Banned Books Week - Kids Ink Edition

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The threat of banned books is as domestic and topical as anything you might read about in the newspaper or see on television today. How can administrators justify withholding literature from anyone in a society that prizes freedom of expression, you may ask? Below are just some of the books challenged in the past year, and the reasons behind those challenges, assembled by Robert P. Doyle and distributed by our friends at the Illinois Library Association.

Alexie, Sherman The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian ThoRnDIkE PRESS; LITTLE, BRoWn

Challenged as required reading in at least three freshmen English classes at Westfield, N.J. High School (2012) because of “some very sensitive material in the book including excerpts on masturbation amongst other explicit sexual references, encouraging pornography, racism, religious irreverence, and strong language (including the f- and n-words).” Challenged at the West Valley School District in Yakima, Wash. (2013) because some parents found the sexual references and profanity in the novel inappropriate for high school students.
source: May 2012, pp. 105-6; Mar. 2013, pp. 51–52.

Anderson, M.T. Feed CAnDLEWICk PRESS
Challenged at the William Monroe High School in Greene County, Va. (2012) because the book is “trash” and “covered with the F-word.” A consent form was sent to the students’ homes, and a notice that the class would be reading a mature book was posted on the teacher’s webpage as well. Among its many awards, the book is a National Book Award Finalist and a Junior Library Guild selection.
source: July 2012, p. 159.

Card, Orson Scott Ender’s Game ToR SCIEnCE FICTIon
A teacher at Schofield Middle School in Aiken, S.C. (2012) will not face criminal charges for reading to his students from the science-fiction book. In addition to the Card novel—which has won several science-fiction awards and is listed on numerous children’s literature review websites as appropriate for readers twelve and older—the teacher read excerpts from an Agatha Christie novel and a young adult novel set in the Old West, officials said. The incident came to light after the materials were characterized by one student and one parent as pornographic, according to a press release issued by the school district.
source: May 2012, p. 107.

Green, John Looking for Alaska SPEAK
Banned as required reading for Sumner County, Tenn. schools (2012) because of “inappropriate language.” The book won the 2006 Printz award for excellence in young adult literature.
source: July 2012, pp. 158–59.

Ignatow, Amy The Popularity Papers AMULET
Challenged, but retained at two Prosser, Wash. elementary school libraries (2013). Only available to fifth graders, the book is about two girls who want to unlock the secrets to being popular in middle school. One of the girls has two fathers; the other has only a mother.
source: May 2013, p. 124.

Myers, Walter Dean Fallen Angels SChoLASTIC
Challenged on the Danbury Middle School reading list in Toledo, Ohio (2013) because of inappropriate language. The book depicts the reality of the Vietnam War, with sometimes gruesome descriptions of combat and frequent foul language from soldiers.
source: May 2013, p. 104.

Naylor, Phyllis Reynolds Intensely Alice AThEnEUM BookS FoR yoUnG READERS; SIMon PULSE
Challenged, but retained in the Buffalo, Mo. middle school (2013) despite the principal’s formal complaint against several “very questionable pages” featuring a safe sex scene.
source: May 2013, pp. 123–24.

Parr, Todd The Family Book LITTLE, BROWN
Banned from an Erie, Ill. elementary school’s shelves (2012) because of a line that reads, “some families have two moms or two dads.” The district also banned everything furnished by GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), including learning materials and various programs aimed at preventing bullying.
source: July 2012, p. 157; sept. 2012, pp. 202–3.

Pelzer, Dave A Child Called It hCI
Challenged at the Housel Middle School in Prosser, Wash. (2013) because the autobiography provides graphic depiction of child abuse. Middle-school students had to have parental permission to check out the book.
source: Mar. 2013, p. 49.

Polacco, Patricia In Our Mothers’ House PhILoMEL BookS
Removed from the shelves of elementary school libraries in Davis County, Utah (2012) after a group of parents raised objections about the suitability of the story. It remained available only if a student presented a permission slip from a parent to check out the book. A parent then sued the Davis School District in November 2012 alleging her children’s First Amendment rights were violated by the book’s removal.
On January 15, 2013, the book was reinstated without restrictions and the school district agreed to pay $15,000 in attorneys’ fees for the lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
source: July 2012, pp. 155–57; sept. 2012, pp. 201–2; Jan. 2013, pp. 7–8; Mar. 2013, p. 80.

Richardson, Justin, and Peter Parnell And Tango Makes Three SIMON
Marked for removal in the Davis, Utah School District (2012) because parents might find it objectionable.
source: July 2012, p. 156.

Satrapi, Marjane Persepolis PAnThEon BookS
Removed, via a district directive, from all Chicago, Ill. public schools (2013) due to “graphic illustrations and language” and concerns about “developmental preparedness” and “student readiness.” Seventh- and eleventh-grade students study the graphic novel about the author’s experience growing up in Iran during the Iranian revolution as part of Chicago Public Schools’ Literacy Content Framework. As the news spread of the directive, students mobilized a media campaign in opposition to “banning a book that’s all about the freedom of speech.” Students took to their Facebook and Twitter accounts, checked out all library copies of the book, wrote blogs, sent e-mails, wrote investigative articles for the student newspaper, contacted the author, staged protests, and appeared on local radio and television programs. Eventually, the school issued a letter telling high school principals to disregard the earlier order to pull the book.
source: May 2013, pp. 103–4

Timberlake, Amy The Dirty Cowboy FARRAR STRAUS GIRoUx
Removed from the Annville, Pa. elementary school library shelves (2012) because of its illustrations, involving a cartoon cowboy taking his annual bath. The supposedly true story is of a young cowboy who needs his annual bath and instructs his dog to watch his clothes while he bathes. When the cowboy emerges from his bath in the river, the dog does not recognize his familiar smell and refuses to give back his clothes. In the illustrations, the cowboy’s private parts are always covered. The book has received numerous awards, including the International Reading Association award in 2004, the Parents Choice Gold Medal, and the Bulletin Blue Ribbon from The Bulletin for the Center for Children’s Books.
source: July 2012, pp. 153–54.

For the original list and more information about banned books and what can be done to protect them, click here.

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