Fifty years ago, long before the Lemony Snicket books were written, Joan Aiken published the first in her Wolves Chronicles series. Set in an alternate England where James III rules and wolves roam the countryside, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase has a wonderful combination of brave kids in danger, truly unpleasant adults, and slightly grim humor.
Although there are a few jokes that are funnier if you know something about English history, Aiken has really made a world that stands on its own. The main characters of the series, Simon, Sophie, and Dido, have to make their way through a dangerous world full of Hanoverian plots to overthrow the king, relatives plotting to steal fortunes, and even a few magical misunderstandings.
I first encountered the series when my grandparents gave me a copy of the third book, Nightbirds on Nantucket. It was one of the weirdest things I had ever read, and I loved it. Dido is not always perfect, but she is brave and always has a keen sense for when things are not right. I gradually read the whole series and they became some of my favorites.
I mentioned Lemony Snicket at the beginning of this post because I think that readers who like the Series of Unfortunate Events would like Joan Aiken’s books as well. They have a similar mix of plucky kids, villains and a wacky but wonderful world. Although they were written fifty years ago, the Wolves Chronicles have a timeless appeal, not just for kids but for readers of all ages.
Happy Banned Books Week!
One challenged title that’s near and dear to my heart is Looking for Alaska by John Green. Alaska follows Miles Halter as he starts his junior year at Culver Creek Preparatory School. For the first time Miles has friends, and life after meeting The Colonel, Alaska, and Takumi will never be the same. I Love this book. Love with a capital L.
In 2008, the book was challenged by community members near Buffalo, New York who were upset that the book was on an 11th grade reading list at Depew High School. John Green took to his popular vlog, that he runs with his brother Hank, to address the controversy.
Fortunately, The Depew School Board voted unanimously to keep Looking for Alaska in the curriculum. Yay for intellectual freedom!
If you’d like to read Looking for Alaska, or any of John Green’s books (seriously, you should!), you can find them in the teen section of the library.
|John Green with me and the library’s teen group, TLAB|
This week marks the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week across the country. Libraries, Bookstores, Journalists, and Book Lovers all join together to celebrate the freedom to read whatever you want! Did you know that there have been over 10,000 challenges to books since 1990? On average, that’s about 500 challenges a year to books in libraries and schools! Surprisingly, the Harry Potter series has been near the top of the list of the most challenged books in the country since it was released.
Books can be challenged for many reasons, including sexual content, offensive language, violence, or occult themes (what Harry Potter is normally accused of). Librarians feel that open access to books and knowledge is an integral part of any open society. You may not agree with the message or the content of a book, but that does not mean the book should be banned. We all have the freedom to read what we want, but we also have the freedom to NOT read what we don’t agree with or what doesn’t appeal to our taste.
Here are my Top 10 favorite Banned Books:
10. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
9. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
8. The Giver by Lois Lowry
7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
6. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
5. 1984 by George Orwell
4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
3. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
1. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
All of these books have been challenged over the past twenty years in this country. As you can see, any book can be challenged at any point, whether it is a classic or even a famous children’s title. Any reading list without Banned Books is not only missing out on some great literature, but is missing out on the opportunity to understand the different cultures, people, and the world around us. Celebrate the freedom to read this week and pick up your favorite Banned Book or try a new one from my list.
We want to know what your favorite Banned Books are! Leave a comment below.
Books are banned for all sorts of reasons. Should people be able to ban books, or should everyone have the freedom to choose what they want to read?
Your library supports your freedom to read. Check out this video, by many of your favorite library staff members:
What’s your favorite banned book? Why was it banned, and what is it your favorite?