Showing posts with label banned book week. Show all posts
Showing posts with label banned book week. Show all posts

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Let's talk about BANNED picture books!

Happy BANNED BOOKS WEEK, reader friends!  This is one of my favorite reading weeks of the year, and yet again, I am hopping on the "banned" wagon with Sheila from Book Journey for her Banned Books Week event.

Usually I try to read/review an adult fiction novel for this oh-so-special week, but I lost track of time and didn't get around to doing that this year.  Instead, I felt it would be the perfect time to talk about banned children's picture books.

If you're anything like me, you heard the words "banned children's picture books" for the first time and did a double-take.  Picture books?  REALLY?  I disagree with banning books in general, but at least with YA or adult novels, I can see exactly what material the "banners" find objectionable...sexual content, violence, etc.  Still not worth banning, but I at least understand what got their panties in a twist.  But picture books?  What's so wrong with Dr. Seuss and Where's Waldo?

Apparently, a lot of things.  Like teaching our kids to love the Earth.  THANKS, LORAX.

(A California school district banned The Lorax because it would turn children off to the idea of logging.  Stop loving the Earth, kids!  Just stop!)

You know what else sucks?  Liking other people, even if they are different from you.  WTF, TANGO.

(And Tango Makes Three, an adorable book based on the true story of a same-sex penguin couple at the Central Park Zoo, is often banned because it raises the topics of homosexuality and nontraditional families.)

And let's not forget the insidiousness of creativity and imagination!  That's a no-go, Maurice Sendak!

(Where the Wild Things Are, a Caldecott Award winner, has been banned in some schools because it promotes witchcraft and the supernatural.)

I think I am even more bothered by the banning of picture books than I am YA/adult novels, because at least teens and adults can be sneaky and find ways to read the books anyway, if they really want to.  ;)  However, young kids are largely limited to the books that their parents and schools provide to them directly...and if their parents and schools are keeping certain books out of reach, then chances are that they will not get access to them, period.

Plus, these books touch on topics that are SO great to introduce at a young age!  A 5-year-old who regularly reads books such as And Tango Makes Three is going to be much more kind and accepting to LGBTQ peers as he/she grows up, because they will already have relationships like that as part of their mental framework.  (Not to mention, if they later come out as LGBTQ themselves, they may feel more confident knowing that this is a lifestyle they have not only read about, but discussed with family/friends, for a very long time.)

Is it easy to talk to a young child about sexual orientation, or divorce, or bullies, or any other complicated topic?  Of course not.  But don't picture books with relevant messages make it a little easier?  By putting the topics in a format that is familiar to kids, picture books are doing half the work for us!  And a book paired with thoughtful discussion is a far better option than no discussion at all.

So get out there, parents! Aunts! Uncles! Grandparents!  And everyone else buying books for the younger generation.  Pick up a banned picture book for your littlest reader friend, and help them expand their lil' mind.  :)

What's your favorite banned picture book?  Have you used picture books to approach any tough topics with your children?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Giveaway and BANNED! Book Review: Go Ask Alice by Anonymous

Title: Go Ask Alice
Author: Anonymous (Beatrice Sparks)
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Publication Date: September 14, 1971
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It started when she was served a soft drink laced with LSD in a dangerous party game. Within months, she was hooked, trapped in a downward spiral that took her from her comfortable home and loving family to the mean streets of an unforgiving city. It was a journey that would rob her of her innocence, her youth -- and ultimately her life. 

Read her diary. 

Enter her world.

You will never forget her. 

For thirty-five years, the acclaimed, bestselling first-person account of a teenage girl's harrowing decent into the nightmarish world of drugs has left an indelible mark on generations of teen readers. As powerful -- and as timely -- today as ever, Go Ask Alice remains the definitive book on the horrors of addiction.

My Review:

That's right, it's one of my favorite literary weeks--BANNED BOOK WEEK!  During this event each year, Sheila at Book Journey hosts a little celebration on her blog, and this is the third year that I am participating.  It's a great excuse to explore the world of banned books and read some good ol' blacklisted literature.  You can check out my Banned Books Week reviews from the last two years here: Flowers for Algernon and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest .  READ ALL THE BOOKS!

Alrighty, let's pipe down and review Go Ask Alice.  This book has been on my TBR for years--so many years that I finally added it to my "30 Before 35" list last year, in an effort to make sure I finally read it.  I thought the premise sounded interesting, especially because the diary was reportedly written by an actual anonymous teenager who suffered through a drug addiction.  This reminded me a lot of Crank by Ellen Hopkins (a fiction novel based on her daughter's real-life drug problems), and I was eager to get a different perspective on this issue.

However, pretty early in the book, I started to feel like something was a bit off.  Alice (the protagonist) was awfully preachy and introspective for someone with such a serious addiction.  On the days when she was sober, she was quick to reprimand herself for her behavior, and to explore the many moral ramifications of her actions.  This seemed unusual, given the tone of other addiction memoirs I have read.  At first, I chalked it up to the influences of a different era (this book is from 40 years ago, after all).  But then I was also a bit bothered because Alice's drug encounters always escalated so fast.  It was never just her getting high with her friends.  It was "I got high, and then I also got raped, and then suddenly I was selling LSD to 9-year-olds." 

I don't doubt that these types of things can happen when people truly sink into addiction, but for Alice, it was pretty constant to the point of feeling farfetched.

Finally, some Googling put this in a clearer perspective.  Apparently the author of Go Ask Alice isn't very anonymous at all--the author is Beatrice Sparks, who at the time of the book's release was a social worker and member of the Mormon faith (she has since passed away).  She was originally credited as just an "editor" of the book, but after some questions arose regarding the true identity of "Alice", it became clear that much of the book was written by Sparks herself.  Hence, preachy tone and conveniently trumped-up circumstances, meant to warn impressionable teens of the dangers of drugs.  (You can read more about the Sparks allegations here,)

After delving into that information, the often-banned status of Go Ask Alice became even more interesting to me.  Because first: why would parents and teachers want this book banned, if it's entire purpose is to warn teens away from drugs?  I suppose they're taking the abstinence approach--if we don't talk about drugs or sex or alcohol, then they'll just never do them!  (Yeah, let me know how that works out for you.)  And second: isn't it intriguing that this book was banned for drug/sex/etc references, when the REAL crime here is the authenticity of the writing?  It seems rather criminal to me that this is sold to teens as a real girl's diary, when in fact it is the work of a 40-something youth counselor.  Teens today are pretty savvy, and I'm guessing that many of them could see right through this writing.

Despite the crime against literary humanity that Sparks committed here, of course I (as always) feel that this book should not be banned.  There are other tales of drug addiction, written with more authenticity, that would be more likely to get through to modern-day teenagers.  However, the basic intent of this book (to show kids a "worst case scenario" for such behavior) is admirable, and if it keeps even a few teens away from these poor choices, then who can argue?

Have you read a banned book lately?  Check out the top 100 most banned books HERE.

Without further ado, it's GIVEAWAY TIME!  Let's celebrate banned books together!  Just fill out the Rafflecopter below, and you'll be entered to win a copy of the banned book of your choice (from this list, limit of $15).  Giveaway is international, as I will be shipping through Book Depository.  Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

BANNED! Book Review: Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Title: Flowers for Algernon
Author: Daniel Keyes
Publisher: Harcourt, Brace & World
Publication Date: March 1966
Source: won in a giveaway from

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Flowers for Algernon  is the beloved, classic story of a mentally disabled man whose experimental quest for intelligence mirrors that of Algernon, an extraordinary lab mouse. In poignant diary entries, Charlie tells how a brain operation increases his IQ and changes his life. As the experimental procedure takes effect, Charlie's intelligence expands until it surpasses that of the doctors who engineered his metamorphosis. The experiment seems to be a scientific breakthrough of paramount importance--until Algernon begins his sudden, unexpected deterioration. Will the same happen to Charlie?

My Review:

As promised, today I am reviewing Flowers for Algernon in honor of Banned Book Week!  Sheila over at Book Journey hosts a Banned Book Week event each year, and last year it was one of the first blog "events" that I participated in after I opened up shop here.  I loved reviewing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey last year, and I knew I wanted to jump on the "banned" wagon again this time around.

Lucky for me, I won a giveaway from Shannon @ Giraffe Days during last year's celebrations, and I got a copy of Flowers for Algernon as a result.  So what better time to put it to use??

Anyway: the book.  The one word that kept ringing in my head as I read it was "heartbreaking".  Even in Charlie's happiest of times, I was filled with sadness either by the way others were treating him, or by the dread of what I knew was to come.  Much of the emotional nature of this novel is a direct result of the perspective that is used.  The entire story is told through Charlie's personal diary entries, so you get the full effect of his intellectual and emotional changes throughout the novel.

It feels overly obvious for me to point this out, but the book is also heartbreaking in the way that it illustrates the treatment of people who are mentally disabled.  Charlie begins the novel with an IQ of 70, before skyrocketing upwards on the intelligence scales, past even what his doctors had predicted.  This may sound wonderful for him, but in addition to all of the book-learning he gains, he also begins to see that the seemingly innocent or funny actions of his "friends" in the past were really jokes at his expense.  In a world where bullying is such a hot topic in schools, I can think of no better novel that could make an adolescent think through their hurtful words before doling them out.

Why is this book important to read, even though it's one of the top 100 banned books (according to the ALA)?  Many of the attempted bans on Flowers for Algernon are based around its sexual content.  Charlie's intellectual advances don't automatically equate to emotional advances, so as he gets smarter, he also finds that he has a whole world of sexual desires to attempt to understand.  There are several scenes that handle this topic, but I would hardly call them "filthy and immoral" (as some protesters have done).  Instead, they highlight one of the central themes of the novel: that emotional and IQ intelligence are not the same thing, and that different capacities are needed in order to reach happiness in each area.  Without these scenes, Charlie's character would be incomplete, and the full impact of the novel would never be felt.

You want happy and uplifting?  Flowers for Algernon is not for you.  But if you want an emotional read with a unique perspective that is sure to tug at your heart strings, you need to jump into Charlie's story ASAP.

Have you read Flowers for Algernon?  If not, what's one of your favorite books that often makes the "banned" list?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

If you're looking for my Flowers for Algernon review... advertised at Book Journey, I am indeed reviewing Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes in honor of Banned Book Week!  However, the link is going to be available tomorrow (Wednesday 9/18), not today.  Sorry for those that got re-directed here prematurely.  I promise to have a killer review of it tomorrow though!  :)  Stay tuned...and YAY BANNED BOOK WEEK!!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Book Review: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Title: A Wrinkle In Time
Author: Madeleine L'Engle
Original Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Original Publication Date: January 1962
Source: won from Shannon at Giraffe Days

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger. 

"Wild nights are my glory," the unearthly stranger told them. "I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract".

Meg's father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?

My Review:

Remember Banned Book Week not so long ago?  During that celebration, I won a giveaway hosted by Shannon over at Giraffe Days.  She was giving away one banned book of the winner's choice.  I couldn't decide, so I sent Shannon a list of 3 finalists and asked her to surprise me with one.  So you know what she did?  She sent me ALL THREE.  Like a BOSS.  And A Wrinkle In Time was one of them.  (The other two are The Color Purple and Flowers for to come!)

In the end, moral of the story?  Shannon is awesome, and so is this book.

I know I'm probably, at the age of 29, the last person in my generation to read this.  Which makes me sad, because I wish I could have experienced A Wrinkle In Time at the age of 10!  Remembering my love for Matilda, The Phantom Tollbooth, and the like, I know this would have made an impression on my little brain.  But instead, I enjoyed it as an adult, and that will have to be enough.  Fantasy is not my preferred genre nowadays, but I think middle-grade fantasy has a lot more to offer, because it's written to an audience that can appreciate it with more innocent eyes.

What did I love about this book the most?  The deeper meanings!  There are so many, and they made it pretty clear why this book is often taught in schools.  Good wins over evil.  You can get help from others, but sometimes you have to do things yourself--even if they're hard.  Freedom requires more choices and effort, but is better than settling for conformity:

"'You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet?  A strict form, but freedom within it?'
'Yes,' Mrs. Whatsit said.  'You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself.  What you say is completely up to you.'"

As a whole, the book is allegorical without feeling overly preachy.

The sci-fi aspects of it were a tad confusing, so I could see that being a little hard for kids to get through.  But the idea of "tessering" (the method of time-travel used in the book) is explained easily enough that the other information (about first, second, third, fourth, and fifth dimensions...phew) doesn't need to be understood well in order to follow the plot.

I was a little surprised at the religious undertones throughout the book, especially because it is taught so widely in schools.  However, I wouldn't say this is a strictly Christian novel.  Yes, there are a few quoted Bible verses, and some of the characters are clearly meant to represent the devil, or angels, or maybe even God, but it's written in a way that I think other religions could easily input their own belief systems within the lessons of the text.  I think it teaches you to have faith and love--but it doesn't tell you that there is one right way to do that.  AWIT has often been banned for being too religious, or (on the flip side) anti-Christian, and I think it's silly to pin the book that way when what's it really teaching kids is to be NICE to each other and BELIEVE in themselves.  I don't think that's very threatening, do you?

One final note, about the characters.  Meg, the main character, is pretty great, but her younger brother Charles Wallace is awesome.  I want to take that kid home and just hug him.  Or maybe name my second-born after him, I don't know.  Either way, he is a very precocious little five-year-old, and his dialogue was so much fun to read.  Definitely going on my list of all-time favorite literary characters.

So, overall, A Wrinkle In Time gets a big thumbs-up from me.  It's truly timeless--nothing in the book let on to the fact that it was written 50 years ago.  It manages to be entertaining, fantastical, and thoughtful at the same time.  I wish Small Fry was old enough to read it now, but you can bet I'll be putting it in his hands in about 9 years or so.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Giveaway winners!

The winner of my audiobook copy of Rogue by Mark Sullivan is...


She won via an email subscription entry in the Rafflecopter giveaway.  Check your email, Ann!

Also, it was a few weeks ago, but I forgot to post about the winner of my One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest giveaway for Banned Book Week. That winner was...

Jessica R.!

She won via a Tweet entry in the Rafflecopter giveaway.  Jessica has already received her book and bookmark, and is (hopefully) happily reading away. :)

I love book giveaways.  They make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest: Banned Book Review and GIVEAWAY!

Today is the start of Banned Book Week 2012!  According to the American Library Association, this is what constitutes a challenged or banned book:

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.

Sheila at Book Journey organized this Banned Book Week Celebration as a way to honor these banned and challenged books.  If you go through the list of books that fall into these categories, I'm sure you'll be amazed to see so many classics (and some of your favorites!) mentioned.

As part of this week's celebrations, I chose to read a banned book that I've been meaning to get to for quite some time-- One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, by Ken Kesey.  This 1962 release has been banned and challenged many times over the years, most recently in 2000 in a California school district ( check out the full list/reasons here ).  But please excuse me while I stick it to the man* and give you my full review here.

Summary from Goodreads :

An international bestseller and the basis for a hugely successful film, Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest was one of the defining works of the 1960s. A mordant, wickedly subversive parable set in a mental ward, the novel chronicles the head-on collision between its hell-raising, life-affirming hero Randle Patrick McMurphy and the totalitarian rule of Big Nurse. McMurphy swaggers into the mental ward like a blast of fresh air and turns the place upside down, starting a gambling operation, smuggling in wine and women, and egging on the other patients to join him in open rebellion. But McMurphy's revolution against Big Nurse and everything she stands for quickly turns from sport to a fierce power struggle with shattering results.

My Review:

I was immediately struck by how appropriate this choice was for Banned Book Week, because it deals strongly with themes of social norms, conformism, and government power.  Throughout the book, McMurphy and his band of friends in the asylum become a force to be reckoned with by Nurse Ratched and the other members of the "Combine" (a term to describe the society at large forcing them to conform to "normal" ways of living).  Some of their antics are downright hilarious.  McMurphy is the most unlikely hero you could imagine for a novel.  A big, violent, undereducated, profane criminal...and yet, you find yourself rooting for him all the way to the last page.  I haven't seen the movie yet, but I'm dying to see how Jack Nicholson took to this role.

The novel is narrated by Chief Bromden, another patient on the ward with McMurphy.  Bromden, assumed deaf and dumb by all the staff and patients for many years, is in fact quite coherent of all the goings-on around the hospital.  He has his own history of fighting the power--his family's Indian tribe was "bought out" by the government some years ago, in order to move them and make room for new developers.  However, it isn't until McMurphy arrives on the ward that Bromden (and many of the others) are able to find the strength to live as themselves, despite what society tells them is "normal".

Does this book deal with some uncomfortable subjects?  Yes.  Prostitution, sex, violence, drug use, and profanity abound.  But they aren't thrown in willy-nilly--they all tie back to the central themes of the novel.  At the last page, I felt blown away by how well Kesey got his message across--and that would not have been the case if those details were not included.  But they are discussion tools, not ends in themselves.

I wouldn't say this one has a happy ending per se, but it does illustrate how fighting the establishment, while not easy, can lead to small, important victories over time.  It's a great read, and I'm so glad I finally got around to it!

So, GIVEAWAY TIME!   Fill out the Rafflecopter form below for a chance to win:
-Your own new paperback copy of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, plus
-a very cool bookmark that includes a quote from George Eliot (another banned book author). 
Giveaway closes at the end of Banned Book Week, so sign up now!  US/Canada residents only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
*A lot has already been said about banned books over the years, but I want to include my soapbox entry too. Do you dislike the content of a certain book? Do you think it's inappropriate for your children to read? Great. Then you can choose not to read it, and you can have discussions with your children about why they should wait to read it. (Even better--read it with them, and then discuss it together!!) But thinking you have the right to ban others from it as well? The very idea boggles my mind.  The world is not full of fairy tales, and it's naive to expect the same from our books.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Get your happy pants on!

It's my birthday, y'all!  I've still got 1 year of 20's left!

And it's my one-month blogaversary!

AND I'm going to the Dennis Lehane signing tonight!

I was going to do a giveaway today, in honor of this most momentous of days, but I recently found out that I'm going to be a part of the Banned Book week event (next week) hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, and that includes a giveaway.  Yup, right here on The Well-Read Redhead.  I'd love to do 2 giveaways, but I'm not made of money, y'all.  Blogging just don't pay.  So you have to wait til Sunday for a chance at freebies.  :)

In the meantime, enjoy your Monday, and I will have a full Dennis Lehane report tomorrow.  Pinky swears.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Are You Reading? (2)

Happy Monday, y'all!  I am currently digging out from under the pile of emails, tweets, and blog posts that I need to catch up on after our anniversary weekend.  We went away to Newport and Providence, Rhode Island for an overnight, and it was amazing!  Hubs and I haven't done an overnight away from Lil Dude since he was born, so it was a pretty big deal for us.  A short getaway, but a much needed time to recharge and celebrate!

I admittedly did not get much reading done this weekend, but right now I am currently reading:
A Drink Before The War by Dennis Lehane
Loving it so far!  Excellent mystery, and the Boston-speak of the characters is spot-on.

I'm also still listening to The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd on audio.

What will I read next?  Ooooh, I have so many to choose from, and I'm not sure what to pick first.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey (for Banned Book Week)
Beneath the Glitter by Elle and Blair Fowler (received ARC from publisher, can't wait to read)
Every Day by David Levithan (have it from the library and have heard great things)
Elizabeth the Queen: The Life of a Modern Monarch by Sally Bedell Smith (have been waiting to read this for a long time)

What's your vote for my next read?  And what are YOU reading today?
Imagination Designs