A Year of READING Dangerously — A Prayer For Owen Meany

Prayer for Owen Meany

Some of the books I’ve read on the ALA’s list of 100 Most Banned Books kind of slap you in the face with their banned-ness. (I’m looking at you 16. Forever, by Judy Blume  — starting on page on that book aches to grow up too quickly and be cool with the other banned kids.)

A Prayer For Owen Meany isn’t like that.  At 680 pages  you are sure to find something you DON’T like in the book. There’s a little bit of Nudity, Offensive Language, Alcohol, and Violence, but that’s hardly what the books revolves around. If I had to guess… it got banned for Political Viewpoint and Religious Viewpoint.

I liked this witty, engaging, loooooooong book.

The only reason I would ban it is that it might make some one’s backpack too heavy. (Yes, I realize that isn’t a problem in the digital age — I’m old.)

12 Days of Christmas PETS is coming

This year to celebrate the Holiday Season I’ll be hosting 12 Days of Christmas PETS, a loving, fun-filled reflection of man’s best friend at Christmas time.

I just got my first submission from illustrator Jedediah Kahl and it is just terrific.

I’m looking for art work in all forms (from painting to photography to musical compositions to poetry) so get your pencils out and your creative juices flowing.

Send me a message if you want to participate.




I suspect that SOMEONE is actually following my quest to concur the ALA’s Banned and Challenged Book List, and it is to you that I dedicate this blog.


I have put two more notches into the proverbial banned book belt with # 74. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold and #98 I Saw Esau, by Iona Opte. Thus the giant block of titles featured in the last blog  is slowly turning red from being READ.


The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Author Alice Sebold’s (literally) haunting novel The Lovely Bones was written in 2002. It tells the story of Susie Salmon — like the fish — a normal, every day 14-year-old who in 1973 took a short cut through a corn field and never makes it home. Raped, killed and dismembered by  her psychopathic neighbor Mr. Harvey, Susie spends the rest of the novel in heaven watching as her family copes (or doesn’t) with her death. The book was adapted to into an equally scary, engaging movie by director Peter Jackson in 2010. Stanley Tucci plays just about the creepiest guy to ever cross the screen.


The Lovely Bones (film)

The Lovely Bones (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


My best guess as to why it was banned? Violence, Sexually explicit, with smoking, alcohol and homosexuality.



I Saw Esau

I Saw Esau is a well produced collection of nursery rhymes and riddles collected by Iona and Peter Opte and illustrated by the great Maurice Sendak. As to why it was banned… I’ll set Robert Beveridge ‘s Amazon book review handle that…

It will come as no surprise to anyone who’s read I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Book that it has been challenged as “obscene” in Murfreesboro, TN (viz. The Murfreesboro Daily News Journal, Feb. 7, 2007). I Saw Esau is exactly the kind of book that begs a challenge. First it’s illustrated by the wonderful Maurice Sendak, who seems to trail controversy wherever he goes. Second, the Opies actually collected the rhymes, sayings, and other nonesuch here from actual children, and of course, children must be protected from anything else said by their real-world contemporaries. After all, morons who challenge kids’ books in schools either never were kids, have forgotten what being a kid was like, or are such humorless sticks-in-the-mud that they don’t feel their own children deserve to have as fun a childhood as they did. (Any other interpretations of such boorish behavior– and they are legion– would verge on libel, and thus will not be speculated upon here.)


Wow. Take that Murfreesburo.

As far as I’m concerned it is brilliantly naughty at times, but, since “naughty” isn’t on the matrix of why books are banned… I’d have given this one a wink would have let it slipped by.



Continue reading

Two more Banned Books

Continuing in the quest to (collectively) read all 100 books on the ALA’s Top  100 Books  of 2000-2009 I finished #61 Draw Me a Star by Eric Carle and #99. Are You There God? Its Me Margaret.  I’ve also started on several others.

Here’s what the list looks like so far. The titles in red are, well, read. Those in Blue are either in progress or are in the queue.

Banned books block title listpdfEric Carle is probably best known for The Very Hungry Caterpillar which was first published in 1969. Draw Me A Star was published much later in his career (1992), and I guess the author was feeling secure in his writing style and audience, because he dared to do the unthinkable. He included two nude figures. The people are barely anatomically correct. His signature collage, tissue paper style produces crude, childlike illustrations, and, yes, the female figure has two circles to indicate breasts and the man has an appendage that is a penis. So I guess that’s it.

Draw Me A Star got banned for Nudity 8 pages and 53 words into the book.

Draw Me a Star


Like just about every girl I knew growing up I read Are You There God? Its Me Margaret by Judy Blume. I don’t remember there being much fuss about it 35  years ago and I can’t figure out what would put it on the list now.

The book is a coming of age novel where Margaret talks to God and tries to find her place in a new school in a new city. She is also trying to decide which religion she wants to align with (her father is Jewish; her mother is Christian.) Margaret longs to get her period and grow into her new bra,  but, after reading Wallflower and Catcher this teenager comes off VERY innocent and sweet.

My best guess to why it is on the list? Some one must have gotten offended on Religious grounds.

Are   you There God

Blume is on the list more than once. Now I’m looking forward to reading her Tiger Eyes (which I have not read before)

More Banned Books

I recently finished two more titles on the ALA’s list of the most Banned Books of 2000-2009:


The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


#10 The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky




The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


#19 Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger



I loved Perks all the way through. From Chbosky’s well drawn, interesting characters to the music he included on his mix tapes I was all in for this book. Had he written the book 10 years earlier I could have been sitting next to Charlie at Rocky Horror, throwing toast and singing along. I was both moved by Charlie’s journey and surprised by the plot twist.

My guess to why it was banned? Offensive language, Drugs, alcohol, smoking, Homosexuality, Sexually explicit, Violence


Catcher, on the other hand, BOY! Now that was a novel that I had to warm up to, I tell you. Old Salinger’s language choices were a big factor in my lack of initial enthusiasm. He must have used “and all” about a million times! I’m not kidding you. But I stuck with it and by the time that Holden kid got to New York City I started to get interested. By the last 1/4 of the novel I was invested.

My guess to why it was banned? Offensive language, Drugs, alcohol, smoking, Violence,  Prostitution.

This was my first read for both books (somehow I’d never read Catcher in school… it was probably banned from my all girl’s Catholic school curriculum.) The two novels make nice companion pieces, Charlie even reads Catcher in Perks. (He loved the earlier novel btw.)



A Year of READING Dangerously — Update

If you are following along you know that I’ve started an on-line book club called A Year of READING Dangerously in an effort to collectively read all 100 books on the ALA’s Top 100 Most Banned or Challenged Books of 2000-2009 list.  I hope you’ll join us in this goal as most banned books are well worth reading! Click HERE to go to the FaceBook page and join in the fun or just leave a message at the end of this post and let us know what you are reading and what you thought of it.




ALA Seal

ALA Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


So far I’ve read:




  • To Kill A Mockingbird (#21)
  • And Tango Makes Three (#4)
  • A Handmaid’s Tale (#88)
  • The Earth, My Butt, &  other BIG Round Things (#34)




As you can tell I’m not reading the list in order  and I’m mixing it up as far as literature, children’s books and pop lit. This is largely to do with what is readily available — either currently on my shelves at home or easily attainable at the local library — and do to the fact that I don’t think I could handle too much grim fiction all at once (or too much teen-aged angst all at once for that matter.)   I was going to just post my findings on the FaceBook page, but since some of you don’t DO F.B. I realized that that leaves you out of the loop. So I’m starting fresh here.


Mockingbird cropped




To Kill A Mockingbird (#21) — What a lovely, lovely book. I’m a sucker for fiction written in the first person / childhood past. This book has the best elements of a coming of age novel, a courtroom drama, historical fiction, innocence lost, and southern drama. I also like that it is written about the 1930’s but was written in the 1960’s and the two eras keep smashing up against each other with their common themes. It made me want to curl up in Atticus Finch’s lap and read some more.


My guess to why it was banned? Violence. Racism. Offensive language (the N word). Rape. Political Viewpoint.






And Tango Makes Three (#4)


This warm, sweet, delightful picture book tells the true story of two male chinstrap penguins that formed a family in 1998. They did all the same things as the other families did… bowed to each other, walked together, sang together, swam together… but there was one thing Roy and Silo couldn’t do that the other families could do… they couldn’t produce an egg. So when another penguin family produced two fertilized eggs the zoo keeper put one of them in Roy and Silo’s nest. After days and nights of tending the nest and sitting on the egg Roy and Silo’s family is completed when Tango Make Three. This book is beautifully illustrated by Henry Cole and lovingly written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell.


My guess to why it was banned? Homosexuality. (Yep, I guess that’s enough to get this sweet little book a spot at number 4 on the list.)




Handmaid's square copy


A Handmaid’s Tale (#88)


I’d read the novel years ago and there were several scenes that stuck with me vividly. I remember the gloom of dystopia from my first go, but what moved me this time was the feminism in the book. Not sure what has changed in me (the words are still the same, so It must be me who’s changed) but this time it was much more about what had happened to womanhood than what had happened to mankind in general. The section towards the middle when Ofglen remembers the sea change in society — when her credit card doesn’t work and she looses her job — kept me up at night (just as it did when I first read the book). [Hello Apple, I think I’ll keep my real money and not go with your all-purpose funny money iphone app.] Anyway, GREAT read.


My guess to why it was banned? Religious viewpoint. Political viewpoint. Violence. (And if you are being picky: Nudity. Sexism. Drugs, alcohol, smoking. Homosexuality. Sexually explicit.)




The EArth, My Butt...


The Earth, My Butt, &  other BIG Round Things (#34)


From the title I’d hoped this book would be funny, sarcastic and kind of snappy. Alas it wasn’t really. It was kind of whiny and two dimensional. Written in first person narrative by the ugly duckling of the Shreve family, you are supposed to be on overweight, under appreciated, Virginia’s side. And I was, mostly, but I kept thinking that the cardboard cut outs of her parents and school mates probably had a lot more dimension to them than she was presenting. Same with conflicts in the story (big and small). The only things that ever got fully fleshed out was her diet and her eyebrow piercing.  I’ve read other YA angst novels that are far more successful.


My guess to why it was banned? The first sentence probably had the Parent Review Board tossing this one out. Sexually explicit. Date Rape. Unsuited for age group.











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