Scan the 100 most frequently banned books lists for the past two decades and you’ll find a host of beloved children’s book and young adult authors: Judy Blume; J.K. Rowling; Chris Crutcher; Walter Dean Myers; Dav Pilkey; Lois Lowry, and more.
This week, the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, bookstores and more will celebrate our freedom to read with special events across the nation.
In honor of the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, consider reading a book by these frequently challenged young adult and children’s book authors.
Chris Crutcher. “Hard to believe the challenge and banning of books is still an issue in the new millennium,” award-winning young adult author Crutcher says on his blog. His books, which include “Whale Talk,” “Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes,” “Deadline” and “Athletic Shorts,” have been challenged for the use of profanity, edgy themes, and frank discussions of sexuality and the impact of racism and violence.
During a January conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Crutcher, a keynote speaker, told writers that he strives to tell stories of teen in tough situations with language that is authentic to the pain that they are going through.
“The language of grief is a pretty rough language, and we as writers have to write stories for teens in their native language or they won’t be believable,” he said during the conference.
On censorship, Crutcher said during the conference, “It’s a great fight, and I’ve still got a lot of adolescence in me, so I’m up for a good fight.”
Judy Blume. Five of Blume’s books made the “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990 to 1999” list: “Forever,” “Blubber,” “Deenie,” “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret,” and “Tiger Eyes,” which will soon be released as a movie. Her books have been challenged for their frank discussions of issues related to sexuality, religion, difficult family issues, and more.
“I felt only that I had to write the most honest books I could. It never occurred to me, at the time, that what I was writing about was controversial,” Blume says in an essay on censorship on her blog. In an interview with NPR, Blume said she believes what lies at the heart of censorship is “what we don't want our children to know, what we don't want to talk to our children about; and if they read it, they'll know it, or they'll question it."
Laurie Halse Anderson. “Speak,” the story of a girl who must navigate high school for the first time the summer after being raped by a popular upperclassman, is often featured on summer reading lists for high school students. Actress Kristen Stewart, who played the main character of “Speak,” Melinda, in a Lifetime made-for-television movie based on the novel, says it is one of three books that changed her life.
But “Speak” was challenged in one Missouri school system because some adults believe it "glorifies drinking, cursing, and premarital sex," and "teaches principles contrary to the Bible."
“When ‘Speak’ was published, there was some whispering that this was not an appropriate topic for teens. I knew from my personal experience that it was,” Halse Anderson said in an interview with “School Library Journal.” Halse Anderson recently discussed this year’s Banned Books Week event on her blog.
Which authors will you celebrate this week?
I wrote a longer article on this topic for the Examiner.
Happy reading! Happy writing!