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This week is banned book week. Challenged and banned books are celebrated and each individual has the freedom to read whatever they desire. I still smile when I read this excerpt from Harry Potter.

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Any student found in possession of the magazine The Quibbler will be expelled.

For some reason, every time Hermione caught sight of one of these signs she beamed with pleasure.

‘What exactly are you so happy about?’ Harry asked her.

‘Oh, Harry don’t you see?’ Hermione breathed. ‘If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!’

– J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, page 512)

I remembered this small conversation between Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix after yesterday’s post about censorship in The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. (Yes, I’ve read them enough times to recall certain phrases.) I don’t think this conversation spoils the book if you haven’t read it yet. The basic idea is…

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Banned Books Video Advent Calendar

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Today is first of December, so numerous advent calendars and count downs to Christmas have started. I was pleasantly surprised when I got a notice from Banned Books Week on Facebook that announced a Banned Book Advent Calendar. True it’s no longer the last week in September when banned books are celebrated, but the freedom to read should be celebrated all year. The intellectual freedom group FAIFE (Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression) is posting a small video about censorship and banned books every day until Christmas. Here is information from their website:

The project’s participants include leading figures in the library world, who introduce their favourite banned books: Finnish IFLA President-Elect Sinikka Sipilä presents Mika Waltari’s The Egyptian, Kai Ekholm introduces Allen Ginsberg’s Howl and Executive Director Jill Cousins of the Europeana Foundation expounds on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Other books include Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, Boccaccio’s Decameron and Walt Disney’s Donald Duck.




Hermione Experiences Censorship

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Today’s the last day of banned books week, however our freedom to read should be celebrated all year. I was going to end the week with my favorite series and well-known for being challenged, of course I’m referring to the Harry Potter series. Instead, I decided to use a past post about Harry Potter.

Any student found in possession of the magazine ,The Quibbler, will be expelled.

For some reason, every time Hermione caught sight of one of these signs she beamed with pleasure.

‘What exactly are you so happy about?’ Harry asked her.

‘Oh, Harry don’t you see?’ Hermione breathed. ‘If she could have done one thing to make absolutely sure that every single person in this school will read your interview, it was banning it!’

– J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, page 512)

I don’t think this conversation spoils the book if you haven’t read it yet. The basic idea is that the magazine, The Quibbler, provided information that the ministry didn’t want students to know about. Of course, Hermione catches this action right away and understands that students will now learn the truth. By the end of the day, every student read The Quibbler.

What happens when you ban or forbid something? Of course, our curiosity wins and we desire to seek what others don’t want us to learn or comprehend. Individuals crave to know what information and context is so terrible and extreme that some want to influence others from not reading it. So don’t be afraid to read the book, listen to the song, or watch the movie that others find ‘questionable’ or ‘inappropriate’. My personal philosophy is that any book worth banning is a book worth reading.

Censorship Word Definitions

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I subscribe to word a day from wordsmith and a week was dedicated to words associated with censorship of books. In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought it would fun to highlight words you may not be familiar with that are associated with censorship.

Comstockery (noun):

Overzealous censorship of material considered obscene

The word was created after Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), founder of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He crusaded against anything he considered immoral.

Imprimatur (noun):

1. Approval or authority; imprint.
2. A license to print or publish, especially one issued by a censor of the Roman Catholic Church.

Bowdlerize (verb):

To remove or change parts (of a book, play, movie, etc.) considered objectionable.

After Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), a British doctor, who edited the Family Shakespeare, an expurgated edition of William Shakespeare’s works. Bowdler believed the original wasn’t suitable for the delicate sensibilities of women and children.

Nihil obstat (noun):

1. Official approval.
2. In the Roman Catholic Church, a statement by a church censor that a book is not offensive to the Church.

Grangerize (verb):

1. To mutilate a book by clipping pictures out of it.
2. To illustrate a book by adding pictures cut from other books.

Samizdat (noun):

An underground publishing system used to print and circulate banned literature clandestinely.

Censorship Quotations

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You have a perfect right, of course, as every parent does, and I’m a parent, to decide what your child is exposed to. You do not have the right to decide what everyone else’s children are exposed to. So that’s how I feel about it.

– J.K. Rowling


Don’t join the book burners. Don’t think you’re going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don’t be afraid to go in your library and read every book…

– Dwight D. Eisenhower


Every burned book enlightens the world.

– Ralph Waldo Emerson


If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.

– Benjamin Franklin


Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.

– Judy Blume


Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak just because a baby can’t chew it.

– Mark Twain


An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.

– Oscar Wilde


Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

– Harper Lee


There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.

– Joseph Alexandrovitch Brodsky


Dare to think for yourself.

– Voltaire

Censored Writers Share Stories

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Places I Never Meant to Be: Original Stories by Censored Writers

Edited by Judy Blume

Young Adult, 198 pages

This book is a collection of short stories by authors whose work was either challenged or banned. After each story the author provides their censorship beliefs and personal experiences.  The stories are diverse from losing virginity, being mugged, education struggles, family responsibilities, and more. Each character finds himself or herself in a place they weren’t meant to be. The book provides resources to contact if a book becomes threatened and censored. Also, there is a note from the director of the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC). The book’s sales benefit the NCAC. I think this is a great book for a sneak about censorship at a personal level from authors themselves.

In the age of censorship I mourn the loss of books that will never be written, I mourn the voices that will be silenced – writers’ voices, teachers’ voices, students’ voices – and all because of fear. How many have resorted to self-censorship? How many are saying to themselves, “Nope…can’t write about that. Can’t teach that book. Can’t have that book in our collection. Can’t let my student write that editorial in the school paper.”

– Judy Blume

Authors featured:

Judy Blume
Norma Fox Mazer 
Julius Lester
Rachel Vail
Katherine Paterson
Jacqueline Woodson
Harry Mazer
Walter Dean Myers
Susan Beth Pfeffer
David Klass
Paul Zindel
Chris Lynch
Norma Klein

Book Review: The Sledding Hill

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The Sledding Hill

by Chris Crutcher

Young Adult, 230 pages

I found The Sledding Hill after searching for books that discuss censorship. I’m interested both in challenged or banned books as well as those that mention censorship. The book is about Eddie Proffit who lost his dad and best friend, Billy Bartholomew, within months. However, most of the story is told through the eyes of Billy who watches his friend during his difficult times. It reminded me a little of Lovely Bones.  Eddie is so shaken up by these deaths that he becomes mute and talks to no one. An English teacher introduces the book Warren Peece (fake book) and there is controversy about the issues in the book. Some controversy topics in Warren Peece are a gay character, swearing, an abortion, and blasphemy. There are no actual quotes from Warren Peece. I think it would be interesting if the author created a book within a book. However, there’s a very interesting twist that happens with the author that I don’t want to spoil. Eddie and other students struggle to get their book back against the school board, church, and a youth religious group. I think this is a wonderful book for many teen issues and a great stepping stone to discuss censorship. The Sledding Hill itself may be considered threatening, which makes it a great reason to read it.

     “Folks, I’ve seen this before. They’ll tell you it’s about family values and Christian values and morality and our need to get control over our educational system. But it’s you. That’s it. Just you. If you’re going to stop this, you’re going to have to stop it yourselves. Decide whether you think your mind is strong enough to hear tough stories, told in their native tongue – and let the censors know.

– Chris Crutcher (The Sledding Hill, page 100-101)

A similar book is a review I wrote for The Day They Came to Arrest the Book. I wanted to re-post it, but decided not. Teens are fighting to get The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn back after it was banned in the classroom and library. It goes through the court and school board events. I decided to post a quotation from the book:

“No group should have veto power over what books we can read,” Barney volunteered.

“Exactly.” The librarian nodded her head. “Think, Kate. If Huckleberry Finn is going to be thrown out of school because it offends some black parents, what’s to stop other groups of parents from getting up their lists of books they want out of here? Catholics, Jews, feminists, anti-feminists, conservatives, liberals, Greeks, Turks, Armenians. Where does it end, Kate?”

– Nat Hentoff (The Day They Came to Arrest the Book)