Banned Books Week: Some Reviews of Banned/Callenged Books We’ve Read- Earl’s Picks

Sherman Alexie and “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” has been recommended to me for quite awhile now. I wanted to continue reading books that dealt with identity- in January I read “The Girl Who Fell from the Sky” and in February, I read “Monstress”- so I picked this book up. Unlike “The Fault in Our Stars” and “Wonder”, which I liked very much and basically followed the same storyline of the main character persevering through whatever challenges came their way and ended up being better for them, this was somehow different. It was more relatable.

With its strong but honest language and a lot of the subjects covered, I can see why certain groups may be offended with the book and may want it banned. But I think that’s what a great story does. It makes us uncomfortable in its ability to mirror our lives and ourselves in its pages.

This was a great introduction to Sherman Alexie’s works as I’m sure I’ll be reading more of his books!

One of the constantly challenged books since its publication is “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. (I was surprised to see most of the titles, as this one was, were children’s books.) Based on actual events in New York City’s Central Park Zoo, this picture book tells the story of two male penguins who’ve partnered up and became “adoptive” fathers. The reasons for challenging this book includes “anti-ethnic, sexism, homosexuality, anti-family, religious viewpoint, and unsuited to age group”.

I thought the story was sweet. Despite the subject matter, there was nothing offensive or preachy about it. It’s not like the penguins were doing the deed. I don’t understand how this can be considered “anti-family” when it’s just showing another type of the modern definition of what makes a family. As for “unsuited to age group”, I did wonder if kids should be reading about things they can’t fully comprehend. (“And Tango Makes Three” is targeted for the preschool and early grade school crowd.) But some people might actually find it comforting there are books aimed for kids that deal with controversial topics- not only of homosexuality but death, racism, terrorism, etc.

Meet Winston Smith. He lives in Oceania, a prison designed to look like paradise. He works in the Records Department for the Ministry of Truth where he edits the past in all ways possible to prove that the present is as it should be.

He begins to wonder if life has always been this way. But in a world where the government controls everything and kids can turn on their parents, questioning society and authority is a very dangerous thing to do- especially when Big Brother is watching. Welcome to 1984.

I’ve practically stayed away from books that are considered “required reading” for schools. Just thinking about them turns me off. I remember how much fun was taken away from otherwise good books.

But I had read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and his essay “Bookshop Memories” and liked them. He was also highly recommended by people I know- and all of them had powerful reactions to “1984”.

“1984” is probably one of the most terrifying novels I’ve ever read. It’s obviously fiction but it was based on a world where some of the things really happened- and scarily are still happening today- in one form or another.

There were very brutal sections. It was literally torture to read. But good literature does that. It opens your mind in ways you can’t even imagine- whether you like it or not.

I’m sure everyone is familiar with “Where the Wild Things Are”. The story and illustrations by Maurice Sendak are classic. Even if they hadn’t read the book, it would be familiar. Anyone can relate to Max because we were once him- a little trouble maker who had fun with his imagination- in other words, a child.

This is one of the book that gets better the more you read it. You learn to appreciate just how solid the book is. The wild things are original and distinctive. The run-on sentences are structured to keep the readers turning pages, anticipating what happens next.

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