Tag Archives: Banned 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.


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!


Year of READING Dangerously: #5 Of Mice and Men

Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck has been banned or challenged since its publication in 1937.

Of Mice and Men

Parents wishing to ban the book from the Community High School of Normal, Illinois in  2003  give a typical challenge:

the novel … contains “racial slurs, profanity, violence, and does not represent traditional values.” [120 Banned Books]

And it does, but this relatively short piece of fiction is also a terrific bit of lit.

Steinbeck wrote it as a ‘novel-play’ in three acts with two chapters (or scenes) in each act. So it isn’t surprising that the Of Mice and Men has been adapted for the stage, screen (large and small) and radio. It has even been turned into an opera. The dialog certainly reads like a dramatic stage play. It is gritty and hard scrabbled like the men to utter it.

On our matrix of why a book might be banned Of Mice and Men checks lots of boxes: Racism, Offensive Language, Alcohol, Sexually Explicit, Political Viewpoint, and Violence.

Steinbeck’s utopian dream for Lenny and George of one day owning their own little farm, of living off the land and not being beholding to a boss has been called out by some.

Censors claim that the novel contains crude heroes who speak vulgar language and whose experience exhibit a sadly deficient social system in the United States  [Ibid]

The book was challenged in Chattanooga, Tennessee, because “Steinbeck is known to have had an anti-buisness attitude.” [Ibid]

 


A Year of READING Dangerously : 23. The Giver

Maggie comes in with another review, this time it’s 23. The Giver, by Lois Lowry.

Giver

We both loved this book and have read it several times. It is a the opening novel of Lowry’s wonderful distopian quartet that also includes Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son. (For the record Gathering Blue is my favorite.)

Here’s the Amazon review of the book:

In a world with no poverty, no crime, no sickness and no unemployment, and where every family is happy, 12-year-old Jonas is chosen to be the community’s Receiver of Memories. Under the tutelage of the Elders and an old man known as the Giver, he discovers the disturbing truth about his utopian world and struggles against the weight of its hypocrisy. With echoes of Brave New World, in this 1994 Newbery Medal winner, Lowry examines the idea that people might freely choose to give up their humanity in order to create a more stable society. Gradually Jonas learns just how costly this ordered and pain-free society can be, and boldly decides he cannot pay the price. [– Amazon]

We weren’t sure why the book would wind up on the banned list so we looked it up on line.  Marshall University posted a list of banned books and cited when and why they were challenged. Here’s the scoop on The Giver‘s “offenses”:

2008 Appalled by the descriptions of adolescent pill-popping, suicide, and lethal injections given to babies and the elderly, two parents demanded that the Mt. Diablo School District headquartered in Concord (CA) eliminate the controversial but award-winning book from the school reading lists and libraries.

2007 Challenged, but retained at the Seaman (KS) Unified School District 345 Elementary School library.

2006 Challenged, but retained at the Seaman (KS) Unified School District 345 Elementary School library.

2005 Challenged as a suggested reading for 8th grade students in Blue Springs (MO). Parents called the book “lewd” and “twisted” and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district. Two committees have reviewed the book.

2001 Banned for being sexually explicit, occult themes, and violence.

[Marshall Univeristy]

 

“Maybe,” Maggie added, “although it isn’t on our banned books matrix, the book was banned because the kid is rebellious.” That does seem to be another theme. She added “It also gives a possible future that people might be uncomfortable with.”

Maggie recommends this book for readers 8 and up (with repeated readings often.)


A Year of READING Dangerously: #8 His Dark Materials

Thanks to Maggie for another review. This time she tackles #8: His Dark Materials (Series) by Philip Pullman

HisDarkMaterialsUS

Of the book she says:

It was inventive and has strong female characters. Particularly in the Subtle Knife the author has you consider the viewpoint of the outsider in our world (a recurring theme in a lot of these books.) [– Maggie]

Reasons why it might be banned: Violence, Occultism, Religious Viewpoint, and (possibly) Political Viewpoint

His Dark Materials

She recommends the books for readers 11 and above.


A Year of READING Dangerously — #90 A Wrinkle in Time

Maggie weighed in again, this time with her review of #90 on the list, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle.

A Wrinkle in Time

I liked the female characters (well most of the characters actually). Meg is a disenfranchised character and I think a lot of people her age can identify with that. She exhibits a feminist perspective of the intellectual female who doesn’t always fit in with her peers. [– Maggie]

Reasons it may have been banned: Not really sure, but maybe for Religious View Point, Occultism, and some Violence?

Maggie recommends this book for readers ages 8 and up.

Madeleine L'Engle

Madeleine L’Engle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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