This week is a week to celebrate the freedom to read: Banned Books Week. It is a week to celebrate all the wonderful books out there that get challenged on a daily basis for their “questionable content.” It’s a week to celebrate all the brave authors who write these books – books that make you think, and ask the important questions in life. There are so many books that end up on the American Library Association’s list of Banned and Challenged books each year. Books you wouldn’t even imagine.
One of my most recent favorites to make it to ALA’s challenged book list is Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games.” The book has been wildly popular since its debut in 2008, and gained popularity again when the movie was released in theaters in 2012. It is full of violence, as teens get sent to an arena to fight for their lives in a televised survival competition in a “future” North America called Panem. “The Hunger Games” sucks you in immediately with not only the characters, but the love triangle, the survival competition, the relationship between the main character, Katniss, and her sister, Primrose, plus many other reasons. I can certainly understand how this book ended up challenged, but in my opinion, you have to at least give it a chance. According to ALA, The Hunger Games was challenged in New Hampshire by a parent of an 11-year-old student, stating that “it gave her child nightmares and could numb other students to the effects of violence.” The book received several other challenges in 2011 that were reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom for reasons including: anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitivity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, occult/satanic, and violence.
Another recent on the list (and future classics, I’m sure) is the Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling. All seven of them have made the list at one time or another, mostly due to the witchcraft and wizardry involved in the stories. I’ve read them all and each and every one of them have taken me right into Hogwarts, Diagon Alley, and all the other places within the book. J.K. Rowling has done a wonderful job of taking readers with her in the story, and I think that’s why kids, teens, and adults alike have loved these books so much, and truly made them a timeless classic. Suzanne Collins has also done an excellent job of turning her Hunger Games Trilogy into a series that teens and adults alike have fallen in love with. As November approaches, many fans are gearing up for the release of the second movie in the series, Catching Fire and the library is even seeing another surge in people re-reading the books before seeing the movie.
As many people will continue to attempt to challenge these materials and many others, libraries will continue to fight for the right to read them – because books will always have the power to take our readers to another place, and it is one of the best things about reading. Take a look at the list below of a few of the ALA’s Most Challenged Books of 2000-2009, and I challenge you to use this week for what it is – a celebration of the freedom to read. Stop by the Exeter Community Library to check out our Banned Books display, check out a Banned Book to read, and get yourself a raffle ticket for our Banned Books raffle (tote bag, t-shirt, and mug - $1 each or 6 for $5).
• “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck (offensive language, racism, violence)
• “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky (anti-family, unsuited to age group, offensive language)
• “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain (racism)
• “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker (offensive language, unsuited to age group, sexually explicit)
• “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee (offensive language, racism)
• “In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak (nudity, offensive language)
• “The Golden Compass” by Phillip Pullman (religious viewpoint)
• “The Chocolate War’ by Robert Cormier (offensive language, violence, sexually explicit)
• “Forever” by Judy Blume (offensive language, sexual content)