We Ask a Book Blogger: What Are Your Favorite Banned Books?
Each month, we present a panel of book bloggers with a question relating to children’s books and we share their views here on the blog. If you missed last month’s post on the fall books our bloggers are excited to read, you can check it out here.
Today’s question: What are your favorite banned books? (It was interesting to see many bloggers recommend the same titles!)
I love me some banned books! So many of my favorites make the list. I’m a firm believer that everyone should read banned books and decide for themselves whether or not the book is appropriate for them. If you’re looking to check out some banned books I recommend anything by the amazing Chris Crutcher. Pretty much all of his books have been challenged at some point. I also recommend The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You can’t go wrong with any of those!
-Heidi, YA Bibliophile @hmz1505
Why are Banned Books so GOOD?
My very favorite banned book is A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. Actually, A Wrinkle in Time is my very favorite book PERIOD, it is only more delicious because it was banned.
It was banned because of the witches in the story, the three women who make it possible for Meg to find her father. I smile whenever I think of the very Christian Madeline L’Engle receiving the notice that her book was challenged in the schools.
This book allowed a certain bookish, bespectacled, plain girl realize that science and love can go together, that girls can be fierce and show our gnashing teeth and be stronger for it. Hopefully, banning it meant that more people picked it up to see why it was banned and discovered a world filled with the magic that is science and a world where love makes a difference.
-Rene, Notes from the Bedside Table
I’m sure many people will write about this book, but I think To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a must read and I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would want to ban it. Maybe they’re using reverse psychology, hoping they’ll entice teens to read if it’s forbidden. I’m sure most people know To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of attorney Atticus Finch defending a black man accused of raping a white woman. Set in Alabama in the 1930s and told through the eyes of Atticus’s young daughter, Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird explores issues of prejudices, racism, justice, and standing up for what you believe in. Beautifully written, this book engages readers and just begs to be discussed. It’s one of the few books I’ve reread multiple times.
Another banned book that is well worth reading is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It’s the coming of age story of Arnold, a young Indian boy, who hopes to make his mark on the world. Because of his hard work, he’s accused of trying to “be white.” Arnold’s far from perfect and many young people will relate to his struggles. They’ll also be given a peek into a world most never experience – the Indian reservation. I think it’s important for young people to see that they have more in common with people who are different from them than they think they do. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will make readers laugh and cry and may even spark an interest in social justice.
-Kathy, Bermudaonion’s Weblog @bermudaonion
It never ceases to amaze me that schools would ban books at all, but especially books like The Giver. The first book in Lois Lowry’s quartet (now beautifully completed with Son) is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. It affected me deeply the first time I read it in the 1990s and it affected me even more when I re-read it last year. Rather than condone a world without love or color or feelings, a utopian society that takes away choices and keeps everything the same, Lowry is showing us (as all good writers do) that it’s not the answer. Why should you read The Giver? It’s a profound, thought-provoking and moving tribute to freedom and individuality.
What puzzles me even more is why anyone would want to ban James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. I first read this book when I was eight years old (yes, I still have my original hardcover copy with the Nancy Ekholm Burkert illustrations!). More than any other book, this highly original and creative tale made me understand the magic of storytelling. There’s a reason all of Dahl’s books are still in print and still sell briskly. They’re fun, imaginative and entertaining.
-Joanne, My Brain on Books @booksnbrains
Really, I think all banned books are worth reading, because why the book has been banned becomes another important topic for discussion, whether you like the book or not. Two of my favorite books, 1984 by George Orwell and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, step beyond simple entertainment literature and push the reader to consider vital, complex issues.
Some people disagree; they just read for entertainment, but for me I sometimes read classics, banned books, fad titles just to be part of the dialogue! Therefore, I think they’re all worth reading, even if I don’t “like” them.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson – Paterson is hands down one of my favorite authors. She writes in such a real way that I always felt that the characters, dialogue and experiences were true and heartfelt. I was truly surprised to discover Bridge to Terabithia on the banned and challenged list. Sure the word “damn” was used, but not in a way that seemed inappropriate. Additionally, magical or fantastical element of the story seemed so appropriate to who the characters were and what was a significant part of their friendship. This is an amazing book that should be experienced and read by all children.
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson – This is one of those books that if someone asked me what should be required reading for all incoming 9th graders, I would list this as my top choice. Yes, the subject matter is difficult. No parent or adult wants to believe that there may be a concern about “date rape” in high school, and yet, there are students who need to read this story in order to find their own voice to “speak” out against what may have been done to them or a friend. Halse Anderson did an excellent job with this book and though people may continue to challenge or ban this book, I hope it continues to find its way into the hands of students and teachers.
-Alyson, Kid Lit Frenzy @alybee930
Where would I have been in middle school without Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?Maybe I wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to figure out how to do the “I must, I must, I must increase my bust” exercise, but that was a small price to pay for the puberty-insider-info even my older sister didn’t give me. Judy Blume’s novels cut to the chase, but with wit, heart, and grace– all the things that I don’t think middle school readers get enough of, either in books or in life.
I have to confess: I didn’t like Bridge to Terabithia when I read it as a child. It was the first novel to shock me out of my cozy world of sweet stories. I started the book thinking it would be about friends and fun, but then it took a turn I never expected because, up to then, my life and my reading had been sheltered in many ways. I felt angry that an author would do such a thing to a character I cared about. Now that I’m grown up, I am grateful that I experienced that sense of unjust loss first in a book rather than in real life. So, a belated thank you to Katherine Paterson. Also, Ms. Paterson, I’m sorry I threw your book on the floor while I cried, but I did pick it right back up.
Banned Books remind us that if we allow them to, books let us safely explore worlds outside our comfort zone. They are a way to try on new ideas, experiment with new selves, and learn more about our world. You may find books you don’t agree with, books you don’t like, or books that shock you, but those books, maybe as much as the books you love, are the books that help you discover who you are.
We’d love to hear from you. What are your favorite banned books?