Manifesto ~ Ellen Hopkins


I hadn’t forgotten that this week is Banned Books Week, but I decided to take a more subdued approach than I did last year.  Simon & Schuster asked Ms. Hopkins to write the following poem for Banned Books Week, which they produced as a broadside. The broadside will be on Banned Books Week tables across the country.


To you zealots and bigots and false
patriots who live in fear of discourse.
You screamers and banners and burners
who would force books
off shelves in your brand name
of greater good.

You say you’re afraid for children,
innocents ripe for corruption
by perversion or sorcery on the page.
But sticks and stones do break
bones, and ignorance is no armor.
You do not speak for me,
and will not deny my kids magic
in favor of miracles.

You say you’re afraid for America,
the red, white and blue corroded
by terrorists, socialists, the sexually
confused. But we are a vast quilt
of patchwork cultures and multi-gendered
identities. You cannot speak for those
whose ancestors braved
different seas.

You say you’re afraid for God,
the living word eroded by Muhammed
and Darwin and Magdalene.
But the omnipotent sculptor of heaven
and earth designed intelligence.
Surely you dare not speak
for the father, who opens
his arms to all.

A word to the unwise.
Torch every book.
Char every page.
Burn every word to ash.
Ideas are incombustible.
And therein lies your real fear.

Ellen Hopkins



Banned Books Awareness Week: The Handmaids Tale ~Margaret Atwood


THE BOOK:  In the Republic of Gilead, we see a world devastated by toxic chemicals and nuclear fallout and dominated by a repressive Christian fundamentalism. The birthrate has plunged, and most women can no longer bear children. Offred is one of Gilead’s Handmaids, who as official breeders are among the chosen few who can still become pregnant.

Margaret AttwoodRegarded as one of Canada’s finest living writers, Margaret Atwood is a poet, novelist, story writer, essayist, and environmental activist. Her books have received critical acclaim in the United States, Europe, and her native Canada, and she has received numerous literary awards, including the Booker Prize, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the Governor General’s Award, twice. Atwood’s critical popularity is matched by her popularity with readers; her books are regularly bestsellers.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2013 – Challenged as required reading for a Page High School International Baccalaureate class and as optional reading for Advanced Placement reading courses at Grimsley High School in Guilford County (NC) because the book is “sexually explicit, violently graphic and morally corrupt.”

2007 – The Judson (TX) school board overturned the superintendent’s ban of the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum. The review committee of students, teachers and parents had appealed the ban to the school board.

2006 – The Judson (TX) school board overturned the superintendent’s ban of the novel from an advanced placement English curriculum.

2002 – Challenged in Texas due to description’s of sexual encounters.

2001 – Downgraded from “required” to “optional” for the 11th grade summer reading list in Upper Moreland (PA) school district for age inappropriate subject matter.


Banned Books Awareness Week: The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials #1) ~ Philip Pullman


THE BOOK:  Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.

philip-pullmanTHE AUTHOR:  Philip Pullman, born on 19th of October 1946 is a writer from Norwich, England. He is the son of Audrey Avelyn Pullman and Alfred Outram Pullman. He spent most of his childhood in travel as his father was in the Air force. Part of early days, he lived in Australia, as his mother remarried. That is where he developed his love for writing. He was very amused by the comics and their characters especially Batman and Superman. During 1957 Pullman spent his time with his grandfather in Norfolk where he found John Milton‘s ‘Paradise Lost’ that later became the base for his work ‘His Dark Materials’. After finishing school he studied in Exeter College, Oxford where he did his Bachelors in Arts in 1968. He also discovered William Blake‘s illustrations in 1970 that also influenced him in his works later on. In the same year he got married to Judith Speller.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2009 – Retained by the publicly funded Dufferin-Peel Catholic School District in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) with a sticker on the inside cover telling readers “representations of the church in this novel are purely fictional” and are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

2008 – Removed, but later returned to the library shelves at dozens of schools in the publicly funded Halton (Ontario, Canada) Catholic School District despite that the books were challenged as being “written by an atheist where the characters and text are anti-God, anti-Catholic, and anti-religion.” The book and two other Pullman titles from the Dark Matters trilogy were pulled from public display for review, but available to students upon request. The publicly funded Calgary (Alberta, Canada) Catholic School District returned the book to its library shelves two months after ordering its removal. Detractors accused the book of having anti-religious content. Challenged at the Conkwright Middle School in Winchester (KY) because the main character drinks wine and ingests poppy with her meals and the book presents an anti-Christian doctrine. Pulled from the St. John Neumann Middle School and Lourdes High School in OshKosh (WI) because concerns about what critics call its “anti-Christian message.” Challenged at the Shallowater Middle School in Lubbock (TX) because of the book’s “anti-religious message.” Pulled from the library shelves at Ortega Middle School in Alamosa (CO) for what critics regard as the book’s anti-religious views. District officials later returned the book to circulation. Retained by the publicly funded Dufferin-Peel Catholic School District in Mississauga (Ontario, Canada) with a sticker on the inside cover telling readers “representations of the church in this novel are purely fictional” and are not reflective of the real Roman Catholic Church or the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


Banned Books Awareness Week: The Chocolate War ~ Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War

THE BOOK:  Jerry Renault ponders the question on the poster in his locker: Do I dare disturb the universe? Refusing to sell chocolates in the annual Trinity school fund-raiser may not seem like a radical thing to do. But when Jerry challenges a secret school society called The Vigils, his defiant act turns into an all-out war. Now the only question is: Who will survive? First published in 1974, Robert Cormier’s groundbreaking novel, an unflinching portrait of corruption and cruelty, has become a modern classic.

THE AUTHOR:  robert-cormier-1Robert Cormier was an American author and journalist, known for his novels/stories that have pessimistic themes. He authored ten major novels and several short stories, most of which are specifically for young adults. Although he did not enjoy initial commercial success, he always received immense critical acclaim. His novels and short stories are centred on themes of abuse, betrayal, mental illness, violence, and revenge. Another interesting feature in his novels is that good may not necessarily win over evil. This tendency of his novels to stress on the ‘negative’ led to the rejection of his publications from educational institutions and library lists. However, the author and several critics have explained his works as simply a realistic depiction of human nature. Owing to stories’ dark controversial nature, some of his works were initially banned. However, with time they have been accepted into mainstream publication houses and have also been translated into many languages. His works now appear frequently on the list of ‘Best Books for Young Adults’ of the American Library Association and are often recommended in the New York Times and School Library Journal.

THE CHALLENGES (courtesy of Marshall University):

2010 – Challenged and/or banned for nudity, offensive language, being sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

2008 – Initially removed from Harford County (MD) High School curriculum due to vulgar language overshadowing anti-bullying message, but in November 2007, the school superintendent reversed the ban to allow the use of the book in classes dealing with harassment for which all parents have signed permission slips. Challenged as optional reading in a bullying unit at the Lake Oswego (OR) Junior High School because the novel is “peppered with profanities, ranging from derogatory slang terms to sexual encounters and violence.” Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene (ID) School district where parents say the book, along with 5 other, should require parental permission for students to read them. Challenged as required reading for 7th-grade students at the John H. Kinzie Elementary School in Chicago (IL). Challenged at the Northridge School District in Johnstown (OH) because “if these books were a movie, they would be rated R, why should we encourage them to read these books.”

2007 – Challenged, but retained in the West Hartford (CN) schools. Parents of a King Philip Middle School eighth grader thought the language, sexual content, and violence made the book PG-13. Challenged in the Wake County (NC) schools because the book has “vulgar and sexually explicit language.” Parents are getting help from Called2Action, a Christian group that says its mission is to “promote and defend our shared family and social values.”

2006 – Challenged for sexual content and offensive language.

2005 – Challenged for sexual content, offensive language, religious viewpoint, being unsuited to age group and violence.

2003 – Challenged in Fairfax (VA) school libraries by a group called Parents Against Bad Books in Schools for “profanity and descriptions of drug abuse, sexually explicit conduct and torture”.

2002 – Challenged for profanity, scenes of masturbation and sexual fantasy along with segments denigrating to girls.

2001 – Challenged in York County (VA) for sexually explicit language. Retained as optional reading for eighth graders in Girard (PA) despite a grandmother finding the book offensive and not wanting her grand-daughter reading it. Challenged for being on the eighth grade reading list of Lancaster (MA) school district for language and content. Challenged at a Lisbon (OH) board of education meeting as a “pornographic” book that should be removed from high school English classes.