Tag Archives: Year of READING Dangerously

A Year of READING Dangerously: #7 Scary Stories

Reading Dangerously Logo 2

My apologies for taking so long to get back to this list. I have been reading (and doing) a few other things. I also have a few books FROM the list that I have read and need to review.

Today I’ll tackle  Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories (series).

Scary Stories cover

I read SCARY STORIES To Tell In the Dark. The first thing you should know about this book is that it isn’t very scary. The best stories in this anthology barely make sense. It seems too much to ask for them to actually frighten the reader.

Having read it through in about an hour (in the dark, as prescribed in the subtitle) I found myself thinking “Huh?” at the end of most of these short, weirdly written stories. Granted I’m not a pre-teen boy, and I wasn’t sitting around a campfire while reading the book. But I WAS ready to be just a little bit creeped out. And nothing on these pages came to even that low standard of fear.

You’d have to dig deep to find anything particularly offensive about these vanilla, bland, lame, tales but using out “banned” matrix… I’ll go with:

  • Occult Satanism  for the ghost story element and
  • Violence?

Mostly I’d just warn you to stay away because these stories are outdated, boring, and not well written.

(Hint: if you are relying on the stage direction of “jump out at your friends” for the climax of a scary story… it isn’t a scary enough story.)

WAIT! I just thought of something nice to say about the book… The illustrations were pretty creepy. So “Huzzah to the illustrator!”



A Year of READING Dangerously: I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I’ve been slowly reading #6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou for a few weeks now, and a finished it yesterday. What a beautifully written book. Its prose but reads like poetry (no big surprise there). Oh, why haven’t I read this book before?

Caged Bird_

Bird is the first of Angelou’s five autobiographies. The story begins with her parent’s divorce when little Maya and brother Bailey travel, unattended, from California to Stamps Arkansas. There they live with “Momma”, their paternal grandmother, a loving, but very strict pillar of the black community. The children live in Stamps for most of their childhood. There is a year-long trip to St. Louis to live with “mother dearest” when Maya is 7, but they go back south for several more years before eventually heading to California to live with their mother again.

The book is full of hardships, like when Maya, at aged 7, is raped by her mother’s live-in lover in St. Louis. Or when it

recalls the despair often felt by the black cotton pickers as they filed into Momma’s general store, returning from the fields on bad days. [120 Banned Books pg 504]

But largely it is a book about defying the odds and  finding inner strength and small triumphs in unlikely places. Proving that education and attention opens the locks on any cage.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings has been banned and challenged frequently since its publication in 1969. The biggest objection is that it is Sexually Explicit (especially the rape scene and 16-year-old Maya’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy at the end of the book.)  Some called it “morally and religiously offensive smutt” because of its “sexually explicit language” [Ibid] while others warned that it was ” pornographic, contains profanity and encourages premarital sex and homosexuality.” [Ibid]

In 1983 The Alabama State Textbook Committee rejected the book because the believe that it  ‘preaches bitterness and hatred against whites.’ [Ibid]

Perhaps that would count as Cultural Insensitivity or Political Viewpoint on our matrix of challenges. The white people of Stamps are certainly not shown in a flattering light. Ditto, almost,  Momma’s zealous devotion to religion. And there is plenty of Alcohol and Violence.

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Maggie for her contributions to this review.

Year of READING Dangerously #13 Captain Underpants (Series)

Thank you Lynn Reynolds for tackling the Captain Underpants series. (#13 on the ALA’s banned book list).

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talki...

Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember and LOVE Captain Underpants! My son (known to readers of my own blog as Dr. Sheldon Cooper) adored the early Captain Underpants books when he was little. The Captain is the alter ego of a school principal in a series of comic books created by a couple of unruly students at the school. Then the Captain accidentally becomes real – I forget how – and hijinks ensue. The books are definitely guilty of a fair amount of “toilet humor,” as evidenced by titles like Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants. To be honest, though, most of the “toilet humor” is of a much better quality than the average Seth Rogen film. It’s all very slapsticky but not at all mean-spirited.

I think my little Dr. Cooper loved them because the boys in the stories were clearly boys with “issues” like himself. In fact, the author of the books, Dav Pilkey, was diagnosed as a child with ADHD and Dyslexia, so he was one of Dr. Cooper’s early figures on his Wall of Fame, a wall we have that’s filled with photos of successful people who have ADHD/ADD, Asperger’s and learning disabilities.

Pilkey’s teachers didn’t know what to do with him and found him too disruptive in the classroom, so they put a desk out in the hallway and just left him there for long periods of time. And that’s when he started drawing and writing stories. In addition to Captain Underpants, he has several other series. Some of my son’s favorite books when he was very little were the Dragon books, about a dragon who doesn’t quite “get” a lot of things going on around him socially but who always comes out on top.

The Captain Underpants books have been subject to censorship for as long as I can remember. Before I had a hyperactive son who needed entertaining, I was sure that books with titles like “Captain Underpants and the Attack of the Talking Toilets” were clear signs of the collapse of civilization as we know it. Then I had Dr. Cooper and I had to learn to adjust all of my thinking about the differences between what boy children and girl children find entertaining and what constitutes a good book (answer: any book a kid wants to read as long as it doesn’t involve violence and mistreatment of others).

I assume the Captain Underpants books are frequently censored because of the mild “potty humor” – at least officially. Unofficially, I suspect many people want the books to go away because they are really quite subversive and might encourage kids to disrespect authority figures and behave in disruptive ways. But I’ve always kind of liked people who question authority, and I think learning not to be a submissive cog in the corporate machine starts pretty early in life. And maybe it starts with reading books like this.

Please check out Lynn’s Blog, www.lynnreynolds.com, to learn more about this wonderful writer and mother.

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


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 — #24 In The Night Kitchen


Poor Maurice Sendak… always landing on the Banned List because you insist on depicting humans in their natural form in your fun, imaginative illustrations.  Don’t you know that little kids can’t cope with seeing an illustration of a nude little boy frolicking through a night kitchen?

That’s the only reason I can think that this 1971 Caledcott winner was banned… Nudity.


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