Censorship

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

collected by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Brett Helquist

Ages 8-11, 96 pages

Yesterday’s post had a scary book banned within an Arthur book. Today, I’m highlighting an actual scary book that was banned. This is a collection of very short stories. I thought it was scary and fun, because the stories tell you how you should read them such as jump, scream, or talk quietly. These stories are a collection of folklore and scary tales told from around the world. There’s also More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3.

“What do you come for?” she asked in a small voice that shivered and shook.

“What do I come for?” he said. “I come – for YOU!”

(As you shout the last words, stamp your foot and jump at someone nearby.)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, page 13

A boy was digging at the edge of the garden when he saw a big toe. He tried to pick it up, but it was stuck to something. So he gave it a good hard jerk, and it came off his hand. Then he heard something groan and scamper away.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, page 7

Reasons for being challenged:

The American Library Association listed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as the number one challenged book during the 1990s. Most of the reasons were that children would experience a lack of appetite, nightmares, sickness, and unhealthy questions about death. Another challenge stated that the book encouraged violence and cruelty. Many individuals concluded that children could separate reality from folklore and these books are mild compared to television.

Reference: Banned in the U.S.A.:Reference Guide to Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries (page 159 – 161)

Book Review: Arthur’s Banned Book

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Arthur and the Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club

by Marc Brown

Ages 6-8, 58 pages

I looked for books about challenged or banned books and found this book for younger ages. The Arthur series is popular, so the book will interest young readers. Arthur and his friends love the book series Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club (not a real series) and are disappointed when they discover their favorite books have been banned from the library. The PAWS (Parents Against Weird Stories) believe the books are too scary for children and cause nightmares. They don’t understand how anyone would ban their favorite books and take action to get  the books back in the library. I liked the book, because it was simple and fun that introduced the idea of banned books and importance to allow people to read what they enjoy.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451

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Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Science Fiction,179 pages

I thought Fahrenheit 451 was a good book to start Banned Books Week. The story describes a future society where books are forbidden and firefighters are required to burn all books they encounter. The title refers to the temperature that paper burns. People don’t have their own ideas and don’t discuss what they feel, instead their life revolves around picture walls (television screens) that become their family. One firefighter, Guy Montag, begins to question what are inside the books and why others want them burned. He meets a girl who tells him in the past books weren’t burned and people weren’t afraid. He also meets a professor who tells him about a time when people think. Montag’s fire captain states that without books there are no conflicting thoughts, so it keeps people happy. Montag joins others in the hopes to preserve knowledge and ideas in books.

A futuristic society where books are forbidden is scary and unfortunately it occurs. Perhaps not as bold as burning a house that holds books and written material, but just the act of challenging or banning a book creates a threat that individuals cannot think freely. It’s not possible to make everyone happy, since we all have different ideas. When you shut books you are then shutting minds that creates ignorant people in a society where they can’t think fully for themselves.

Montag’s viewpoint at the start with burning books:

   It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. …He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparking whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.

– Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

Montag’s viewpoint gradually changes after meeting the girl and witnessing a woman stay in a burning house with her books.

     There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

– Ray Bradbury (Fahrenheit 451)

Professor discusses the power of books with Montag.

     There is nothing magical in them at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

Reasons for being challenged:

Fahrenheit 451 was never exactly banned, but the book itself was censored into different editions to please others. Words, such as hell and damn were eliminated. Another incident changed a drunk man into a sick man. An interesting twist occurred in 1992, students at a school in Irvine, California, recieved Fahrenheit 451 with blacked out words that others thought were inappropriate. Parents complained and the censored copies were no longer used in the classroom.

References:

Banned Books: Literature Suppressed on Social Grounds by Dawn Sova

100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature by Nicholas Karolides, Margaret Bald, and Dawn Sova

Book Review: The Landry News

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The Landry News

by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Ages 9+, 131 pages

Topics: Censorship, Newspaper, Realistic Fiction

I was first interested in The Landry News, because it discusses censorship and the freedom of press. Everyone knows a teacher who has lost their enthusiasm and may not be giving their best effort after years in the classroom. Mr. Larson, who teaches fifth grade, read a student editorial that highlighted his lack of teaching. At first Mr. Larson is upset, but this created a spark that motivated better teaching. The class writes a weekly newspaper that provides the truth with heart. However, the principal becomes upset when an article is published and hopes to use the information to fire Mr. Larson. The class discusses the First Amendment and what has a right to be printed. In fact, the book’s first pages provide the Bill of Rights. I think this was a great book to start conversations about freedom of speech and censorship.

– Editorial excerpt that sparks Mr. Larson:

     There has been no teaching so far this year in Mr. Larson’s classroom. There has been learning, but there has been no teaching. There is a teacher in the classroom, but he does not teach.

Book Smorgasbord

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Walk into a buffet restaurant and you’ll  find many choices. Grab a plate and pile on your favorite dishes. We’ll pretend that calories don’t count and you have a bottomless stomach for this meal. Select your meats whether it’s roast beef, spicy sausage, meatballs, or barbeque chicken. Perhaps you’re a vegetarian who doesn’t select a meat choice. Continue through the buffet to find pizza, french fries, fruits, vegetables, and even jello. Of course we need room for delicious desserts, such as cookies, berry cobbler, and ice cream. Finish your selections and head to your table to compare your choices with friends. You may see food on a friend’s plate that you didn’t notice at the buffet. Maybe you make a sour face to a food you dislike on someone’s plate. Perhaps you snitch food from others. Buffets often change weekly, so each visit is new.

Instead of a restaurant, you’re now walking into any library, bookstore, school, or garage sale with discount paperbacks. Maybe you decide to ‘walk’ into your Amazon account from the comfort of your home. Depending on the location, your ‘plate’ today is a library card, wallet, school pass, loose change, and most important an open mind. Everyone has different ‘tastes’ when we select books to read. There are endless ‘dishes’ from mystery, romance, science fiction, biography, contemporary fiction, non-fiction, graphic novels, picture books, reference books, magazines, journals, newspapers, history, foreign language, poetry, best sellers, photography, travel, geography, audio books, religion, how-to books, and much more. There’s even subcategories for each book ‘dish’. You can ‘travel’ to different countries with books about its food, landmarks, transportation, geography, historical aspects, and more to fully ‘explore’ the location. Similar to a buffet, you don’t need to select every book. Also, you don’t need to have the same book ‘taste’ preference  as your friends. However, friends can always share ‘dish’ recommendations about which books to read next time. Of course, new books are stocked so numerous trips need to be taken to satisfy your ‘hunger’ for books to read.

Banned books week is next week, however we need to celebrate book diversity all year. Individuals should have the freedom to read anything they desire without criticism from others. I’m not going to forbid you from picking a book I dislike. Nobody should have the right for books to be removed from classrooms, schools, and libraries. Often individuals don’t even read the material before deciding if it should be banned. You never know, you may learn something new or gain an appreciation for different perspectives. We all have different book tastes, so allow others to enjoy their choices without judgement. Experience the diverse flavors of a book smorgasbord.

Dare to think for yourself.

– Voltaire

Information about banned books week:

banned books week.org

American Library Association (ALA) information about banned books

YouTube Banned Books Channel

Read Banned Books on YouTube

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In celebration of Banned Books Week next week, you have the opportunity to read your favorite banned books to everyone. There is a YouTube channel that authors and individuals can post videos of themselves reading banned or challenged books. The video reading cannot be more than two minutes. You can also create a video from first hand experience of books being challenged which cannot be more than three minutes. Additional information is found here: virtual read-out.

‘The Quibbler’ excites Hermione

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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 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. I know this sounds wrong, but perhaps the best business for an author is for their work to become challenged or banned. Think about it. 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 that material, listen to the song, or watch the movie that others find ‘questionable’ or ‘inappropriate’ to themselves. My personal philosophy is that any book worth banning is a book worth reading.

The page number refers to the adult version. I still remember when I bought this ‘adult’ book. I was in Europe at the time when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix released, so I somehow wanted to get my hands on it. Finally, I found the book in Amsterdam and was asked ‘Would you like the adult or children’s version?’. Well, in the United States I’ve only heard of one version and I thought to myself: ‘Hmm, what exactly makes Harry Potter ‘adult’ material?’ So of course, my curiosity won and I bought the ‘adult’ version. I learned the only difference was the font and cover, supposedly to encourage adult readers and not being caught reading Harry Potter. Personally, I think these covers appear darker as the series should be portrayed. However, as I mentioned in an earlier post, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Adult Version                                                     Children’s Version