Saturday, September 25, 2010

Some of My Favorite Banned Books

So, Banned Books Week started today, and today, reading this article, I found out I read a banned book to both of my pre-school classes on Tuesday. And because the wee kiddos loved it so much, I read it twice in both of those classes (yes, they begged), and most of them chanted along with me the second time.

What was the book?
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?: 40th Anniversary Edition (Brown Bear and Friends)

Yes, the Texas Board of Education banned BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE, by Bill Martin, illustrated by Eric Carle, in January of this year because they thought the author was someone objectionable, someone else. In other words, they banned a fantastic book because of a mistake.

This reminded me of something that happened closer to home. A few years back, I went to a Scholastic Warehouse Event with several friends, and they were selling paperback copies of SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES, by Stephanie S. Tolan. Ben and I loved the book, so I recommended it. One of my friends said it was a bad book, that a group of parents had made one of the 5th grade teachers remove it from her curriculum the year before. I asked my friend if she'd read it. Of course she hadn't and could only remember that the book had a bad kid in it. From what I gathered, only one parent had read SURVIVING THE APPLEWHITES and decided it wasn't appropriate for her child, and I thought how sad it was that no one had challenged her. I have to wonder if the lady even finished reading the book.
Surviving the Applewhites Guided Reading Classroom Set
I highly recommend it.

So many banned books are such well-written, life-changing, beautiful works of art that it makes me wonder if the people who ban them are afraid to feel. There's a controversy over SPEAK, by Laurie Halse Anderson, at the moment. I haven't read SPEAK, but it can't be a great idea, limiting access to a book that helps victims find their voice. Some of my favorite banned books are FARENHEIT 451, anything by ROALD DAHL, and the HARRY POTTER series, but it's hard to choose.
The BFG (My Roald Dahl)

Do you have a favorite banned book?


  1. It seems like most people who ban, or recommend banning, books have never actually read the books in question. That's sad.

    Whenever I hear of a book being challenged or banned, it makes me want to read it just to see what the fuss is all about. I would never have read Harry Potter otherwise.

  2. We love Brown Bear, Carter knows all of the sounds of the animals and the Librarians did a felt story to it a few weeks ago in storytime. Craziness!

    It is a sad world when writers voices aren't heard when there really is nothing wrong with them. I think we need to judge for ourselves instead of putting them all under an umbrella of "banned".

    I remember the controversy over Harry Potter when I was student teaching in Utah, it was ridiculous. People are afraid of the unknown. What a wonderful series that I will share with my children, once they are a bit older.

  3. I don't know if it's banned any more, but The Giver by Lois Lowry was once partitioned by middle school parents to be taken off the shelves. Why? The ending of the book was so disturbing. Years later I let my son read it when he turned eleven. When he finished, I sat down with him to talk about his feelings about the ending. You know what? He didn't even get it! Turns out, you have to be an adult to read the ominous implications into the last few paragraphs.

  4. I can understand when someone doesn't feel comfortable reading a book for one reason or another, but to ban them, and take that choice away from others is as inappropriate as inappropriate books.

  5. I don't get wanting to ban a book...if you don't think it's appropriate for YOUR child then don't let them read it, but everyone should have that same option for THEIR children....

  6. Well, if the Harry Potter books and Eric Carle books are banned, then those are some of my favorites. Good grief. I agree with what Sharon said. There are some books that I don't want my kids to read, but if others want to read them, let it be their choice!

  7. Shellie- "The Giver" had some pretty clear descriptions of euthanasia. I think that was why it was banned. It's one of my favorite books.

    I am all about families deciding what's right for them. I think there's a tendency for people to think that what they're comfortable with is the "right" level of sex, of violence, of language. But it's a personal decision.

    I think the hard thing is deciding how public funds should be used.

  8. Shellie, I read THE GIVER in junior high, and all I knew was that they sailed off on their toboggan (spell check, anyone? I'm feelng a little lazy at the moment) at the end. When I reread THE GIVER a few months ago, though, I cried at the end because I understood it so much better this time around.

    I never know which books are banned and which aren't. I loved the Harry Potter series, though, and Roald Dahl is deliciously disturbing:) (I read THE WITCHES for the first time over the summer, and it was, er, interesting. Had me laughing out loud in a few places.)

  9. Wow, I had no idea that Roald Dahl books were banned books. Those are some of my all time favorite childhood stories. I have never tired of reading them and doubt that I ever will. I remember encouraging my older to have those on their list of summer reading books.

  10. California, where I live, isn't much on banning books. And I think I'm glad!


  11. Hmm. Lois Lowry wrote two sequels/companion novels to THE GIVER: GATHERING BLUE and THE MESSENGER. The boy and the baby didn't die at the end of THE GIVER.

    And yes, Krista, THE WITCHES is Dahl's most frequently banned book, but I loved it. :o)

  12. Yeesh! It's shocking how many books are banned out of ignorance. Crazy.

    The Giver is one of my favorites.

  13. I can't believe that kids' books are being banned - I know there were rumblings about Enid Blyton's books being non-PC and needing editing but this was rightly overruled - if taken in context it is a reflection good or bad on the society and mores of the day, not a reason to ban them. I can't imagine Roald Dahl either - his subversive talents make him appeal to kids and adults with a sense of humour.
    I will follow your blog and hope you reciprocate and drop by/follow my blog.
    All the best, Catherine.

  14. When I look at the banned books list, I see many of my favorites. They're such wonderful, moving pieces. It sickens me that people want to ban any type of book.

  15. Myrna, I've heard about those companion novels to THE GIVER and how the kids didn't actually die, and I must say, it surprises me. That seemed to be what Ms. Lowry was going for in THE GIVER's climax. Either way, though, it's still heart-wrenching to think about those two kids out there, all alone, in the snow.

    P.S. I saw your comment over on Nathan Bransford's blog, and I was like, "Yes! Rick Riordan's chapter titles in the Percy Jackson series are spot-on!" They made me laugh out loud, too:)

  16. This cracked me up (in a sad sort of way). Brown Bear? Roald Dahl? I'm pretty conservative in my reading tastes, but I don't agree at all with banning books. Especially because of what you mentioned: that most people *hear* something about a book and never try to discover the truth for themselves. Crazy.


  17. Aw man, I'm so sorry for you guys! Banning books! That's so medieval.

    Sometimes I wonder if this is the reason Astrid Lindgren is not so widely read in the USA. The Brothers Lionheart, in my opinion her most beautiful novel, caused some debate when it was published here. The grownups were worried it was to sad and too scary. Funny thing was, children rarely felt the ending to be sad. They wrote Lindgren to tell her how happy they were the story ended well.

    Anyway, there was debate, but that was it. Debate. No banning. (To be fair, I think there was a sexually explicit book that was banned in Norway in the 60s. And incredibly, The Life of Brian wasn't shown in movie theatres. Both have of course long been un-banned.)

    At least there are people like you, Myrna, to raise objections when the Assorted Boards of Besserwissers write their lists.

  18. Tone, didn't Astrid Lindgren write the Pippi Longstockings series? I've never heard of The Brothers Lionheart, but it sounds interesting.