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What Banned Book are You Reading?

This week is BannedBBW_Read_200x200 Books Week.  You can celebrate it by reading a banned or challenged book. What is a challenged book?  Accordiing to the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, "a challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness. The number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. We estimate that for every reported challenge, four or five remain unreported."  A banned book has been removed from a library or libraries.

The American Library Association in conjunction with many other groups like the American Booksellers Association, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and the National Council of Teachers of English among many other group highlight Banned Books Week every year as a way to "value of free and open access to information."

Many of the classics like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby,and Brave New World have been challenged.  It seems like most of the classics have been challenged at some time and place.  More recently the Harry Potter series was the most banned book in America because some people thought it encourage witchcraft.  Banned Books Week celebrates our freedom to read as Americans.

If you happen to be reading or going to see The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (he also directed the movie),  it was on the Top Ten list of Challenged Books from 2006-2009.  I read this recently and then just saw the movie.  Both were great and while the book has more detail, the actors in the movie were fantastic and really brought it to life.

Son by Lois Lowry

How to write about Son, the conclusion of The Giver series without spoilers? It was a complete surprise, taking us back to the world of The Giver, which the second and third books did not do.  Written in three parts, Part I takes usson to the community of The Giver, where Claire at her Ceremony of 12 becomes a birthmother and who's child, or product as they call infants, is taken away from her and for whom she yearns. Claire is sent from the Birth home to work in the fisheries, but they have forgotten to give her the forgetting pills.

In part 2 Claire leaves, but is caught by the ocean and washed up to shore inan isolated village where, not knowing her history, she is cared for and then becomes the assistant to the village healer and midwife. As she comes to remember that she had had a son, she begins to yearn for him again and to plan to find him.   Part 3 takes us to Jonas and  the boy whom he saved in The Giver.

Lowry writes so convincingly of a mother's yearning for her son. It is something she has experienced and the rendering here is so soulful.

The Diviners by Libba Bray

divinersI really liked this big book by Libba Bray, The Diviners, with its many characters, its setting in 1920s New York City, its twisting complex plot and cinematic thrust.  When Evie O'Neil is sent from her boring Ohio home after one scandalous comment too many to live with her Uncle Will in New York City, she encounters an unusual array of characters with individual secrets.  Not surprising, since she too has a secret.  Evie can tell all sorts of things about a person just by holding something that belongs to them.

Evie is robbed in Grand Central Station by Sam, a skilled pickpocket who later falls for her big time and who comes to have a significant role in the book. She goes to live with her Uncle Will who runs the  Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies." Evie's best friend Mabel also lives in in the Bennington, a residence hotel that has seen better days. She is the complete opposite from Evie and is in love with Evie's
uncle's tall, quiet assistant, Jericho, who is also filled clouded with secrecy.   Another resident of the Bennington is Theta a dancer with the Ziegfield Follies. Other characters include a young man Memphis who runs numbers in Harlem and when younger had the gift of healing.  His brother Isaaiah is able to foretell events.  Bray does a great job of setting the stage of Prohibition New York, though sometimes the 20s slang is  carried too far.

When the police come to the museum to ask Will to help them solve a strange, occult like murder, Evie cannot be deterred.  She goes to the site where the body is and when touching a shoe buckle, gets really a creepy feeling and hears a song about Hungry John.  The murderer comes to be known as the Pentacle Killer. Though a bit too long, the action moves quickly, chapters are short and it's hard to put down.  The main plot was completed and there are lots of threads that are left to develop in the next book.  It can't come out too soon.  There is a movie in the works and there is also a great website which gives you a feeling of the atmosphere of the book.

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

liarspy“The first thing Dad does is hang the Seurat in our new living room. It’s not a real Seurat, because that would make us millionaires. It’s a poster from a museum. I feel a little better as soon as I see it on the wall above the couch, exactly where it always was at home.   Georges' architect father has recently lost his job, so consequently  his family has sold their home and moved to an apartment a few blocks away in Brooklyn.  He is named after the painter Georges Seurat, whom he calls Sir Ott.

Georges is in middle school and has no friends there; his former friend having started hanging out with the popular crowd.  At school he is teased and bullied mercilessly and called Gorgeous.  But in his apartment building he meets an eccentric family with a boy his age,Safer, and a  10-year-old sister, Candy, with whom he becomes friends.

Georges' mom works double shifts at the hospital everyday, so he never sees her, but they leave each other notes with scrabble pieces like:
"Kangaroos are quiet
Love me"

Rebecca Stead has a unique voice. Liar & Spy has delightful eccentric characters, themes of loneliness, fear, bullying, and family.   "Like Mom says, life is a million different dots making one gigantic picture. And maybe the big picture is nice, maybe it’s amazing, but if you’re standing with your face pressed up against a bunch of black dots, it’s really hard to tell.” 

This will be released on August 7, It's a great book for grade 5 and up.

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King

passengersAstrid Jones' family has moved from NYC to Unity Valley, PA. That's a good name for the town because everyone there is expected to act and feel the same. Astrid's family doesn't fit in, except maybe her seemingly perfect sister Ellie. Her mother is totally weird, she's supposed to be a real estate dealer, but is agoraphobic and never leaves the house, but the weirdest thing is she texts Astrid's best friend and tries that way to control Astrid's love life. Her father is disappointed in his work and marriage, so he gets stoned all the time. But at least the two of them build bird houses together, or used to anyway, much to the disapproval of the townspeople.

Astrid is so full of love but she doesn't know what to do with it so she spends hours laying on the backyard table sending love to passengers in airplanes flying over. She can identify all the different types of planes. Sending love to passengers is so much easier than the people she knows, because there is no push back from them. Interspersed in the novel are details of passengers flying over with love and life problems. At first these sections seem awkward, but we see that  Astrid has a spiritual connection with these passengers.

When Astrid starts fooling around with Dee, a girl from a neighboring town in the cooler at her catering job she feels love for her, but she doesn't like being pushed to go further or declare herself as a lesbian. Astrid's best friend isn't helping in this, but she does have Fred Socrates. she's in the Socrates Cafe and really interested in philosophy, and her conversations with Fred help her find her place in the world.

Ask the Passengers is due out October 23, 2012

The Summer I Learned to Fly by Dana Reinhardt

This quiet coming-of-age novel, The Summer I Learned to Fly,  is about thirteen-year-old Drew who lives with her widowed mother and is spending hersummer_fly summer working at her mother's fancy cheese shop where she always brings her pet rat Hum, concealed from her mother of course. There's Nick, a nineteen-year-old handsome surfer, motorcycle guy, who works there that she crushes on, but he when he gets a girlfriend she is hurt and starts to ignore him. Then she finds her father's book of lists, lists of his hopes and dreams, learning about him as she never had since he died when she was very young.

She also meets Emmett Crane, a guy who leaves notes on folded cranes, who takes the leftover cheese she throws out in the alley every night.  Emmett shows up randomly, he doesn't seem to have a home or family, has secrets and is sad. He knows lots about rats and loves cheese. With Emmett Drew begins to test the boundaries that her mother has set, to take risks, never in a dangerous way exactly, starting with going on a picnic, secretly, but also getting involved in his quest to find healing waters.

Reinhardt is great at writing stories that get to the heart of peoples' emotions, often teens and single parents.  Usually her books are quiet and thoughtful.  I also recommend How to Build a House.

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

edgeBecca King has been left on her own at the ferry stop to go to Whidbey Island to live with a friend of her mother Laurel. Leaving her mother she said, “ “You’ll come back,” … “I will,” Laurel promised. “As soon as I can.” But will she? Becca, not her real name, has psychic abilities that ennable her to hear whispers from the minds of other people. Her stepfather used her to listen in on his clients so that he could milk them, but when she figured out that he had committed a crime he knew from her expression that she knew. Becca and her mother had to flee San Diego.

On the ferry Becca sees a young man with whom she clicks, but he’s sitting in a patrol car and she is very wary of the police. Arriving on the island, Becca learns that her mother’s dear friend has died and now has nowhere to stay. She is afraid but does find a place with a woman who has her own secret and tragic history, Everyone on the island seems to have a secret.

One day Becca and Seth her only friend on the island who is a musician and high school dropout go to Saratoga Falls to give his dog a run.    While they are there, Derric, the boy from the ferry and now a classmate, falls, breaking his leg and going into a coma. Derric Nyombe Matheson, a Ugandan orphan who was adopted by the town sheriff, is popular and had been friendly to her on the first day of school, but he is surrounded by others like Jenna who don't want Becca to talk to him. He also has enemies, including boys who trip him in school and Becca’s friend Seth. Somehow Becca is sure she can help Derrick come out of his coma.

The island with its deep, mysterious woods, its farms and small towns comes to life as the mystery unravels. Friendships are built and developed and old wounds are repaired, but with the surprise ending it emerges that this will be a series. I’m pleased as I found the book hard to put down. it’s not a thriller with a rush, but a mystery set among complex characters in a closed and mystical landscape. George’s writing is fluid and captivating.

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George will be released on September 4, 2012

Pinned by Sharon Flake

Autumn and Adonis are complete opposites but they’re alike in some ways.  Adonis is brilliant, he gets all A’s and is polite, quiet,the head of the chess club and the wrestling team manager.  Adonis is in a wheelchair because he was born withoutpinned3 legs below his knees, but that doesn’t keep him back.

Autumn is a brilliant wrestler,she can strategize in a second on the mat.  She’s a good friend and a great cook but she can’t do school.  She can’t read and she’s behind in everything else too.  Autumn also loves Adonis and follows, stalk is his word, him everywhere.  He can’t stand her, but for some reason he keeps dreaming about her.  As annoying as she is, she gets under his skin.

Told in alternate voices, this is a very personal view of two teens whose ways of speaking as well are very different, but who find there is something that draws them to each other.  Pinned will be released on Oct. 1 by Scholastic.  It’s a great book for girls who are into sports as well as for reluctant readers.

Divergent

Divergent by Veronica Roth July 10, 2012

This is quite an exciting book, somewhat along the lines of The Hunger Games.  This society, in a future Chicago, is made up of factions.  Decades before their ancestors had decided that humans were selfish and corrupt so people formed factions, each against what they thought were soceiey’s biggest ills.  Abnegation, the original home of heroine Tris, is selfless; they run the government because they won’t succumb to corruption.  Erudite is made up of intellectuals and they are the researchers. Dauntless are the brave and they protect society, Amity is friendly and they provide the caretakers and counselors for society.  There is also Candor who “provide rustworthy and sound leaders of law.”  

When young people turn 17(??), they must pick a faction and then go through an initiation.   Tris decides to leave her faction and become a Dauntlesss.  She had always admired their bravery when she watched them jumping onto trains and off of buildings.  The initiation is brutal, but as she learns she is really a Divergent, not wholly belonging to one faction, she finds out how dangerous that is, especially with power hungry people like Eric running the show.  Things have changed since the factions were first initiated and there are people that want to discredit Abnegation and Tris’ father.  

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

me_and_earlIf you’re looking for a really funny book, try Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. "Me" is Greg Gaines, a senior in high school, and who according to him looks “sort of like a pudding… extremely pale and somewhat overweight.” Greg’s secret to not making enemies among any of the many groups at his school is to not really belong to any particular group but to gain access to every group. Of course this won't work if you are seen with a particular group, so he has to be pretty invisible, or as he says, “insanely low-profile.” Greg’s only friend is Earl who is filled with violent rage from his awful home life. The two of them make mediocre films together.

Greg’s life changes when his mom insists that he become friends with Rachel who has leukemia. It turns out that he becomes “really good at cheering up Rachel” even though he didn’t want to get involved. His awkwardness at speaking is hysterical and Gaines uses humor Greg, Earl and Rachel to grapple with big issues. The set  up is similar to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, but the similarity ends there.