The annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment, Banned Book Week is September 24th -- October 1st. Each year the list of frequently challenged books is highlighted and this year the American Library Association is encouraging people to participate in a Virtual Read-Out.
Despite the high visibility of the event, there are few stories for kids and young adults with censorship as the theme. To help celebrate Banned Book Week I have compiled a list of 10 books that deal with censorship in various areas.
Most of the books in the list date back to the 1980s & '90s with several of them out-of-print. Although there may be a dearth of books on the topic, I am happy to say that First Second Books has recently published Americus, a graphic novel, about taking a stand on censorship. The best is that is also available online at saveapathea.com just in time for Banned Book Week.
Although author Ray Bradbury has been quoted stating that <em>Fahrenheit 451</em> (Ballentine, 1953) was not about censorship, the dystopian novel is set in a society where reading is banned and books are burned. This book is found in many high school curricula and is a good starting point for discussion.
The newest title dealing with censorship is the graphic story <em>Americus </em>(First Second, 2011) by MK Reed & Jonathan Hill. When local Christian activists are trying to get Neal's favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy, quiet & shy Neal along with youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy finds themselves leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series. Best yet the book is currently being serialized online at <a href="http://saveapathea.com" target="_hplink">saveapathea.com</a>.
<em>The Landry News </em>(Atheneum, 2000) by Andrew Clements focuses on the First Amendment & Freedom of Speech. It shows the responsibility a journalist, even a student journalist, has when writing about an individual and the possible effects it may have on a person's life.
Arthur and his friends wait for the latest Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club book to hit the library shelves. When the book arrives, crowds of kids rush over-only to be told that the series has been banned! Arthur, Francine, Buster, and the rest of the gang make a plan.
The often challenged Chris Crutcher works in the banning of book into the plot of <em> The Sledding Hill</em> (Greenwillow, 2005). It is interesting to note that the fictional book challenged in the story is <em>Warren Peece</em> by the "relatively obscure" author Chris Crutcher.
<em>The Tales of Huckleberry Finn </em>is the center of this story by Nat Hentoff. Published by Random House in 1983. It tells a story of a small but vocal group of students and parents who decide that the book is racist, sexist, and immoral and should be removed from reading lists and the school library. Barney, the editor of the school's paper, takes matters into his own hands. He decides to print his story about previous censorship efforts at school. He's sure that investigative reporting and publicity can help the cause. In 1987 it was made into a CBS School Break Special.
<em>Regarding the Fountain: A Tale in Letters of Liars and Leaks</em> (HarperCollins, 1999) takes censorship to the arts. A story about a controversial middle school drinking fountain designed by artist Florence Waters. This mystery is told in letters, faxes (remember it was written in 1999) and newspaper articles.
<em>Places I Never Meant to Be</em> (Simon & Schuster, 1999) is a collection edited by Judy Blume of short stories edited by often challenged authors gives personal insights on censorship. Although out-of-print, it is worth finding at your library or used bookshop for the stories by now deceased authors Paul Zindel, Norma Klein and Norma Fox Mazaer.
Nancy Garden's <em>The Year They Burned the Books </em>(FSG, 1999) will be found on several Teen GLBT book lists but there is a censorship plot element. Jamie Crawford is editor of the high school paper who takes on conservative school board candidate who opposes the sex education curriculum and it also has a "library book burning."
Although out-of-print Betty Miles' <em>Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book</em> (Knopf, 1989) is still available in many libraries. It is a story of two sixth New England sixth graders who choose to read a picture book to a group of kindergartens that causes an uproar.
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