Banned Books Awareness Week: The Alice Series ~ Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


THE BOOK:  Alice McKinley is about to become a teenager, but she doesn’t know how. Her mother has been dead for years, and what do her father and her nineteen-year-old brother, Lester, know about being a teenage girl? If only she had a role model, like the beautiful sixth-grade teacher Miss Cole. But instead Alice gets assigned to plain, pear-shaped Mrs. Plotkin’s class. Is Alice doomed to a life of one embarrassment after another?

21893_naylor_phyllis_reynoldsPhyllis Reynolds Naylor was born in Anderson, Indiana in 1933. She grew up during the Great Depression. Money was so scarce that Naylor used the backs of paper she took from the trash can to write her first stories on.  When Naylor turned 16 she published her first story in a church magazine. Naylor paid her way through college at the American University in Washington, D. C. by selling her stories. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, Naylor decided to devote her life to writing. She has written over one hundred books.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2012Banned and/or challenged for nudity, using offensive language, and religious viewpoint.

2007Banned for sexual content and using offensive language.

2004Banned for sexual content, using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

2003Banned for being sexually explicit, using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.

2002Banned for sexual content and being unsuited to age group

2001Banned for sexual content and being unsuited to age group


“And we’re off…”


Yesterday marked the beginning of Banned Book Week 2013 and, as promised in my post last month about this topic, I’m going to be looking at some of the books that made the challenge list this year and also include some other articles about this erosion of our right to read.

To start the week off, and courtesy of Open Road Media, some Bestselling Authors will be sharing their favourite banned books and speaking out on behalf of Banned Books Week.

Dame Ruth RendellDame Ruth Rendell has won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contribution to the genre from England’s prestigious Crime Writers’ Association. Her remarkable career has spanned more than forty years, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she lives in London and was surprised to hear any of the books listed on the ALA website had been banned or challenged:

“I had no any idea any of these books were banned anywhere.  My two favourites would be Orwell’s 1984 because it is, in my opinion, the best science fiction ever written, and a wonderful cry for freedom and exposé of what we have to fear in the modern world; Alice in Wonderland because I first read it when I was about five because it is funny, witty and clever, which most children’s books are not, and it stays with you in all its details for the whole of your life”

Stephen-Rebello-Stephen Robello is a Screenwriter, Journalist and the Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho.  Here he speaks out on the topic of banning books as it relates to Hitchcock, Capote and more:

“Banning books? What a pointless, wrong-headed, and flat-world pursuit. I’m with the much-censored Mark Twain who wrote, “The truth is, that when a library expels a book of mine and leaves an unexpurgated Bible lying around where unprotected youth and age can get hold of it, the deep unconscious irony of it delights me and doesn’t anger me.” One of my very favourites on the list of so-called “banned books” is In Cold Blood, Truman Capote’s brilliant, bone-freezing nonfiction novel about the killing of the Clutter family in rural Holcomb, Kansas. The prose is beautifully lean and disciplined. Its documentary-like, you-are-there atmosphere is palpable. Evil has rarely seemed so banal, terrifying, and heartbreaking. I sometimes tend to bracket director Richard Brooks’ very good film version of In Cold Blood with certain aspects of Alfred Hitchcock’s film of Robert Bloch’s Psycho—a dark, nasty, despairing novel so many claim to have read but clearly haven’t. Both Brooks’ and Hitchcock’s films have eloquent, moody black-and-white cinematography, of course, but they also share a tough, bleak, unsparing view of the way the world works. They’re works of great outrage and compassion. Bloch’s novel has apparently never been high-profile enough to land on “banned” lists, but Hitchcock’s notorious and phenomenally successful 1960 movie brought on cries for censorship by a number of church organizations and at least one publicity-happy, barnstorming psychiatrist who, rumour had it, Hitchcock cleverly and quietly bought off. All that said nothing I’ve written to date has been banned. But rest assured, on my new stuff, I’m working very hard to rectify this oversight.”

Jonathan KingJonathon King, an Edgar Award-winning novelist and the creator of the Max Freeman Crime Series, talks about his favourite book on the banned books list:

“My favourite on the list is East of Eden, which I’ve read several times, and if it’s banned for some reason, pity. Louis L’Amour said: “Shakespeare’s work has lived as long as it has because he dealt with normal human emotions; envy, ambition, rivalry, love, hate, greed and so on. These are the basic drives among us humans and are with us forever.”

Put all those things in a story and you’ve got East of Eden. If you want to ban literary depictions of those emotions, put your head in the sand because you’ve got nothing.”

As the week progresses I will be looking at four books that have been challenged during this first part of the 21st century, and were listed on my blog in August.  At the end of the week, and to close everything out on Saturday there will be more Authors sharing their thoughts on this subject.

Now it’s your turn to take over the blog page; what are your thoughts on this form of censorship?  What’s YOUR favourite banned book?  What will you be reading this week, and is your local library having an event?