Wednesday, September 28, 2005

42% Dangerous

Inspired by Jill (yet again!), and in honor of Banned Books Week, I'd like to look at the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Challenged Books. For the record, I have read 42 of the books and 28 of them are currently on my bookshelf at home. As you may have guessed, the ones in bold are the ones I've read and commentary follows.

1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume

9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Why on earth is this book challenged? Because the main character says "Damn" once or twice? Because a child dies? I mean, really, you'd think this would be a darling of the conservative family values set, given that the whole theme is about the value of family and the fragility of life.

10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry

I've heard this book has been challenged because it "celebrates infanticide". And every time I hear that, I want to hold the moron whose mouth the words are coming out of down and force them to read the book over and over until they understand what is written on the page AND the subtext, which amounts to: following the rules blindly can lead you to do something horrible, so horrible that you'd never believe yourself capable of it if you had to name it for what it is.

15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck

Again, I'm not sure on what basis anyone could possibly ban this book. It's practically a bible of rural family values and an incredibly touching story, too. In fact, this ranks right up with "Where the Red Fern Grows" on my list of books that I must have a box of Kleenex to read.

18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
19. Sex by Madonna
20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson apparently ranks right up with Judy Blume on the "Moron Parents Hate My Books" list. Unlike Judy Blume, she doesn't talk about sex in semi-explicit and matter-of-fact terms, so I'm not sure why she gets the Religious Right's panties in a knot. I own this book in English and Spanish and I can't figure out why it should be a problem for its intended audience in either language.

22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

I remember reading that this book was extremely controversial in an exhibit of Maurice Sendak's work last spring. (And if that traveling exhibit comes to your home town, you should absolutely go and see it. Maurice Sendak was a genius.)

26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
27. The Witches by Roald Dahl

Mention witchcraft and you MUST be advocating a conversion to Satanism!

28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry

Whaaaaat? Why? There's no cussing (unless maybe someone says damn once or something). Anastasia lives in a two parent nuclear family with a stay at home mom. She doesn't talk about sex or use racial epithets.

30. The Goats by Brock Cole
31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
32. Blubber by Judy Blume

I remember you had to get a permission slip to read this book at our school library. My mom checked it out, read it, then rolled her eyes and signed the permission slip when I was in the third grade.

33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan

I bet you can't even carry a copy of this to school today.

34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Yet another book that makes me want to hold the people whining about it down and make them read it until they understand it.

42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel

45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
46. Deenie by Judy Blume

Yes, girls masturbate. Welcome to the reality of life.

47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Another tearjerker book that made me think about my preconcieved notions for a long, long time after I read it. In fact, far from being banned, I think it should be required reading for everyone.

48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar

I like Louis Sachar and this sounds intriguing. I must locate it and read it.

50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

Yet another book that leaves me scratching my head. He's clever but fairly innocuous and very definitely kid oriented. Perhaps there was too much of a scatological bent?

52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
55. Cujo by Stephen King
56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell

Finbar found this book at Half Price and bought it out of curiosity. It's far, far lamer that I could ever have expected and reads like something written by a particularly politically active 15 year old.

58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
65. Fade by Robert Cormier
66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney

This book is an ABC Afterschool Special in written form. I bought this book and its sequels because of the whole adoption angle in it.

69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I never really understood why this book was required reading for 7th graders at my school. It's really far too subtle for most of them to truly get, so they mostly get hung up on the gorier aspects of the story. I think it would be much more appropriate for a slightly older audience-- maybe 9th or 10th grade.

71. Native Son by Richard Wright
72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
74. Jack by A.M. Homes
75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
77. Carrie by Stephen King
78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford
89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman

This book was in a big box of very old "Little Golden Books" at my Grandmother's house when I was a child. I don't really remember it, per se, so I suppose the story didn't make a particular impression on me or cause me to develop racist ideas. I remember the book only because there was a pancake house near us named "Sambo" and I loooooved their pancakes, so seeing the name "Sambo" on the cover of a book made me think it would be a wonderful book. On an unrelated note, the Swedish word "sambo" ("domestic partner" would be the English equivalent, I suppose) makes me giggle a little for the same reason.

91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

This book was on a waiting list a mile long when I was in elementary school and was featured in an episode of a PBS reading show. (I can't remember the name of the show, but it was the one where an unseen narrator read the book aloud while a disembodied artist drew scenes from the book on light blue paper with pastels.) You did not, however, need a permission slip to read this book.

97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney

100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

Go forth and read banned books my friends. It's one of the most edifying forms of social protest.



At 3:11 PM , Blogger Megarita said...

Ooooooohhhh great post! I'd also recommend:
14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
(Do you know I still haven't read Deenie? Am I too late?)
52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (This is actually a very sexual book -- I hadn't realized how much until I taught it to high schoolers and almost died.)'ve done all the work.
Awesome! Read read read!

At 8:52 PM , Blogger pacatrue said...

Everyone needs to read Brave New World. It still seems we are headed exactly for Huxley's distopia with only mild bumps in the path.

At 9:11 AM , Blogger katze said...


Weeeelll, if you have the ability to appreciate Deenie for what it is, then no, you're not too late. It's typical Judy Blume and deals very frankly, though in slightly veiled language with the onset of sexual feelings and masturbation as well as with learning to live with a dashed dream. It is not one of her better books, though.


That's kind of why I hesitate to read it now. I'm frightened enough as it is.


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