Category Archives: A Year of READING Dangerously

A Year (plus) of READING Dangerously: #49 One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

Ken Keesley’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, #49 on the ALA’s Most Banned and Challenged Books from 2000-2010 sucks you right into another world and keeps you there, straight-jacketed by the prose and the action of non action, until the very last page. And then, days and weeks and months after shutting the book you still find yourself thinking about it… and wondering why the heck you haven’t written your Year of READING Dangerously entry for it.


For the record I really, really liked this novel. I really liked the movie too — I think it is Jack Nicholson‘s best work —  but in the book, which I read long after seeing the movie, we get much more information on the minor characters and generally more to think about. The thing I liked the most about the book was the P.O.V. perspective of Chief Broom, and that fact that as a mental patient he is a somewhat unreliable narrator. As much as Murphy is the protagonist (and what a protagonist he is!) the Chief is the main character. Murphy moves the plot, but the Chief is the one I found myself caring about.

As established previously, I’m not the banning kind… but IF I were the banning kind I’d probably find a LOT of fault here. Racial slurs abound. Offensive Language, Nudity, Sexism, Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking, hints of Homosexuality, and lots of Violence.


Besides the 1975 movie the book was also adapted into a stage play in 1963. That makes sense as almost all the action takes place in the ward. I’d love to see this on stage. It would work really well on both a big atrium stage and in a small in the round setting.

For more on this book check out:

101 Books



A Year of READING Dangerously: #96 Grendel

OK I guess I really SHOULD change the name of this feature to “A Year *Plus* of READING Dangerously” as I have completely blown my deadline for reading all 100 books on the ALA’s list of most banned and challenged books between 2000 and 2010. But, since Hannah has done such a fabulous job with creating the logo, I’m going to stick to the original title, and we’ll just see how many books I get through. (Or WE get through for those of you who are still playing along.)

Reading Dangerously Logo 2Today’s pick is Grendel, John Gardner‘s 1970/71 masterful retelling of Beowulf. It is really the perfect book for a literature dweeb to pick up for Halloween. So run to your local bookstore and buy your copy now.

Grendel (novel)

Grendel (novel) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I can’t remember when I first read Grendel. It was probably in high school as an add-on assignment to the more classical book. And although I can still recite the first lines of Beowulf in Old English thanks to Sr. Carola, I can assure you I enjoyed reading the story from the monster’s side much more. Who doesn’t love an existential, self-loathing, monster? Am I right?

Ah-hem… not so right. The book has been banned off and on since its publication. The biggest offense seems to be violence (which Grendel has in spades), but it has also been sited for being nihilistic and unsuitable for students in high school. For example:

Grendel was challenged in the Sherwood, Oregon school district after being added to the sophomore honors English class’ reading list. Parents were concerned about scenes in the novel that describe torture and mutilation. … [Rohrbach Library blog]

The book remained on the school’s reading list. Students continue to have the choice of reading other novels that explore the human condition through the eyes of an anti-hero “monster”. (In the case of Sherwood, Oregon, Frankenstein.)

John Gardner, circa 1984

John Gardner, circa 1984 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The novel  inspired an animated film (1981’s Grendel, Grendel, Grendel by Alexander Stitt) and a 2006 opera by Elliot Goldenthal.

Special props to my nephew John who was kind enough to loan me his gently read copy of the novel so I didn’t have read my 30 year old pocket paperback with its teeny-tiny type and crumbling spine.

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

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

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.

A Year of READING Dangerously: #55 Summer of My German Soldier

Reading Dangerously Logo 2


Summer of My German Soldier

Summer of My German Soldier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer of My German Soldier, is Bette Green’s 1973 novel about young love in a small southern town during World War II.

The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she’s Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi, but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own.

In Anton, Patty finds someone who softens the pain of her own father’s rejection and who appreciates her in a way her mother never will. While patriotic feelings run high, Patty risks losing family, friends — even her freedom — for this dangerous friendship. It is a risk she has to take and one she will have to pay a price to keep. []

I remember reading this book in middle school and loving it. As I recall I cried buckets. SoMGS doesn’t hold quite the same appeal for me now, but I still found it a decent read. (This time though I found Ruth the most interesting character, and really would have rather read “Summer of my African American Domestic Worker.” — Guess I’ll be re-reading The Help, huh?)

So why is SoMGS perenially on the Banned Book List?

The most frequent complaints against Summer of My German Soldier concern the conclusion—Anton’s death and Patty’s punishment. Greene considers the conclusion to be socially and psychologically realistic, but the challenges have portrayed it as “pessimistic” or “unsuited to the age group. []

On our matrix there is certainly Cultural Insensitivity, Racism, Offensive Language (the ‘N’ word is used several times) and Violence (Patty’s father is physically abusive.)


The book was made into a television movie staring Bruce Davidson (who was wonderful) and Kristi McNichol in 1979.

The Video tape cover of the film Summer of My ...

The Video tape cover of the film Summer of My German Soldier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Summer Writing Challenge: Day One

Beautiful tropical beach with the word summer written on the san
Welcome back my friends to the annual ritaLOVEStoWRITE Summer WRITING Challenge. Each day for the month of July I’ll present you with a word prompt.

It is up to you how much or how little you wish to write for the day (Maggie and I have set our goal at 1 hour a day.)

You don’t have to WRITE. This can be a CREATIVE challenge.  You can use the prompts to set you off on other creative journeys if you like. Last year Emily W. took an artistic approach and did some great photo essays. I’m wondering if some of my chief friends could whip up some menu items based on our prompts?

And you can share (or not) by leaving a comment below or sending me an email at

Beautiful tropical beach with the word summer written on the sanOK here it is… Today’s prompt is…


So whether is it a plank like the exercise…

English: an exercise of abs

English: an exercise of abs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

or cedar plank you are going to cook your salmon on, or…

English: Wooden plank with nailed aluminum she...

English: Wooden plank with nailed aluminum sheet. Building facade close-up. Français : Planche avec une lame d’aluminium clouée dessus. Gros plan d’une facade. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

the plank in a political platform… get nailing people, you’ve got a lot of creating to do.


Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(NOT my actual hand.)

Also: Quick reminder… don’t forget to keep up with “A Year of READING Dangerously” lots more books to get through on the 100 most banned and challenged book list. Please stop by and help us get through them all before Banned Book Week!

A Year of READING Dangerously: #50 The Kite Runner

Reading Dangerously Logo 2Dear next book I read,


I’m sorry. You poor thing, there is no way you are going to be as good as The Kite Runner. It isn’t your fault that I’ve picked you randomly from my pile after reading this amazing piece of fiction. I know I shouldn’t pre-judge, and I wish you good luck, but Honey, you just don’t stand a chance.


First paperback edition book cover

First paperback edition book cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Kite Runner, Kaled Hosseini’s 2003 novel about Afghanistan, sits smack dab in the middle of our Banned Book List. It is the story of Amir, the privileged Aghani who acts as first person narrator. But it is also the story of Afghanistan and the country is certainly a major character in the novel.


The Kite Runner, which derives its name from the Afghan custom of kite fighting, focuses on the relationship between two boys of different social classes and religious backgrounds and the lasting effect that one boy’s moment of cowardice has on their lives. [120 Banned Books, pg 506]


The book is roughly in three parts:


  • Amir’s childhood in the idyllic streets of Kabul. It is here that he struggles to define his relationship with his closest companion, his friend / servant, Hussan.
  • his life as an adult — living as an expat in California. In America Amir comes to terms with is sometimes distant and demanding, but ultimately loving father, Baba.
  • and lastly his time back in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Amir returns to his homeland to aid Hassan’s son and to try to redeem himself.


The book was critically lauded:


  • Book Sense Bestseller List Sensation
  • Boeke Prize
  • Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers Award
  • ALA Notable Book
  • Alex Award
  • Borders Original Voices Award, 2003
  • San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of the Year, 2003
  • Literature to Life Award
  • Paperback – on the bestseller list for over 240 weeks (#1 for 4 of those weeks) [Book Facts,]

The censors largely ignored the novel until it was turned into a major motion picture in 2007.  In 2008 the book was challenged by several school districts in North Carolina and Florida.

This beautifully written book is not an easy book to read as it does contain difficult material, (including the rape scene of Hassan, a stoning scene at a football, and the horrors of life under the Taliban.) On our matrix of banned books The Kite Runner includes: Offensive Language, Smoking, Sexually Explicit material, and a lot of Violence. That said I can not recommend this book enough, and I can’t wait to read Kaled Hosseini’s other novels, A Thousand Splendid Suns and  And The Mountains Echoed.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

A Thousand Splendid Suns (Photo credit: Wikipedia)






A Year of READING Dangerously: #15 The Bluest Eye

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

Toni Morrison‘s The Bluest Eye ranks #15 on the ALA’s list of most banned or challenged books from 2000 to 2010. It is written mostly from the wide-eyed perspective of nine-year-old Claudia MacTeer. The MacTeers, a strict but ultimately loving African American family, are barely scraping by in depression era Lorain, Ohio.  Claudia’s friend Pecola Breedlove’s  life is harder still.

Poor little Pecola has to deal with a mix of abuses at home. Her father drinks, her mother is distant and emotionally cruel. They both fight constantly, neither of them show any love toward Pecola or her brother Sammy. Sorrows heap on sorrows and abuse heaps on abuse. And Pecola is just young and innocent enough to think if she only had blue enough eyes (like Shirley Temple’s) all would be well in her deeply troubled world.


On our Banned Book Matrix The Bluest Eye comes in heavy with:

  • Violence
  • Racisim
  • Drugs, Alcohol, Smoking
  • Sexually Explicit


%d bloggers like this: