A blog for kids (and their parents) who love books, words, and dreaming big...
I'm so glad you stopped by! Welcome.

Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 Banned Books Week: Middle Grade Books

Image courtesy of the
American Library Association

Banned Books Week continues here on Blue Sky, Big Dreams.  On Sunday, I shared some of the picture books that have been banned or challenged over the years.  Last year, I wrote about other picture books and also some novels for older kids, all of which have been challenged at one time or another.  I'm planning to write a post about some young adult novels for tomorrow, if I get the chance, but today I have a few more middle grade books to share with you:

From the Mixed-Up Files of 
Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,
written by E. L. Konigsburg, 1967
Claudia Kincaid feels misunderstood and unappreciated at home -- and just plain bored, too.  She decides to do something exciting with her life.  Convincing her younger brother Jamie to run away with her, the two make plans to sneak into New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art and live there.  

Once they are settled into life at the museum, Claudia and Jamie find themselves caught up in a mystery surrounding a recently-acquired statue.  Determined to find out if the sculpture was created by Michelangelo, the pair eventually ends up at the home of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, the statue's former owner.

I'd never heard of this book until my daughter Emmalie read it with her class in elementary school.  She told me the basic plot and said she thought it was a fun book.  Later on, my son Nick's class read it, too.  I finally decided to read it last month, and now I wish I had known about it when I was a young girl.  I found it entertaining as an adult, and I'm sure I would've loved it back then!

I have seen this book title on several lists of banned or challenged books, but have been unable to find out why it was ever challenged.  The only thing I can think of is that maybe some people believe it promotes running away? Or possibly they are upset by a scene where Claudia and her brother take a bath in a public fountain?  I really don't understand.  If you are aware of the reason why this book has been challenged, please let me know.


How to Eat Fried Worms,
written by Thomas Rockwell,
and illustrated by Emily McCully, 1973
Billy, who will eat just about anything, bets his friend that he can eat fifteen worms in fifteen days.  If he does, Billy will win $50 and can buy the minibike he's had his eye on.  He quickly realizes that it's easier said than done, and isn't sure if he can actually choke down a worm (and then 14 more of them), no matter how much ketchup and other condiments he puts on top.  After he's consumed several of the worms, however, his friends worry that Billy really will eat fifteen of them and then they'll have to pay him.  They plot and scheme, hoping to prevent that from happening.

I remember my 4th grade teacher reading this book to our class.  We would squirm, giggle, and make faces as she read, very glad that we weren't the one eating the worms. Yet, every day we couldn't wait to hear what silly thing would happen next.  I reread the book this week.  It was every bit as gross -- and engrossing -- as I remembered!

This story has been challenged for "vulgarity and violence".


written by Andrew Clements,
and illustrated by Brian Selznick, 1996
Ten-year-old Nick Allen has a reputation in his school for coming up with clever ways to distract his teachers when they are about to assign homework.  When he tries this in Mrs. Granger's class, however, it backfires -- Nick is given a special assignment to learn about the dictionary and how new words are added.  The information he finds gives him an idea, and he sets out to create a new word: frindle (otherwise known as a pen).  Before long, everyone in class is calling pens frindles, but when Mrs. Granger asks them to stop, they refuse.  Trouble soon ensues.

I read this book for the first time last month, and absolutely loved it!  Part of the reason I liked it so much probably stems from the fact that it is about words and language, a subject that (surprise, surprise) interests me!  I also found the story funny and fast-paced.  Not only do I recommend it to middle grade readers, it also seems like it would be a great read-aloud book for teachers (and parents)!

This is another book that I spotted on various banned and challenged book lists -- but never could I find out why it was challenged.  Perhaps it's because the students in the story challenge authority?  (Again, if you know why it was on the lists, please let me know.)


written by Louis Sachar, 1998
Stanley Yelnats and his family are accustomed to bad luck. They always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, thanks to a curse put on the family generations ago. Stanley has been (wrongly) accused and convicted of stealing.  To avoid jail time, he has agreed to go to Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention facility.  There, he and the other young residents are forced to dig a hole every single day, five feet deep with a five foot diameter -- supposedly to improve their character.  When Stanley realizes that the Warden may just have an ulterior motive for all that digging, he finds himself in the middle of a mystery and an unexpected adventure.

I have heard many good things about this book since it was first published, but I hadn't read it myself until a few weeks ago.  I ended up enjoying it so much that I am now rereading it -- this time, aloud to my seven-year-old, Ben.  He loves it, too, and eagerly awaits story time each day!  I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for kids his age (it is rated for ten and up), but I knew that he would handle it well.  We always discuss what we've read, what it means, and how we feel about it.  I do think that it's appropriate for most ten-year-olds.

"Themes of violence" is the main reason that this book has been challenged.


Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret.,
written by Judy Blume, 1970
Eleven-year-old Margaret's family moves to a new home and, in addition to trying to fit in with her new classmates, Margaret struggles with puberty and the concept of religion. Her parents, one raised Jewish and the other Christian, want their daughter to choose for herself whether or not to be religious (and if so, which religion to identify with). Margaret often talks to God, but has never been to church or temple before, to know what they are like.  When she finally attends with her grandmother and some friends, she is left even more confused.

I first read this book when I was ten.  A relative gave me a boxed set of Judy Blume books, including this one, for Christmas.  I read the novel several times back then, and I'm sure all the girls in my class read it, too.  As someone wrote on Amazon: "If anyone tried to determine the most common rite of passage for preteen girls in North America, a girl's first reading of Are You There, God?  It's Me, Margaret. would rank near the top of the list."  It was one of the few books I could find back then that helped me realize all the changes my body was going through were perfectly normal.

When my own daughter was a preteen, I was happy to share my Judy Blume books with her.  I think she enjoyed them, too, even though they weren't fantasy (her favorite genre).  I reread the book again this week and was still impressed with Blume's frank, humorous writing.

This novel has frequently been challenged because it contains "discussion of menstruation and breast development" as well as what some people see as "anti-Christian themes".


In addition to the new-to-this-blog books above, here are some more banned/challenged middle grade books that I've featured in other posts over the past year:

Little House series,
written by Laura Ingalls Wilder,
and illustrated by Garth Williams, 1932-1943
Books in this series have been banned for racism, based on comments the characters make about Native Americans. Please see this previous post for more information about the series.


Julie of the Wolves,
written by Jean Craighead George,
and illustrated by John Schoenherr, 1972
Frequently challenged for "violent sexuality, profanity, and supposed socialistic, evolutionist, and 'anti-family' themes", this book was featured on this blog in this post.


Anastasia Krupnik,
written by Lois Lowry, 1979
This book has been challenged for "use of vulgarity and references to underage drinking".  To find out more about it, check out this post.


Because of Winn-Dixie,
written by Kate DiCamillo, 2000
This novel has been challenged for "profanity".  To learn more about the story, please see this post.


Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,
written by Roald Dahl
and illustrated by Quentin Blake, 1964
Apparently, this book was once placed in a locked reference collection because a librarian thought the tale "embraced a poor philosophy of life".  To read more about Dahl's classic, see this post.


The Witches,
written by Roald Dahl,
and illustrated by Quentin Blake, 1983
Challenged because of its "reference to witchcraft, the occult, and Satanism", this book was featured in my post on fun books to read for Halloween.


Charlotte's Web,
written by E. B. White
and illustrated by Garth Williams, 1952
It amuses me (and disturbs me at the same time) that this classic has been challenged because of its "unnatural depiction of talking animals".  Check out this post to learn more about the story.


written by Neil Gaiman
and illustrated by Dave McKean, 2002
This novel has been challenged for "being inappropriate and too scary for young children".  To learn more about it, please check out this post I wrote last year.


The Giver,
written by Lois Lowry, 1993
This book has been banned from middle schools for "supporting sexuality and for scenes of violence."  For more information about the story, please read this post.


Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,
written by Mildred D. Taylor, 1976
This historical novel has been challenged frequently for "being inappropriate and racially based".  For more information on the story, please see this post.


The Great Gilly Hopkins,
written by Katherine Paterson, 1978
This book has been challenged for "curse words and taking the Lord's name in vain".  I wrote about it earlier this year in this post about books with girl power.


Then Again, Maybe I Won't,
written by Judy Blume, 1971
Due to "sexual content", this story (along with many of Blume's other books) has been challenged several times.  To read more about the book, please see this post.


Artemis Fowl series,
written by Eoin Colfer, 2001-2012
These books have been challenged for "not promoting good character".  To learn more about the series, check out this post.


What are some of your favorite banned or challenged books for middle grade readers?  I'd love to hear about them!

1 comment:

  1. Thou shalt not ban Artemis Fowl. -_-

    Really though. Every time someone bans a book, I die a little bit inside.