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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Ban This Book, by Alan Gratz. Starscape, Macmilllan. Raincoast. 2017. $22.99 ages 9 andup

"But I had never seen each book as such a valuable thing before. Even the books I wasn't interested in reading were like gold. It didn't matter what was inside them. One man's junk was another man's treasure, as my grandmother said. The same thing was true with books. One person's Captain Underpants was another person's From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler."

I am going to start with a short apology ... my computer has been in the hospital for the past week, and that means I have fallen behind with posting. I am sorry for that as I work pretty hard to post a book a day. Now, I am two days behind. So, I will try to play some catch up here and get back on track.

I loved this book! It begins with a brave young girl (she's in fourth grade) and her discovery that her favorite book of all time has been removed from the shelf in her school library. It is not the only one. Amy Anne, a book lover and avid reader, asks a few pertinent questions of her librarian, Mrs. Jones. She learns that Mrs. Spencer, a school parent, wanted it removed for a number of reasons. Thus, it's gone; no questions asked or comments sought from the students, or librarian. It happens far too often, doesn't it?

As more and more books are removed, Amy Anne decides to take matters into her own hands and establishes a secret lending library in her locker. The banned titles are stored there, and those who want to borrow them make arrangements with Amy Anne. The number of borrowers grows and the donations increase. There is constant fear of discovery, but Amy Anne is determined to show that "Nobody has the right to tell you what books you can and can’t read except your parents.”

When she is caught with the books, she is temporarily suspended by the same principal who fires the librarian for inviting Dav Pilkey, author of the banned Captain Underpants books, to talk with students. We hear both sides of the story, and you know which side of the argument I support. There are many serious moments, and some humorous ones.  Many of the books on the banned list will be familiar to readers ... if not, they will have a new list of wonderful books to read when they finish reading this one. Amy Anne would fully support any attempt to see what the books are all about, and why they were put on such a list in the first place.

Amy Anne is a strong character who stands up for her belief that she should be able to read any book her parents, of she herself, deem appropriate. She has the support of good friends. Together they face the obstacles meant to stop them, and come up with an ingenious plan to have the books returned to library shelves where they will be available to anyone who wants to read them. Amy Anne's family life is an interesting and a thoughtful part of her story, as well. Through her experiences, Amy Anne grows and changes, and finds her voice. That voice matters!

What a great book to read in a middle years classroom setting!

"Trust me," Trey said, "books have been challenged for all kinds of crazy reasons. I looked up some challenges on the Internet. The easy ones are anything that's got witchcraft or supernatural stuff in it, anything with bad words, anything with gay characters, anything with violence, and anything that mentions sex in it." He blushed when he said the last one, and we all found somewhere else to be looking."

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