Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Year of READING Dangerously: 27. My Brother Sam Is Dead

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SPOILER ALERT: in the Revolutionary War drama My Brother Sam is Dead,  by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier 
… Sam, the brother, DIES!

My Brother Sam Is Dead

My Brother Sam Is Dead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This moderately entertaining read (it is loads better than #42. The Fighting Ground, by Avi, IMHO ) was published in 1974. It is a Newbery Honor Book, a Jane Adams Honor Book, was named by the American Library Association as a Notable Children’s Book and was a finalist for a National Book Award in 1975.

It also consistently lands on various banned and challenged book lists around the country.

ALA Seal

ALA Seal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On our matrix the only reason I can think it might be challenged is the use of Offensive Language (which clashes oddly with the main character’s mostly religious approach to life) and the Violence.

Not bad for YA Historical Fiction. But is ‘not bad’ good enough? It attempts to give a balanced look from both the Tory and Patriot side of the conflict. In that way it was better than the History Channel’s appallingly inaccurate Sons of Liberty, so points there. But the History Channel, alas, did not set the bar very high.

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War

Map of campaigns in the Revolutionary War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


A Year of READING Dangerously: 25. Killing Mr. Griffin

Killing Mr. Griffin

Killing Mr. Griffin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lois Duncan’s Killing Mr. Griffin is a pretty predictable teen drama about a group of high school seniors (and one junior) who plot to kidnap their strict English Lit teacher and “teach him a lesson.” Unbeknownst to them Mr. Griffin has a heart problem and their plan of making him THINK they are going to kill him actually DOES kill him. The rest of the novel deals with how far these kids are willing to go to cover up the crime. They do  some pretty stupid things that would lead even the most rookie of detectives (or mystery readers) to their door steps.

Why’s it on the Banned/Challenged list? Probably because of how easily the group is manipulated by the sociopath leader, Mark. They DO cause the death of an authority figure for no other reason than he, Mr. Griffin, is a tough teacher. There is also very mild offensive language and a cigarette or two might get smoked in the course of the novel.


A Year of READING Dangerously: #12 It’s Perfectly Normal

It's Perfectly Normal

It’s Perfectly Normal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You don’t have to get very far into It’s Perfectly Normal , Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health by Robie H. Harris  before it becomes apparent why the book finds itself a perpetual favorite on the ALA’s Banned/Challenged list. Michael Embrerly’s full frontal nude cartoon illustrations on the title page are, I’m sure, more than enough to get it banned.

The book…

is meant to teach children 10 and older about sexual health, emotional health and relationships, and contains sections on puberty, pregnancy and sexual orientation. [NPR, “It May Be Perfectly Normal But Its Also Frequently Banned]

It has been banned/challenged for:

homosexuality, nudity, sex education, religious viewpoint, abortion and being unsuited to age group [ALA; “It’s Perfectly Normal” tops ALA’s 2005 list of most challenged books]

It’s Perfectly Normal has been translated into 35 languages, and has been hailed by physicians, parents and educators. It is an easy read and I think it would be a great, frank supplemental text to a parent child conversation on the birds and bees.


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