Alan Gratz’s new novel, Ban This Book, seems like the perfect choice to help celebrate Banned Books Week!Amy Anne has a favorite book in her school library. She borrows it as often as the library rules allow. But when she tries to check it out one day, Mrs. Jones, the school librarian, tells her that she had to take it off the shelf. Some of the parents decided that it wasn’t appropriate for elementary school, and the school board agreed with them. With that, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler was banned from the school library.
Mrs. Jones asks Amy Anne to attend the school board meeting to tell the board why the book is so important to her. Amy Anne agrees to go, but the meeting doesn’t go as she hoped. Instead of returning Amy Anne’s favorite book to the library, the board leaves its ban of eleven books in place.
Although Amy Anne can’t prevent the ban, she decides to take action to help students have access to the banned books. As the list of banned books continues to grow, the students’ interest in the forbidden books grows as well. Amy Anne and her friends find creative ways to circumvent the ban to satisfy this interest.
Ban This Book is a marvelous tale of inspiration, impressing upon middle school readers that they can make a difference, even when things seem hopeless. Through her experience responding to the banned books, Amy Anne’s self-confidence blossoms, and she learns to speak up for herself. The impact of her objection to the censorship reaches her relationships with family and friends, which all grow stronger during the book.
The Author’s Note explains that every book that the school board banned in Ban This Book has been challenged or banned in an American library at least once in the last thirty years.
The American Library Association (ALA) publishes a list of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books each year, along with the reasons for the challenges. Judy Blume made the list in 2005. Since 2000, Mark Twain has been on the list twice; J.K. Rowling has been on it three times; and Maya Angelou has been on the list four times. Well-known books that have appeared on the Top Ten list more than once since 2000 include Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye.
The ALA holds Banned Books Week every year to celebrate the freedom to read. It highlights the value of free and open access to information. During Banned Books Week, the entire book community comes together in support of the freedom to seek and express ideas, even those that some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
The ALA has many suggestions on ways to get involved in Banned Books Week. You can also check with your local library to find out what is happening in your area!
Alan Gratz is the author of many books, including Samaurai Shortstop and the League of Seven trilogy. He can be found online at www.alangratz.com.
Have you read any great books lately?