“If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!” – J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)
Hello! And Welcome to Week 5 of my Banned Book themed weekly post, Saturday, Uncensored! This meme is meant to bring continued and renewed attention to the dangers of censorship and banning books.
As always, I thank you all for your continued support and encouragement. I greatly appreciate your personal stories, too! If you are interested in the theme and/or getting involved, I would highly encourage you to visit deletecensorship.org. This fantastic website has great material on the cause, and I personally have purchased some of the anti-censorship related items, like book totes and a mouse pad. Of course, I’m a bit of a nerd like that.
Now, on to the good stuff! This week, in Saturdays, Uncensored: We take a look at two Young-Adult/Children’s novels which have been challenged, censored, or banned. I typically do not feature young adult or children’s fiction on my blog, but these were favorites of mine from childhood, so they deserve their spotlight moment too.
1. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
I cannot tell you how many times I ran to Shel Silverstein’s poetry collection, A Light in the Attic as a child – just for a bit of fun. The collection was an escape from a bad day, or cheered me when I was bored. The funny little poems, which relate so well to the way children actually think, could entertain repeatedly and endlessly. I never had my own copy as a kid, so whenever I was at the library with friends or my parents, I would seek these out. I am happy to say, though, that I did finally get my own copy a few years ago. I was also a huge fan of Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends and Prelutsky’s New Kid on the Block .
So, how does a delightful little book of poetry, a collection meant to engage and entertain kids, and to inspire them not just to read but to read poetry – to expose them early to things like rhyme scheme, meter, rhythm, alliteration, assonance, personification, metaphor and so much more – how does such a work get banned? Well, the major charges were and have been filed under the broad term of “inappropriate content.” More specifically, the book has been challenged for promoting disrespect to adults, for using horror as entertainment, and for, supposedly, encouraging violence (the old video game stigma). I think it’s so much easier for parents and adults to try and “shield” children as a way of protecting them, but this is a repeat offense that generation after generation of adults is responsible for, and it does not work. Instead of being lazy and denying kids exposure to these “bad things”, why not take the time, as a parent or educator, to treat sometimes sensitive subjects or topics with the time and respect they deserve; help educate children on how to interpret and respond to silliness and violence, peer pressure and bad tempers, rather than leaving them on their own to try and deal with it as the real-life problems (far less entertaining then their fanciful, fictional versions) present themselves. Do not scare – prepare!
2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Ah, of course, A Wrinkle in Time had to make it onto my blog, somehow, someway! It was the first sci-fi/fantasy book that I can remember reading, and it did things to my little brain that I just cannot put into words (though, I bet L’Engle could!). I re-read the book recently – a year or two ago- and find, now, that there are far better fantasy novels out there but this one still holds a special place with me, being “my first.” The story is interesting: genius children and their simpleton, but handsome, friend lose their father to some dark deviousness and set off to find him, with the help of three hilariously entertaining, bickering witches. One of the more interesting aspects of this novel, for me, was that the “bad guy” was just badness-in-essence. In most novels, fantasy or otherwise, the antagonist is a clearly defined man or monster, who/which needs to be defeated. But in this book, L’Engle has the cleverness (seemingly echoed/honored by Rowling in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) to suggest that the most evil and scary opponent is just evil in its purest form.
How, though, does a Newbery Award winning novel (1963) come to be banned and challenged on so many occasions (because there have been many and, in fact, the book continues to be challenged regularly)? Well, the most frequent charges are those based on the presence of magic and witchcraft. Obviously, magic and witchcraft must automatically equate to devil-worship, so these charges are quite understandable (cough). One of the more charming challenges, though, reportedly comes from a case brought to the Alabama State Board of Education, in which the challenger believes the book should be banned because, in the list of “those who defend the Earth against evil,” is Jesus Christ. What’s wrong with this, you ask? Particularly if “devil-worship” seems to be a moot point when Jesus Christ is called on as hero? Well, the problem is, Jesus Christ was listed along with other mortal men – philosophers, artists, scientists, etc. Apparently, it is not important to encourage your children to grow up to be great thinkers and moral leaders but, instead, to just … you know, ignore those book-thingies and let the weight of the world fall on someone else’s shoulders. (No offense to the Christian population, here, I know the majority are not so simple-minded. If you think this way, though, well, fair warning that your kids may just grow up to be a bit… stupid).
Thanks for stopping by for another Saturday, Uncensored! Have you read these books – thoughts on their being so often challenged? Comments otherwise? And – Don’t Forget! The “100+ Followers Super Giveaway” ends Tomorrow at 11:59pm CST – which means you’ve got one day left to enter to win 1 of 4 pretty groovy prize packs!