Lord of the Flies also represents a coming-of-age story of innocence lost.
Why I love it: I get why people/parents challenge this book. There’s a whole lot of evil and death that takes place but you have to look at the underlying message: everyone is capable of evil deeds; it all depends on your morality and societal constructs. Survival, community, power and responsibility all play out in this dystopian gem. Children find value in this and maybe if more people read this book, there would be less crime, gangs and criminals.
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline Cooney
In the vein of psychological thrillers like We Were Liars, Girl on the Train, and Beware That Girl, bestselling author Caroline Cooney’s JANIE series delivers on every level. Mystery and suspense blend seamlessly with issues of family, friendship and love to offer an emotionally evocative thrill ride of a read.
When 15-year-old Janie Johnson sees her own face in the missing children box on a milk carton, her world begins to blur. Was she kidnapped when she was a baby? Who are her parents? And who are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson? Janie’s search for the answers will lead her back 12 years into memories of another house, another family, another life. Her questions threaten to destroy the love she feels for her parents and the security they have given her. But it is a search she cannot ignore.
The Face on the Milk Carton has been extremely popular ever since it was first released. An IRS-CBC Children’s Choice Book, it also has been made into a frequently-aired television special.
Why I love it: I was shocked to see that one of my favorite books from the 1990’s is a banned book. I guess with the subject matter, people don’t want kids reading this. Listen, I don’t want eight-year-olds reading this either. It’s geared for teens and sheds light on a very real subject matter: child abduction. Back in the late 1980’s, there was a lot of child kidnappings going on. So much so, the government came up with putting missing children’s pictures on milk cartons as a way to catch the kidnappers and bring the children home. This story is based on a real kidnapping. Filled with emotions and capturing what happens to the kids who got abducted, this is a great book. Again, this is shedding light on something American parents had to deal with and important for teens to read about.
Goosebumps (series), by R.L. Stine
Discover the original bone-chilling adventures that made Goosebumps one of the bestselling children’s book series of all time! Something scary is happening in GOOSEBUMPS HORRORLAND, the all-new, all-terrifying series by R. L. Stine. Just how scary? You’ll never know unless you crack open this classic prequel! Discover the fan-favorite thriller and chiller that first introduced the world to the wooden face of fear. The puppet who pulls all the strings. None other than Slappy the Dummy! Now with all-new bonus material revealing Slappy’s secrets and more.
Why I love it: Oh man, I almost fell out of my chair laughing when I saw this paranormal/horror series was banned/challenged. It’s a bunch of scary stories, like what kids hear around the campfire at summer camp. It’s mostly funny, sometimes scary, horror stories that kids love.
The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger’s New Yorker stories ? particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme ? With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is fully of children. The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
Why I love it: I know most parents shudder when you bring up this book but honestly, this is a must-read for all high-school kids. I read it when I was sixteen and I was a lonely, depressed girl. I was bullied at school and found solace and companionship with Holden. I mean, he talked about the same things I was feeling at the time. Not that I wanted to commit suicide but that life was complicated and I wanted to escape. Holden taught me it was okay to not be happy all the time. He also brought out the poet in me, which I will always be thankful. See, teens just want to know that what they’re feeling is okay, even if it is dark. The point is to not act on the feelings to the point of suicide. I will always be indebted to Salinger for crafting such a complex character.
The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973. My murderer was a man from our neighborhood. My mother liked his border flowers, and my father talked to him once about fertilizer. This is Susie Salmon. Watching from heaven, Susie sees her happy, suburban family devastated by her death, isolated even from one another as they each try to cope with their terrible loss alone. Over the years, her friends and siblings grow up, fall in love, do all the things she never had the chance to do herself. But life is not quite finished with Susie yet …The Lovely Bones is a luminous and astonishing novel about life and death, forgiveness and vengeance, memory and forgetting – but, above all, about finding light in the darkest of places. ‘Spare, beautiful and brutal prose …The Lovely Bones is compulsive enough to read in a single sitting, brilliantly intelligent, elegantly constructed and ultimately intriguing’ The Times ‘Moving and compelling …It will put an imperceptible but stealthily insistent hold on you. I sat down in the morning to read the first couple of pages; five hours later, I was still there, book in hand, transfixed’ Maggie O’Farrell, Sunday Telegraph
Why I love it: I read this when it came out and I was blown away. Told from the viewpoint of a murdered little girl, she witnesses all facets of her loved ones’ lives. The themes range from grief to forgiveness, from revenge to justice, from coming out of the darkness into the light. A moving book and one that needs to stay on bookshelves, no matter if the subject matter is hard to read.
For more information on banned/challenged books click here: http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks
What’s your favorite banned book? Share in the comments below. Happy Reading!
MRS N, Book Addict