Monthly Archives: February 2015

A Year of READING Dangerously: Update

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

I’m happy to report that we are one-quarter of the way through the ALA’s Top 100 banned or challenged books of 2000-2009 list!  I still need to write a review for the #15 Bluest Eye, but rest assured, it is read.

Here’s an updated, color coded list. PLEASE feel free to help us on our quest! Especially with those books listed in black (like #30 We All Fall Daown, by Robert Cormier) which are not in my local library.

Banned books COLOR 2 title list_Page_1

(not my library)

Banned books COLOR 2 title list_Page_2

(Also, not my library)

Banned books COLOR 2 title list_Page_3


Poster "The camp library is yours - Read ...

Poster “The camp library is yours – Read to win the war. You will find popular books for fighting men in the recreational buildings and at other points in this camp. Free. No red tape. Open every day. Good reading will help you advance. Library War Service, American Library Association.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A Year of READING Dangerously: #17 The Color Purple




Reading Dangerously Logo 2

Dear Reader, if you recall I came down pretty hard on #9 TTFN  a few reviews ago. I thought the way it was written — in faux text messages —  made it difficult to read and showed a complete lack of regard for the English language. Fast forward a few books to #17 on the ALA’s Top Banned/Challenged books of 2000-2009 and we find The Color Purple by Alice Walker.


The Color Purple

The Color Purple (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



I was really flummoxed on what to write about The Color Purple, because I really liked the novel.

Am I a hypocrite for liking Purple but not liking TTFN? Both:

  • are written in epistolary form (TTFN in text messages; The Color Purple as letters from Celie and Nettie)
  • revolve around the lives of young women (With TTFN’s self involved teens the story stays tight on Mad Maddie, Angie and Zoegirl; The Color Purple casts a wider net to include other women — like Shug Avery and Sophia — and men)
  • re-imagine the English language to present their main character’s voice authentically. (In TTFN we get slang and abbreviations — like TTFN; with The Color Purple, especially in Celie’s letters, we get a poor southern dialect, like “…Us both be hitting Nettie’s schoolbooks pretty hard, cause us know we got to be smart to git away.”  )

The difference is that Alice Walker gives her book and engaging story and well drawn characters. Even the characters that start off one dimensional slowly evolve over the course of the book. And in the end I think Walter’s choice to use dialect adds to Celie’s character, it’s more than just a gimmick to appeal to a segment of the book buying demographic.

The book was challenged almost as soon as it hit the bookshelves. Racislm, Sexism, Nudity, Offensive Language, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Unsuited for Age Group and Violence.

In 1985 the novel was turned into a major motion picture directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Whoopi Goldberg. Twenty years later a musical adaptation opened on Broadway.

The Color Purple (film)

The Color Purple (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cover for the original Broadway cast recording

Cover for the original Broadway cast recording (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a clip from the 2005 Tony Award’s showing a scene between Celie and Sophia.


A Year of READING Dangerously: #18. Go Ask Alice







Reading Dangerously Logo 2Please, dear reader, DO NOT mistake the grim made-for-tv-esque Go Ask Alice by Anonymous  for an entry in the  Alice Series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor that I wrote about in my last post.




Go Ask Alice 2




This “Alice” starts out as sensitive,  insecure 15-year-old who keeps a diary and winds up addicted to drugs. After a few on again, off again rides of the drug roller coaster, and some pretty awful experiences she finally starts to get her life together, but her old druggie friends wont let her escape.


Sadly, this book reads like a “This is your brain on drugs” PSA penned by Jan Brady from the Brady Bunch.






The Brady Bunch opening grid, season one

The Brady Bunch opening grid, season one (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




It is ham-fisted as it details all the horrible stuff that happens to “Alice” but it is written in a bizarrely syrupy-sweet style that has the diarist ping-ponging between love, love, loving her family (because they are really the very best people in the world) and wondering if she should give her unsuspecting little brother, Tim, a hit of acid so he knows just how hard her life is.


Allegedly a found diary  of a young girl, Go Ask Alice is really a book of fiction. It is listed as as such on the copyright page. It was probably written by its editor Beatrice Sparks.  Sparks went on to “edit” other diaries



The books deal with topical issues such as drug abuse, Satanism, teenage pregnancy or AIDS, and are presented as cautionary tales. [Goodreads]



but I have a hard time believing that anyone could read this book and take it as cautionary. I suspect that young readers would think the book is a joke. It is so very, very square and clearly written to try to frighten the reader not to do drugs. The VERY dated writing style doesn’t help this book. It is just bad, bad, bad. (And way over the top.) John Green’s Looking For Alaska is a MUCH better written book that covers some of the same material in a contemporary manner.



A book about a teenager who takes drugs and has sex is sure to score high on the banned book matrix and it does.

  • Offensive Language,
  • Drug, Alcohol, Smoking,
  • Homosexuality,
  • Sexually Explicit,
  • Unsuited for Age Group,
  • Violence
  • and even a touch of Occult Satanism when Alice is lost on a drub binge in California…

but my guess is that you wouldn’t HAVE to ban it, who’d want to read it?


The title of the book is based on a the Jefferson Airplane song of the same name. So if you want trippy look at drug culture in the late Sixties here you go…







And, ah yeah… They DID make the book into a TV movie of the week. Starring none other  than William Shatner as Alice’s father. Now THAT’S trippy.







English: William Shatner photographed by Jerry...

English: William Shatner photographed by Jerry Avenaim (Photo credit: Wikipedia)






A Year of READING Dangerously: #2 The Alice Series

Reading Dangerously Logo 2


I randomly picked The Agony of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor as my reading selection from the Alice series and braced myself for the worst. Alice sits right up there at #2 after all. I figured it had to be pretty bad.


I can honestly say I fell in love with this little book. I related to Alice, with all her missteps and miss perceptions  at least as I did with Margaret (from #99’s Are You There God It’s Me Margaret when I was teen). I totally see the appeal to young female readers.

And I couldn’t figure out for the life of me why this book would be challenged or banned. Alice doesn’t even fret over getting her period!

Luckily I have a friend who is a school librarian and she let me in on the secret that as Alice ages in the books she runs into stickier and sticker situations and faces much more mature issue. And THAT is probably why she is so frequently banned/challenged.

Fair enough. But as these books come out a little less frequently than once a year if a young reader paces themselves they’ll grow along with the character and should be OK (and familiar) with the changing world Alice finds herself confronting.

Soooooo much better of a read than TTFN! Thank you Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for restoring my faith in young lit.

English: A photo of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in...

English: A photo of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in her writing chair, where she writes the first two drafts of every book by hand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why it has been challenged or banned: (later books)

  • 2011 Reasons: nudity; offensive language; religious viewpoint
  • 2006 Reasons: offensive language and sexually explicit
  • 2003 Reasons: sexual content, offensive language, unsuited to age group
  • 2002 Reasons: homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  • 2001 Reasons: sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

Year of READING Dangerously — the logo

The amazing and wonderful Hannah Eber (of 12 Days of Christmas PETS logo fame) has struck again with this beautiful logo for our project:

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

Thanks Hannah! And keep reading everybody!

%d bloggers like this: