Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Banned Book Week 2011

What's your favorite book? Got one? Okay, good. Now imagine that because one person thought that book was offensive to them, it was removed from your local libraries-- school, public, and academic.  How does that feel?
 Banned Book Week is a week to celebrate all of the books that have been banned and challenged in the past. Censorship is a big issue in libraries, as librarians and library boards struggle to appease the angry people who think a book should be removed from a library due to its "offensive" nature, and their duty to provide all patrons the opportunity to read what they want to read. This year's Banned Book Week is going on now-- from Sept. 24 to Sept. 30th.

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Intellectual freedom is your right to access information and ideas, on any subject, from any writer, in any medium, regardless of content. Intellectual freedom, then, incorporates the ideals of free speech and free expression, which are listed in the First Amendment in the Constitution of the United States of America. If writers and authors don't feel comfortable expressing their views for fear of being censored, or their books being banned, that prohibits our intellectual freedoms. If books are censored and banned, then that doesn't allow us to have the freedom to access ideas and information, and that prohibits our intellectual freedoms.

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The list of banned and challenged books will no doubt surprise you. Some of them might not. But whether or not a book is "appropriate" isn't the same to all people. My favorite quote about censorship is from the sharp-witted Mark Twain, who said:

“Censorship is telling a man he can't have a steak just because a baby can't chew it.”
― Mark Twain

Does taking a book away from the public just because it offends one person make sense either? No.  

If you don't want to read something, then don't read it. But don't take away other people's rights to read it either. If you don't think your child should be reading something, then monitor what they read. Go to to check out the ratings, etc. on a book before you let them read it. Or create a rating on it yourself if you want to warn others.

 Banned and Challenged Books from This Year: 
Note: This is not a COMPLETE list. For the entire list, go here.
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  1. Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Contains a sex scene. When I saw this on there, I thought, "did I miss that part?", that's how significant the sex scene is.
  2. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. A perennial favorite on the banned book list-- because it is "soft pornography" and "glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex." Having just read this, I'll have you also know that it is a book about a girl's difficult freshman year of high school after she gets raped by an older boy at a party, and spends her first year in high school an outcast. But let me ask you, does rape "glorify premarital sex"? 
  3. Forever in Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares. Banned because some of the characters have sex and drink a little.
  4.  Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Why? Because it includes sexual material and homosexual themes. ??? Again, I missed something here. 
  5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I don't know if you realize how big these books are right now. At our library, there are 92 holds on this book. Why was it challenged? It gave a woman's child (11 years old) nightmares, and could make kids insensitive to violence. 
  6. My Mom's Having a Baby by Dori Hillestad Butler. Why? Because it is inappropriate for children. Naturally, because telling them the truth about where children come from is absurd. 
  7. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Why? Because this book about a boy with autism who tries to solve the mystery of a neighborhood dog's murder contains foul language.  I thought this book was wonderful, and again, this book doesn't stand out in my mind as being very linguistically offensive.
  8. The Koran. I'm sure you remember the news about Pastor Terry Jones burning the Koran earlier this year. If you don't, try this Washington Post article on the subject.
  9. Bone graphic novel series by Jeff Smith. Despite being hailed by Time as “best all-ages graphic novel ever published," this book was challenged by a parent because it contained some scenes of "smoking, drinking, and gambling".
  10. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Another book frequently on the banned books list. Why? Inappropriate language.

 For a list of the 100 most banned/challenged of the past decade, click here.

I'm sure it's no surprise that the Harry Potter series is at the top of this list, but maybe you want to check it out to see which Eric Carle book (of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame) is on the list? I'm still confused as to the how and why of it... 

Why Books Are Banned/Challenged:

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1. Bill of Rights. U.S. Constitution, see
2. Quote about censorship by Mark Twain on 
3. Other quotes about censorship from
4. A great website for parents who want to see how appropriate a book, film, or video game is for their child-- with age-level recommendations and rating systems for violence, sex, and even good role models, you can use this to help select great new titles for your kids that won't offend.
5. Washington Post article on Pastor Terry Jones' burning of the Koran: 
5. For a complete list of the books banned/challenged from this year, go to 
6. For lists of books banned/challenged from previous years, go to:
7. For a list of books most frequently banned/challenged in the past decade, go here:
8. For more information about banned books, go to the ALA website about banned books week:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A Review: Harold and the Purple Crayon

A Book Review of: 

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (written and illustrated)

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Harold is an imaginative toddler, and he sets out on a creative adventure with nothing but a purple crayon, creating the landscape and drawing new scenarios as he goes. He traverses moonlit paths, creates dragons to guard his home-drawn apple tree, crosses a purple sea in a purple sailboat, climbs a mountain, and then searches for home in a small balloon. After drawing window after window, trying to find his own bedroom window, Harold then remembers that home is where the moon sits outside his window. He draws himself inside his bedroom, and then “draws” the covers up around himself in his own little bed.
Johnson, C. (1983). Harold and the purple crayon. USA: HarperCollins Publishers.


This small book is a classic children’s book because it is the kind that kids can identify with through time. Harold, a creative little tyke, creates his own world uses just his imagination and a single crayon. He is the only character in the whole book, and his inventiveness drives the story. It remains a classic because children want to be the character in their own story, and want to have control of their own scenarios. The imagination is a great place for this, where kids can make anything happen. Parents will appreciate the images Harold creates for himself, and that it encourages imaginative thinking.  Other classics where children and their imagination take center stage, that seem to blur fantasy and reality, that have also become classics for this same reason. Some include: 

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss (his first picture book!)

Feel free to leave a comment if you can think of any others that could be added to this list!

Outside Reviews: 
[Professional reviews were not available for this book.]

From GoodReads:
"If you are looking for a story that will help your child's imagination run, Harold and the Purple Crayon is perfect. It is a story about a little boy who goes for a walk and creates all he sees and all he does with his magical purple crayon. This story shows kids that they can create their own adventure. I really enjoyed the illustrations because they are simple white pages with only the sketch of Harold and the images that he creates with him purple crayon. I think that children can really relate to the story because every child wants to be able to create their own adventure. They story is a great read for beginning learners and it is a great story to read to your children."
 Walter, K. (2011, September 11). [Review of the book Harold and the purple crayon by C. Johnson]. GoodReads. Retrieved from
From  Amazon:
"A classic after many years, and deservedly so. Harold creates an adventure--plot, setting, and characters--armed with nothing but the purple crayon with which he draws it, page after page. Simple and enchanting, Harold and the Purple Crayon will be among the most requested in your child's library."
P.,L. (2008, November 16). [Review of the book Harold and the purple crayon by C. Johnson]. Amazon. Retrieved from
Uses: This would be a great activity to allow kids to use their imaginations. In a library, you could ask kids to submit drawings of their own adventures just like Harold does with his purple crayon, and then display them publicly on a wall. This would instill a sense of pride in their artistic talents and allow them to use their imaginations and creativity to create their own adventure.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Review: Winnie-the-Pooh

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Book Review of: 

Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, with decorations by Ernest H. Shepard: The Color Edition

*First of all, let me say that this edition is especially wonderful because the drawings have been beautifully hand-painted, courtesy of and authorized by the Ernest H. Shepard Estate.

Summary:Winnie-the-Pooh is a collection of stories told by A.A. Milne for his son Christopher Robin, in which he imagines Christopher Robin's favorite stuffed animals in stories, with Christopher Robin appearing often as the one who gets his animal friends out of tricky situations.  It is the first book about the adventures of Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends in the 100 Acre Woods, and so it introduces the cast of characters, and they are probably the best-known stories of Pooh.

Citation:  Milne, A.A. (1991). Winnie-the-Pooh. New York, NY: Dutton Children's Books.

Impression:  Although Pooh is a Bear of Very Little Brain, his innocence and buffoonery manage to endear you to him as a character and as a vehicle for humor.  Winnie-the-Pooh is a timeless story which both children and adults can surely appreciate. Christopher Robin's stuffed animals really come to life in these short stories of Pooh's adventures in the 100 Acre Wood, and in their simplicity ad innocence, allow us as readers to be children again, and let us appreciate the characters' philosophies on life. Children can appreciate the basic storylines and the silliness of Pooh and his friends, from Pooh getting stuck in Rabbit's burrow hole to Owl using Eeyore' tail as a ringer to his nest, kids see the humor before the characters do.

It remains a classic because it is a tale of a child's imagination brought to life with everyday toys, and entering the realm of daily make-believe that children surround themselves in daily, from generation to generation. It appeals to adults because under the pretense of make-believe, there are truths about childhood and about life that come out, and there are endless bits of humor that adults can pick up on that are just over a child's head.  It's a great story for children and adults alike, and this is why it manages to stick around for each passing generation.

Outside Reviews:
[Note: as this is an older book, professional reviews were limited. The second review is a well-written review from]

"Fans of the Hundred Acre Wood can celebrate Pooh's 75th birthday with collector's editions of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. Both books contain A.A. Milne's complete text as well as b&w decorations by Ernest H. Shepard. Dressed up for the party, each book features a redesigned jacket plus gold and silver gilded page edges, respectively. Each is sold separately, but they can be purchased together in a sturdy slipcased set."
[Review of the book Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne]. (2001, August 20). Publisher's Weekly. Retrieved from
"Winnie-the-Pooh has been beloved by several generations because of the wonderful way Milne captures the imaginative play of children. In this book, he introduces the characters of Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, and Roo, and their adventures commence. These are the sort of pretend adventures a child might enact alone with their stuffed toys, but they are written with the sophisticated and original perspective of an adult who develops each toy as a unique character, and this takes the simple stories to a higher level.

Milne's excellent writing, wonderful use of language, subtle and silly sense of humor, and the unforgettable eccentricities of his characters make the world of Pooh a delightful place. Like other classic children's stories, Winnie-the-Pooh may not appeal to every reader, but every child ought to have a chance to experience it. If it is enjoyed at first, successive readings will provide even greater appreciation as the children grasp more of the story's subtleties. Since much of the humor hinges on dialogue, such as Rabbit's "Oh, must you?" when his greedy guest announces his departure, younger children may need adult help understanding some of the story events.

Winnie-the-Pooh will appeal best to children are old enough to engage in imaginative play. It's a good read-aloud for the 4-8 crowd, but the 8-12 age group will also enjoy it as a read-alone."

Gonzales, S. (2009, October 12). [Review of the book Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne]. Good Reads.  Retrieved from

I think it would be fun to have a Birthday Party for Eeyore at the library, like the characters do in the book. It could consist of a few fun games, like pin the tail on the donkey (poor Eeyore), lots of red balloons, and some cake and candles, and some friends for Eeyore, to let him know we librarians didn't forget him!

Another idea would be to have a bear party where kids could bring in their bears and make believe with them in a recreated 100 Acre Woods. Each kid could become his/her own Christopher Robin with their own story bears, but it could be set in Pooh's world, with each of Pooh's friends having their own houses set up. I'm getting excited just thinking about it!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My first publication!

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

My first publication is now out there on the web! I submitted a book review to Virginia Libraries, a publication printed by the Virginia Library Association. I've been trying to find ways to become involved in more library associations, and I was lucky enough to find this, so here it is-- my first publication.

My review is the first one listed, and it's of My Name is Memory, the fantastic new (well, 2010) book by Ann Brashares. You can also see the entire issue (vol. 57, no. 3), or view a list of the other issues on Virginia Tech's website where they post all the issues of Virginia Libraries.

Check it out and tell me what you think! 

*Image is from

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Review: Miss Brooks Loves Books! (And I Don't)

This is the first book review for my class on Youth Literature. Hope you all enjoy-- I certainly enjoyed reading this. The lesson this book is tied to had to do with books about reading, and I think this book perfectly sums up what I love about books!:

Review of the Book:
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Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t), by Barbara Bottner; Illustrated by Michael Emberley

This book is a story about a little girl who is plagued by an overly-enthusiastic librarian who loves dressing up as different story characters to get the children in her class as interested in books as she is.  The girl is, as the title suggests, not so interested. She just doesn’t get it—none of the books are any good! Then, to the girl’s horror, Miss Brooks tells each kid that they must pick their favorite book, dress up as a character from it, and then tell the class why they liked it. So far, she doesn’t like any of the books that other kids have presented – they are too…everything that she doesn’t like—pink, fuzzy, noisy. When her mom tells her she is “as stubborn as a wart”, the girl realizes that she’d love to read a story with warts in it! So she reads Shrek by William Steig, about a warty ogre looking for an ugly bride. She dresses up and gets excited about presenting it to her class, and Miss Brooks is happy she’s found something she likes to read.
Bottner, B. (2010). Miss Brooks loves books (And I don’t). New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.


I think this is a great way to introduce to kids the concept that reading can be fun, and can be about their interests. Some kids are receptive to reading, and some aren’t, so this is a good way to bring those kids around who are a little hesitant about reading, or who are downright put off by reading. There are so many kids who don’t think they like books, but I agree with Miss Brooks in that I believe that there is a book for every reader out there, no matter the age or stage of life. It’s important to let kids identify their interests and then to choose books based on those interests. 

I thought this book was lots of fun to read. The little girl has a great personality, and Emberley’s illustrations perfectly demonstrate her attitude and Miss Brooks' devotedness to the books. It’s also a lot of fun to see Emberley’s take on other picture book characters. This story is inspiring, but fun. It’s didactic, but kids can enjoy it for the story, and some will definitely identify with the young anti-reader. Win win win!

Professional Reviews:

From Kirkus Reviews:
"Guaranteed to be warmly welcomed by librarians everywhere, this paean to the joys of reading will find an enthusiastic audience among kids and parents as well. The first-grade narrator is clearly an iconoclast—and a curmudgeon. She wears the same scruffy overalls and striped hat (pulled down to her eyes) throughout, turns away from reading circle to pursue her own interests and doesn’t even bother with a Halloween costume. She looks askance at Miss Brooks, the tall, lanky (and, in her opinion, overenthusiastic) librarian who dresses up for storytime and urges her listeners to share their favorites with the group. After the narrator rejects her classmates’ picks, Miss Brooks sends yet another pile home, with similar results. When her remarkably patient mother opines that she is “as stubborn as a wart,” however, a seed is planted. A book with warts (Shrek) is found, loved and shared with great success. Bottner’s deadpan delivery is hilarious, while Emberley’s exaggerated illustrations, executed in watercolor and pencil by way of computer, bring her charmingly quirky characters perfectly to life. In a word: lovable. (Picture book. 5-8)"
[Review of the book Miss Brooks loves books! (And I don’t), by B. Bottner]. (2010, February 15). Kirkus’ Reviews. Retrieved from
From School Library Journal:
"All children need a librarian like Miss Brooks. Her love for reading flows from every fiber of her lanky, quirky self. When not happily immersed in one of the colorful choices from the mountains of books surrounding her, she is dressed as Babar, a Chinese dragon, or a groundhog–her puppet-clad arm popping through a hole on the page. She shares stories with a diverse group of young people, and all are captivated–except for one. This first-grade narrator believes Miss Brooks is a little too enthusiastic–to the point of being "vexing." During Book Week’s student presentations, the overall-clad girl with large, round spectacles and a woolen beanie finds the other kids’ books "too flowery. Too furry. Too clickety. Too yippity." When her mother observes that she is as "stubborn as a wart," interest is aroused, Shrek is discovered in the pile supplied by the librarian, and the transformation begins. An ogre costume and stick-on warts for the whole class complete the conversion to bibliophile. Children will delight in Emberley’s spirited watercolor and ink renderings of literary favorites from The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a Wild Thing. Bottner’s deadpan humor and delicious prose combine with Emberley’s droll caricatures to create a story sure to please those who celebrate books–and one that may give pause to those who don’t (or who work with the latter)."
 Lukehart, W. (2010, February 1). [Review of the book Miss Brooks loves books (And I don't)]. School Library Journal. Retrieved from
Uses: I would use this book as a way to get children who are hesitant readers, or those who claim that they don’t like books at all, interested in books, and interested in identifying their own interests, and then finding books about those interests. It gets kids understanding that there is a book for everyone. I might also use this as a way to get kids interested in dressing up in costume as their favorite library character – perhaps by having a day like Miss Brooks does, and have kids present their own favorite book. This would be a great way to get children involved in the process of choosing what they love to read and making it special to them.