Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2011

Each year the American Library Association (ALA) puts out a list of books that have received the most challenges in the past year. The ALA defines a challenge as  “an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group… 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 access of others.  As such, they are a threat to freedom of speech and choice.”  In 2011, there were 326 book challenges sent to the ALA.

Here are the top 10 for 2011:

1.   ttyl, ttfn and l8r, g8r a series by Lauren Myracle tells the story of three high school girls through their instant messages.  It was number one in 2008 and 2009 but missed the list entirely last year.  The books were challenged due to offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit and is unsuited to the age group.

2.   The Color of Earth a graphic novel series by Kim Dong Hwa about the daughter of a single mother in Korea who owns a tavern was challenged because of nudity, sex education, sexually explicit and unsuited to the age group.

3.   The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins made popular by the recent movie was challenged because it is thought to be anti-ethnic, anti-family, insensitive, has offensive language, occult/satanic and violence.

4.   My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy by Dori Hillestad Butler was published in 2005 but is making its debut on the list.  It was challenged because it contains nudity, sex education, sexually explicit content and is unsuited to the age group.

5.   The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie dropped from number two on last year’s list.  It was challenged because of offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit and unsuited to the age group.

6.   Alice is a series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor that follows a girl through her senior year of high school.  It was challenged on the basis of nudity, offensive language and religious viewpoint.

7.   Brave New World by Aldous Huxley dropped from third place last year.  It was challenged because of insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint and sexually explicit.

8.What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones is a book about a girl’s freshman year of highschool told in poetry. It was number seven on last year’s list and was challenged due to nudity, offensive language and sexually explicit.

9.   Gossip Girl a series by Cecily Von Ziegesar was challenged because of drugs, offensive language and sexually explicit.

10.   To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was challenged because of its offensive language and racism.

Bestsellsers, a gateway drug to literature

American literature professor and author James W. Hall recently wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal entitled “Beware Literary Snobbery: Why We Should Read Bestsellers.”  In it he discusses his decent into literary snobdom and how his idea for a class to show how little value popular novels have resulted in him reconnecting with his love of reading all types of books.

“In that semester the passion for reading I’d once had as a kid and lost in the years of academic study was rekindled, and suddenly I began to question many of my long-held assumptions about ‘literature,'” Hall said.  “While I’d been refining my palate, enjoying an ever smaller sampling of delicacies, millions of my fellow book lovers had been having a rollicking good time gulping down the comfort food of ‘Jaws,’ ‘The Exorcist’ and ‘Valley of the Dolls.'”

Hall as gone on to teach that course for the last 20 years as well as write a book called Hit Lit: Cracking the Code of the Twentieth Century’s Biggest Bestsellers.  His theory is that we should not look down on anything that gets people reading, and that when readers finish with the popular novels a spark will have been lit that will lead them to the classics.

Read the entire story written by James W. Hall.

International Children’s Book Day

April 2 was International Children’s Book Day.  Started in 1967 by the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), International Chlidren’s Book Day is held on Hans Christian Andersen’s birthday to celebrate and inspire a love of reading children’s books.

2012 International Children's Book Day poster designed by Juan Gedovius.

Andersen, a Danish author, lived April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1975 and is best known for his fairy tales for children including “The Little Mermaid,” “Thumbelina” and “The Ugly Duckling.”

National sections of IBBY take turns each year being the international sponsor of International Children’s Book Day.  The section gets to choose a theme and invites a prominent author from their country to write a message to the world’s children as well as an illustrator to design a poster for that year.

This year’s host country was Mexico and the theme was “Once upon a time, there was a story that the whole world told.”  The message to the children was written by Francisco Hinojosa and the poster was designed by Juan Gedovius.

You can read Hinojosa’s message to the children in this PDF or on IBBY’s website.

Hunger Games: a literature tradition

According to Los Angeles Times reporter Rebecca Keegan, literature has a long history of putting children into grisly situations as an allegory for adult cruelty.  The most recent example being The Hunger Games made widely famous by the recent release of the movie based on the books by Suzanne Collins.

Collins has said inspiration The Hunger Gamescame from the story in Greek mythology in which the people of Athens send seven boys and seven girls to be eaten by the Minotaur until Theseus shows up to kill it.

In stories like Collins’s The Hunger Games, the Grimm fairy tales, Lord of the Flies and even Harry Potter children are used as mirrors for adult problems.  Many even believe that these problems can only really be solved by the youth and innocence of  children.

However the young get something out of it too.  For many teens the scenes of battling children are very relatable, if not literally then metaphorically and can be very cathartic.

As Keegan said in her article, “Who wants to read about sunshine and happiness?”

Read the original article by Rebecca Keegan.

Looking for a new book?

Finding a new book can be a hard thing to do, especially when you only have a general idea of what kind of book you’re looking for.  Naturally, I would first suggest going to the Books page.  However, if that doesn’t yield the kind of results you are looking for, there is another place you can look called Whichbook.

Whichbook is a site, created by Opening the Book Ltd,  that “enables you to search for a book that up to now may only have existed in your own mind.”  Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign in. It isn’t necessary to sign in to use Whichbook. In fact, you may want to play with it first, but if you plan to use it often it may be a good idea.  You can choose to sign in via Facebook or using an email address, again it depends on your preference.
  2. Select what four factors you want to base your search on (humor, violence, predictability, sex, etc.).
  3. Use the sliders to choose where on the range of each factor you like your books to fall (Expected-Unpredictable, Gentle-Violent, Funny-Serious, etc.).
  4. Select “GO” and the site generates a list of titles that match your preferences and ranks them “Best Matches,” “Good Matches” and “Fair Matches.”
  5. From there you can read a short extract, see each book’s profile (where they stand on the scale for each factor), see parallel books ( books with the same profile), share the book on Facebook or through email or find similar books.

If that doesn’t yield the kinds of books you’re looking for you can either alter the factors you chose, find new ones or search for books based on the characteristics of the characters or plot or based in a specific setting.  They even have an author list so you can find books you know you like, click “Find Similar” and see similar titles that way.

Whichbook has also created a  few ready-made lists for its users as well as giving you the options to create your own to which you can add any books you find on their site.  If you want to share that list with Whichbook users you can even ask to add your list to their Guest Lists.

Each book’s profile also includes “Borrow” and “Buy” buttons.  Unfortunately, the “Borrow” button links you to the UK’s library system so it isn’t much use here in the States.  The “Buy” however, links you to the book listing on Amazon and is much more useful.

So if you’re looking for a new book, give Whichbook a try.  If you like what you find share it with us on the Books page.