Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Quality Reading

I don't often ask my readers to contribute, but I've been inspired by Kaleb Tierce. As a general rule, I think banning books is ridiculous. I do think that not all books are appropriate for all ages, but I also think that the sooner you start treating students like adults, the sooner they will start acting like them. Aside from what I generally believe about book banning, taking legal action against a teacher for their class content is outrageous. Maybe I've spent too much time in an environment that values academic freedom, but I am very upset about this.

I know how much you daily bloggers like memes so I'm starting one. Take this list of challenged books, mark the ones that you've read and at (roughly) what age. Anecdotes about how they inspired, educated, and changed you are encouraged.

The American Library Association's most challenged books of all time

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (Maya Angelou)

"The Chocolate War" (Robert Cormier)

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (Mark Twain) I read this in high school as part of class. I loved it because it was the end of sentence diagramming and the beginning of fun English classes. I forgave my grandmother her racism after this book. I didn't encounter race problems much at all growing up, so when my grandma would say off handed slurs like they didn't matter, I didn't understand. I questioned whether or not she was a good person. This book put racial slurs in a context, and while they still weren't ok, and I still give my grandma disapproving looks, I was finally able to understand that she grew up in a different time.

"It's Perfectly Normal" (Robie Harris)

"Scary Stories" (Alvin Schwartz)

"Daddy's Roommate" (Michael Willhoite)

"Of Mice and Men" (John Steinbeck)

"Harry Potter" series (J.K. Rowling) I've bought this series for my little brother as they've been released, and I started reading them my freshman year of college after he finished the first book for the third time. My brother never really liked to read before that. We really connected over these books, and we began a new relationship as friends instead of competing siblings.

"Heather Has Two Mommies" (Leslea Newman)

"Goosebumps" series (R.L. Stine) I read a couple of these in 6th grade, but I quickly graduated to Fear Street. After about a half a dozen of those, I moved on to Stephen King and finished Cujo, Misery, and Firestarter the summer before 7th grade. I generally feel like I've gotten the genre out of my system early, but I'm still working on The Stand.

"The Catcher in the Rye" (J.D. Salinger)

"The Color Purple" (Alice Walker)

"A Wrinkle in Time" (Madeleine L'Engle)

"Earth's Children" series (Jean M. Auel) I didn't read these until college, but in my defense, I didn't discover them any earlier. They were fun, but I think they would have been a completely different experience if I had read them before The Naked Ape.

"In the Night Kitchen" (Maurice Sendak)

"The New Joy of Gay Sex" (Charles Silverstein)

"Blubber" (Judy Blume) In 4th grade I read everything Judy Blume I could get my hands on, and I honestly can't remember this book specifically or why it would be contested. If anything I read from that year in my life should be challenged it should be the book about gamma rays and marigolds that had graphic details for skinning a cat. I suppose I should go back and read Blubber to jog my memory.

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Margaret Atwood)

"The Bluest Eye" (Toni Morrison)

"The Outsiders" (S.E. Hinton) I love The Outsiders. It was also a class assignment, but I had that that teacher for several years, so I have no idea what grade it was. I don't have to tell you that this is a great coming of age book. Not only that, it is a coming of age book for the real outcasts. Who is and isn't cool is so important in Jr. High and High school yet we never talked about it. In most of the stuff I read, the uncool people had glasses or too many freckles. Even at thirteen I thought it was a joke. This book really addressed social inequity and what it meant for people my age (at the time) to be on the loosing side of that game.

"Captain Underpants" series (Dav Pilkey)

"A Light in the Attic" (Shel Silverstein) I love this book. I still read this book. I've bought this book for 4 year olds. Warn your children, I suppose I shouldn't be welcome to their birthday parties.

"Brave New World" (Aldous Huxley)

"Asking about Sex and Growing Up" (Joanna Cole)

"Cujo" (Stephen King) As I said before, I read this book in sixth grade. I'll admit, it is not the best reading for SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) because sometimes you need to just let out a good long ewww. Of all the Stephen King novels I've read, why this is the one on the list, is beyond me.

"James and the Giant Peach" (Roald Dahl) Is this another shield our children from magic challenge? Did one of the nasty aunts curse? I don't understand why it is on the list. I loved it as a kid and it sparked the couple months I spent desperately trying not to squish ant on the sidewalk. It may be the reason I still escort crickets and most spiders out of my apartment to safety instead of just squishing them. This is another banned book that I've shared with the children in my life. I bought it for a kid I use to babysit who was arachnophobia and I directed the play with my kids at Sonshine.

"The Anarchist Cookbook" (William Powell)

"Boys and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"Ordinary People" (Judith Guest)

"American Psycho" (Bret Easton Ellis)

"Athletic Shorts" (Chris Crutcher)

"The House of the Spirits" (Isabel Allende)

"Slaughterhouse Five" (Kurt Vonnegut) I haven't read this. I read Breakfast of Champions this summer and hated it. Maybe I won't swear off Vonnegut and give this one a chance.

"Lord of the Flies" (William Golding) I haven't read this one either, but I've always wanted to.

"Mommy Laid an Egg" (Babette Cole)

"Private Parts" (Howard Stern)

"Where's Waldo?" (Martin Hanford) What? Was there some Disney-esque hidden image scandal that I missed? There is no content in these books, and most inappropriate thing I ever remember finding was a fat woman in a bikini. Are parents just worried that there is something in there that they don't know about? I'm going to go look up why this book is challenged.

***Edit: I guess I didn't search hard enough. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about Waldo Banning. "According to the American Library Association Where's Waldo has ranked 88 out of a 100 of the most banned and objected to books in the USA. The most common reason this book has been banned because in one picture, there are tiny cartoon breasts being wantonly flashed." As a kid I went to the lake every 4th of July so I've seen real breasts wantonly flashed. The tiny cartoon ones probably didn't phase me.

"Little Black Sambo" (Helen Bannerman)

"Girls and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"How to Eat Fried Worms" (Thomas Rockwell) This one makes me sad. I read this somewhere between 5th and 8th grade, and almost instantly read it again. I spent a year or two rereading this and Summer of the Monkeys. I loved this book because he was the new kid. Growing up I never lived in one place longer than 3 years so I really related to him trying to find his place and maintain his dignity in a new school. I know that I can do whatever I set my mind to even if what I want to do seems as silly as eating worms and catching monkeys.



Well, it looks like I've got some more books to add to my reading list. Fortunately Amelia Bedlia isn't on the list so I can stick to my current Christmas plan for my friends' kids and not worry about corrupting them.

1 comment:

Timothy said...

the catcher in the rye changed my life when i read it in high school. it's an important book. so is the chocolate war, though i didn't read it til i was in college, in an adolescent lit class. my high schoolers will read that when i'm a teacher.

and, i have to say, the bluest eye is one of my top five all time favorite novels. it's so beautifully painful. it's important and people should read it.