Banned Books Week library display


The “foresting industry”. As a former forestry industry worker I kind of like that formulation.

“Too depressing?” As a young’un I never much cared for the way that so much age-appropriate fiction seemed to be about divorce, or neglect, or bullying, or death, and so many other sunny topics, even amongst the Newberry winners. I guess it serves an important purpose, but at the time it struck me that with all the concern about violence in TV and video games and so on, no one seemed concerned about the effects of this endless torrent of despair.

(Don’t get me started on Peanuts.)

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A friend of mine would routinely complain that the books we had to read in school, such as A Separate Peace, were too depressing. What he read for pleasure–and in great quantity–was science fiction and fantasy, and would often recommend books to me (since I liked the same things too) that seemed pretty dark too. They didn’t have any shortage of violence and death.

I’m still not sure how he made the distinction–it would be too simplistic to brush off the books he enjoyed as “escapist”. But I think what he really objected to was that we were supposed to be reading certain books solely for their “message”.

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I work in a library, and we need one of these.

Every year the children’s section head asks me for ideas for Banned Books Week. I can’t believe I’ve never come up with something like this.

I completely agree about the depressing thing! It always seems that the assigned books throughout middle and high school are unremittingly depressing – which is an oh so perfect choice for kids who are already on a hormonal roller coaster with mood swings that can swing to the suicidal. I think it’s that “When Harry Met Sally” idea that only depressing books are deep. Personally, I think they should assign Terry Pratchett books. They’re engaging stories on the surface but with multiple layers, superlative word play, subtle cultural references, and excellent writing. Not every story for kids has to drive them into a pit of despair!


What have you got against The Pit of Despair?

I have always found the ALA’s challenged books list an excellent suggested reading list.

I just had a look at the American Library Association’s Freedom to Read page and it would seem that the books in this display weren’t actually banned but challenged. Librarians (and I am one) really like to conflate those two words it seems. Books are challenged all the time for all sort of ridiculous, frivolous, bonkers reasons. (Even, sometimes, for well articulated and thoughtful reasons.) But a challenge doesn’t equal a ban. Many, many libraries and librarians (I’d hope all of them but I know that’s not the case) will NOT ban books just because some crazy citizen thinks Anne Frank’s diary was a downer.

I kind of wish more libraries/librarians were a bit more rigorous with the terminology. A display of books that have been challenged and are still available would be just as illuminating I think. As in, “Look, these books have upset some people but they’re still available in your wonderful library because WE DON’T BAN BOOKS HERE.”

That said, it’s a great, eye-catching display.

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Books that feature talking animals are an insult to God, you say?


Needs more Captain Underpants!

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