Banned Books #43- Summer Of My German Soldier

Welcome to 2018’s first edition of Banned Books. Each month, Beth and I review a book that has been on the Banned Books list. This month’s read was Summer Of My German Soldier by Bette Greene.

Summer of My German Soldier (Summer of My German Soldier, #1)

First published: 1973
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2001  (source)
Reasons: offensive language, racism, sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Summer Of My German Soldier was first published in 1973, before I was born and it’s one of the older titles on the ALA’s top ten of banned/challenged books, challenged in 2001 which I still think of as fairly recent, I’m not sure about any of you? I was intrigued to read this book, especially when I found out that it was about a young girl and a German Nazi soldier and as with many of the books on our Banned Books list, I don’t agree with many of the reasons for challenging it. For example, I don’t remember any incidences of offensive language (perhaps I just glossed over them?) but I’m actually sitting here, racking my brain right now and I really don’t think there were any “bad words,” that shocked or offended me. Eye roll.

CHRISSI: I was really interested to see why Summer Of My German Soldier was challenged. As Beth mentioned, it is one of the older titles on the list. I didn’t find any of the language offensive in the slightest. There were some moments that were racist, but given its subject matter and the characters, it wasn’t really a surprise to me? I certainly don’t think it’s something that we should shy away from.

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned, I still think of 2001 as being fairly recent (that probably shows my age!) but it was in fact seventeen years ago. I would have hoped attitudes have changed for the better in those years in that a lot of us are more tolerant and accepting and less racist but sadly, this is not true in all parts of the world or for all groups of people. In 2001, I would not have described this book as sexually explicit in the slightest and I certainly wouldn’t now. Excuse me while I rack my brain once again for even a slight mention of graphic sexual content because there wasn’t one! The only thing I am a little uneasy about in this novel is the racism, which I do agree is there and I don’t particularly like it or condone it. However, I think everyone should have access to all kinds of books, with some stipulations for younger or more sensitive children and in one way, it might educate people about how terrible people of another race were (and still) continue to be treated.

CHRISSI: I could kind of see why it would be banned or challenged but that’s not to say I agree with it. The racism did make for some uncomfortable reading. I know it’s not something that has been eradicated. Goodness knows we still have racism around in 2018, but it’s something that does make me uncomfortable. I don’t think it’s a book that should be banned though because it’s a good talking point and could potentially be educative. It just has to be used with sensitivity and with caution with impressionable readers.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  This is such a difficult one. Parts of it I really enjoyed, I loved Patty’s relationship with the housekeeper, Ruth and conversely, absolutely hated her relationship with her parents which made me incredibly uncomfortable and uneasy at points. The thing I had most problems with in this novel however was Patty’s relationship with the German soldier, Anton. She is twelve at the time when she meets him and he is twenty-two. She falls in love with him quite quickly, which is fine and he never outwardly reciprocates her love but there is hints that he feels the same way and that just feels very, very wrong to me. This book is also quite bleak at points so don’t go into it expecting a great resolution and a happy fairy-tale ending.

CHRISSI: Unfortunately, it’s not a book that I enjoyed. I didn’t like the relationships in this novel and it made me feel rather uncomfortable over all. I wouldn’t describe it as a pleasant reading experience!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me- I didn’t enjoy reading this book and I think there are better ones out there with the same subject matter.

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Banned Books 2018…REVEALED

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Here are 2018’s books that Beth and I will be reading for our Banned Books feature that has been running since July 2014!

JANUARY: Summer Of My German SoldierBette Greene
FEBRUARY: TwilightStephenie Meyer
MARCH: Fallen AngelsWalter Dean Myers
APRIL: Saga Volume 3Brian K.Vaughan and Fiona Staples
MAY: Blood And ChocolateAnnette Curtis Klause
JUNE: Brave New WorldAldous Huxley
JULY: Julie Of The WolvesJean Craighead George
AUGUST: I Am JazzJessica Herthel
SEPTEMBER: Taming The Star RunnerS.E. Hinton
OCTOBER: BelovedToni Morrison
NOVEMBER: King & KingLinda de Haan
DECEMBER: Flashcards Of My LifeCharise Mericle Harper
I’m looking forward to seeing if I agree with the reasons for these books being banned. If you want to have a look at the previous books (42 of them!) that Beth and I have read for this feature, check out the page for Banned Books here on my blog!

Banned Books #42- The Agony Of Alice

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month we read The Agony Of Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.

The Agony of Alice (Alice, #1)

First published: 1985
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: offensive language and sexually explicit

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This is one of the older releases on our Banned Books list for this year (not quite as old as me but nearly there!) and comes with a fantastic vintage eighties cover that did bring a smile to my face. On reading the synopsis and seeing the front cover, I was intrigued as to why this book might be challenged/banned. I think I’ve mentioned before that I deliberately try to avoid seeing the reasons until after I’ve finished the book. Probably so that I can get even more outraged at them but that’s besides the point. I finished The Agony Of Alice at a bit of a loss to understand what problems people could have had with this story and on reading the reasons why I have to admit I’m at even more of a loss.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! 😉 It was a really interesting one to look at, especially because it made the challenged list in 2006. I was really intrigued to see why this book could be banned. Quite often I can see why a book may have come into some trouble, but I’m completely stumped with this one. I have no idea why it was challenged. Genuinely. I didn’t find anything offensive about the language and as for sexually explicit? Pah!

How about now?

BETH: This book was first published in 1985 and you might think that some attitudes have relaxed over thirty or so years? However….this book was put on the challenged/banned list in 2006, just over ten years ago so that doesn’t really make very much sense. More importantly, I see no reason at all why this book stirred up so many obviously negative feelings towards it. Offensive language? Sexuality explicit? Give me a break. This book is a story of a normal (sometimes slightly annoying) young girl on the cusp of puberty going through normal emotions and struggling with daily life without a mother figure to support her on the journey. If sexually explicit means sharing an innocent first kiss on a piece of cardboard whilst playing a game of Tarzan oh my goodness please ban every single book in the world because they are all bound to have an offensive scene like this! The only way I can get my head round this is that on the list, it says the series of Alice books has been questioned and perhaps further books in the series, as she becomes a teenager have more explicit material in them that has ruffled a few feathers? I’ll just be over here in the corner, rolling my eyes.

CHRISSI: As before, I don’t really understand. I really am at a loss. There are a lot more explicit pieces of literature out there and nothing that happens in this book would be offensive to our modern day young ‘uns. It’s about a girl who is just about to go through puberty. It’s normal. I don’t see why it was challenged. I really, really don’t. I think it’s so dangerous to challenge books such as this!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH:  I can’t lie, it wasn’t the best book in the world for me but I’m obviously not the target age range. I swayed backwards and forwards over Alice as a character but loved the relationships she ended up developing. It’s a quick, easy read and a good introduction to adolescence for those children teetering on the edge of being a teenager. I also enjoyed the fact that it wasn’t a conventional family set up and the author explored what it was like for Alice to be in a family without a mother.

CHRISSI: It’s an okay read, but I didn’t connect with it very much. Baring in mind, I’m not the target audience I think others might really enjoy it. Alice annoyed me a little as a character and I don’t think I’ll be continuing her story, but many others will and have done!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Thank you so much to everyone who has read and enjoyed our Banned Books posts in 2017, we’ve really enjoyed doing them. Join us again on January 1st 2018 when we’ll be revealing our Banned Books list for 2018! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.

Banned Books #41- George

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month we read George by Alex Gino.

Note: This month’s book was supposed to be The Color Of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa but unfortunately we have not been able to get hold of a copy for a reasonable price so we’ve had to make a last minute switch!

George
First published: 2015
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)
Reasons: challenged because it includes a transgender child, and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.”

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I’m really looking forward to hearing Chrissi’s thoughts on George, she said to me she had “a lot to say,” and I’m very intrigued! I found out about this book a while ago through my sister who has already read and done a full length review of it on her blog. I could have already guessed why the book might be challenged but I was really hoping that it wouldn’t be for the reason stated. *Sigh* of course it is. I was really hoping that in 2016, when this book was originally challenged (published in 2015) we were much more enlightened as a species about transgender issues and a book aimed at children about this subject would not be a big deal. Sadly, I was wrong.

CHRISSI: It actually hurt my heart that this book was challenged. It’s aimed at elementary children and in my eyes isn’t inappropriate at all for that age group. It actually makes me mad that it is challenged. The reason why it’s challenged was because ‘the sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels.’ I mean WHAT? Many children know from an early age if they feel like they’re in the wrong body that they were born into. It’s told with a child’s voice. How can it be challenged? I really, really don’t get it.

How about now?

BETH: As George is a very recent release, I’m sure attitudes have not changed very much in the year that it was first challenged. I’d be upset to see it appear again when the list for 2017 comes out but you’re always going to get those people that feel uncomfortable with children’s sexuality, particularly if it happens to be a child determined that they are the opposite sex from the body they have been born into. I think this book is entirely appropriate for the elementary level as it is handled in a very intelligent and sensitive way. In fact, I think children definitely shouldn’t be shielded from these things because in a way, isn’t that confirming to them that being transgender might be strange/wrong (when obviously it is not?!). Of course, if it can help a child that is struggling with their gender assignment and can see themselves in George then that can only be a good thing, I think.

CHRISSI: It definitely has a place for elementary aged readers and those beyond. I think it’s such an innocent read about a topic that isn’t talked about enough. I have experienced teaching a child who is absolutely determined that she’s a boy. It wouldn’t surprise me if she was transgender. I know a lot of people think it’s just a ‘stage’ and for some children it is, but we’re devaluing those for which it’s not by challenging a book like this. Argh, it makes me mad. Children should read books like this, so they know they’re not alone and that people are different. Such a valuable lesson.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a sweet, quick and easy to read novel. I loved the characters and the message it conveyed although I was quite cross for a little while with a couple of the characters which you might understand if you’ve read this book yourself!

CHRISSI: I think it’s an inspiring read. I’m really pleased I’ve read it and I’d certainly recommend it to elementary aged children!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #40- ttyl

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read TTYL by Lauren Myracle.

ttyl (Internet Girls, #1)

Synopsis:

Audacious author Lauren Myracle accomplishes something of a literary miracle in her second young-adult novel, ttyl (Internet instant messaging shorthand for “talk to you later”), as she crafts an epistolary novel entirely out of IM transcripts between three high-school girls.

Far from being precious, the format proves perfect for accurately capturing the sweet histrionics and intimate intricacies of teenage girls. Grownups (and even teenage boys) might feel as if they’ve intercepted a raw feed from Girl Secret Headquarters, as the book’s three protagonists–identified by their screen names “SnowAngel,” “zoegirl,” and “mad maddie”–tough their way through a rough-and-tumble time in high school. Conversations range from the predictable (clothes, the delicate high-school popularity ecosystem, boys, boys in French class, boys in Old Navy commercials, etc.) to the the jarringly explicit (the girls discuss female ejaculation: “some girls really do, tho. i read it in our bodies, ourselves”) and the unintentionally hilarious (Maddie’s IM reduction of the Christian poem “Footprints”–“oh, no, my son. no, no, no. i was carrying u, don’t u c?”).

But Myracle’s triumph in ttyl comes in leveraging the language-stretching idiom of e-mail, text messaging, and IM. Reaching to express themselves, the girls communicate almost as much through punctuation and syntactical quirks as with words: “SnowAngel: ‘cuz–drumroll, please–ROB TYLER is in my french class!!! *breathes deeply, with hand to throbbing bosom* on friday we have to do “une dialogue” together. i get to ask for a bite of his hot dog.'”

Myracle already proved her command of teenage girl-ness with Kissing Kate, but the self-imposed convention of ttyl allows a subtlety that is even more brilliant. Parents might like reading the book just to quantify how out of touch they are, but teens will love the winning, satisfyingly dramatic tale of this tumultuous trio. 

First published: 2004
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: If you’ve been following our Banned Books series for a while now, you might remember that I don’t see any reason for a book to be banned outright. Handled delicately in certain situations – yes, of course but banned? Never! Then there’s the other books that pop up on our list where I can see no reason on earth why they should be banned/challenged and ttyl is one of those cases. I don’t remember there being much offensive language to be honest, but if there was it wasn’t overly offensive to me if I didn’t even notice it. Certainly, it’s no worse than what teenagers would hear on a daily basis – at school, on the streets, on the television…need I go on? And excuse me, we are challenging a book for having a religious viewpoint now?! I’m not particularly religious myself but I quite enjoy reading about different religions (especially if it’s done in a non preachy type way) so I could never accept this as a reason for preventing access to a book.

CHRISSI: I don’t agree with any of the reasons for this book being challenged at all. To me, it just read like a realistic conversation between three teenage girls. Challenging it doesn’t sit well with me because it’s completely sending the wrong message. Why should normal teenage conversation be censored? It’s not a surprise to me that teenagers discuss sex and swear a little. As for the religious viewpoint, that’s ridiculous. Religion isn’t a strong topic within this book!

How about now?

BETH: It’s been thirteen years since ttyl was first published and I don’t think attitudes have changed extraordinarily in that time. When I first came to this book I thought the reasons for challenging it would be entirely different and I was surprised to read what they were. I guess because this book is written as a series of messages between a group of friends and a small portion of it is written in “text-speak” or acronyms like ttyl (talk to you later), I assumed that the main complaint would be that it encourages poor communication between teenagers! Imagine my surprise when instead they quote sexual explicitness and inappropriate for age group reasons! I don’t believe that you’re going to find anything in this book that is shocking or not what normal, healthy fifteen year old girls talk about with their close friends.

CHRISSI: No. This book should not be challenged in my opinion. Like Beth, I could understand if there was a problem with communication/text speak as that’s something that does annoy me (not enough to challenge the book!) I actually wondered if it might be about internet safety and that something terrible might have happened (even then those books have a place, an educative place!) but no… it was normal teenagers speaking about normal things in their lives as they grow up.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I have to say, I approached this book with slight trepidation – I wasn’t sure I would enjoy an entire novel written in message format and I definitely wasn’t the target audience for this book! It’s not really for me, to be honest but I can see why teenage girls would love it and I really appreciate the strong female friendships that the author wrote about which are so important in the turbulent time of adolescence.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of this book. It took me a while to get through and I found it a little bit tedious in places. Remember though, I’m not the target audience for this book. I can totally see why teenagers would enjoy this book though. I love that the characters have such strong friendships. So whilst it wasn’t for me, I’m sure others would love it!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes! (to teenagers)

Banned Books #39 In A Dark, Dark Room And Other Scary Stories

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post. This week we read In A Dark, Dark Wood and Other Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz.

Image result for in a dark dark wood and other scary photos

Synopsis:

Creak…
Crash…
BOO!

Shivering skeletons, ghostly pirates, chattering corpses, and haunted graveyards…all to chill your bones! Share these seven spine-tingling stories in a dark, dark room.

First published: 1984
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2006 (source)
Reasons: insensitivity, occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: We haven’t had an older release on our Banned Books challenge for a little while and I was intrigued to see how a children’s book published in the 1980’s could have had so much against it. Even though it was published over thirty years ago, I don’t believe attitudes have changed that much in the last three decades or so and I don’t really agree for the book being challenged. I hadn’t actually realised that I read this book as a younger reader (possibly when I was about seven or even younger?) and I was surprised by how vividly I remembered the stories. I did find it a little frightening, I have to admit but never in a way that gave me nightmares or seriously troubled me afterwards. I was one of those readers that went out looking for scary stories to read and found them thrilling so perhaps caution should be advised with more sensitive youngsters? However, I think if children want to read a scary story they are going to seek them out, like myself.

CHRISSI: This book is older than me! I was totally intrigued by this book. I remember Beth text me a while ago insistent that we had read it when we were younger. I wasn’t totally convinced, but then when I read it I totally recalled it! So, did it damage me? Clearly not, if I don’t remember the story! They are pretty creepy, but so readable. Not all children will enjoy this because it is scary, but others will absolutely lap it up!

How about now?

BETH: I think nowadays you probably see a lot scarier stuff on television before the watershed (for example, some episodes of Doctor Who I find much scarier than this!). I don’t think it is insensitive or promotes the occult or Satanism in the slightest, it’s just some good old fashioned scary stories that are exciting to read and I just loved the illustrations which bring something extra to Alvin Schwartz’s words. There’s a lot of death mentioned – that’s a given really, death is scary right? However, some of the stories could be looked on as humorous, if told in the right way by a responsible adult, letting children know it’s just a story and there’s nothing to be frightened of.

CHRISSI: I had to laugh at the occult and Satanism reasons behind the banning of this book. Yes, I can get how some people might think that, but really there’s much more out there that promotes occult and Satanism. This simply is a children’s scary story. Much like Goosebumps and Point Horror for slightly older readers. All books should be thought about especially for young children. I’d recommend that you don’t give a sensitive child this book. Surely you’d know if your child could handle it? It should be down to personal preference and adult discretion!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book was super nostalgic for me and so quick and easy to read I finished it in about ten minutes. There are a couple of stories that when I read them I was instantly transported back to how I felt as a child reading them, particularly the first one about the men with the very long teeth and the girl who wears a green ribbon around her neck (the reason why I remember being horrified but kind of delighted with as a child!). This book was probably my first introduction into scary stories and led to me reading Point Horror as a teenager and then of course, Stephen King as an adult. It’s perfect for young horror fans and the illustrations compliment the stories perfectly without being “too” scary.

CHRISSI: The one that brought back memories was the story about a girl with a green ribbon around her neck. That one still give me chills. Ha! Such a wimp…I loved the illustrations too. Creepy but not overly terrifying and I’ve always had an overactive imagination!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Banned Books #38 Thirteen Reasons Why

banned books

Welcome to this month’s Banned Books post! This month, we read Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

Thirteen Reasons Why

Synopsis:

You can’t stop the future.
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker–his classmate and crush–who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he’ll find out why. 

Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah’s pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

First published: 2007
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2012 (source)
Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I always think of this book as a really recent release (maybe because of the series released on Netflix?) so I was really surprised when I saw that it had been originally published in 2007. Ten years is really not much time for attitudes to change in such a drastic way so my answers to this and the next question are going to be the same but I will go into some of the reasons why this book has been challenged/banned. Obviously, the drugs/alcohol/smoking thing does happen in the book but it’s never portrayed in a particularly “things to do that are cool,” way  and, to be honest, I think you’re going to be hard pressed to find a young adult book that doesn’t have an element of that lifestyle. Occasionally, I think it’s almost like a rite of passage that (some) teenagers have to go through to experiment/push boundaries and then decide that these things really aren’t for them. I certainly don’t see why this would be a good reason to challenge/ban the book.

CHRISSI: I read this book back in 2014, several years after it had been released. I had heard all of the hype around it and seen so many reviews of it around the blogosphere. So I knew before I read it that I was getting into quite a contentious read. I can understand why this book would be challenged as it has some particularly sensitive subject matter. However, should it be banned? In my opinion, no. There are television programmes that are contain much worse subject matter. Nearly every book for young adults contain ‘bad’ things as these are things that young people experience. I do understand that this book could be potentially triggering to some, but I believe it is a book that should be available. We should trust young people to make their own choices when it comes to reading a book like this. If literature is out there like this it starts a conversation. We need those conversations and young people to be able to feel like they can be heard and understood.

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! I also feel the same way with the “sexually explicit” reason. There are a couple of horrific moments in the novel that make for uncomfortable reading and may pose a few trigger warnings for anybody particularly sensitive to those topics but again, it really isn’t done in a gratuitous fashion and isn’t really heavy on the intimate details so again, not a great reason for banning the book outright – perhaps a gentle warning on the cover would suffice? Finally there is the element of suicide which is the main and probably most shocking element of the novel. To be honest, I’m not sure what to say about this. It’s never going to be easy reading about a young person killing themselves and all the reasons why they did it but I don’t think this book in any way glamorises suicide. In fact, it may encourage suicidal teenagers to talk about how they are feeling with someone before they try to harm themselves if used in the right way.

CHRISSI: I feel the same way. This book does centre around suicide and I know that’s not a nice thing to read about. It does make for uncomfortable reading. The sexually explicit content is also uncomfortable to read, but it’s not something that I think authors should avoid. As I said before, conversations need to be had. I personally don’t think that the author glamorised suicide.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really enjoyed this book. I had already heard mixed opinions about it from my sister and when I read the novel I could completely see where she was coming from. Hannah’s voice didn’t come across in the best way at times and I really wasn’t sure about her method of using tapes to tell people why she killed herself. However, then Chrissi watched the Netflix series and urged me to do the same. I watched the first episode earlier and thought it was pretty great (I understand there’s been a lot of controversy around this series too but as I said, I’ve only watched the first episode so far!). I think it’s like most hard-hitting books really. In the hands of more sensitive people who have issues with the topics discussed it might not be advisable but in the right hands, I think it could also help a lot of people too.

CHRISSI: I actually enjoyed this book more the second time reading it. I remember having some issues with Hannah’s voice when I read it the first time. She frustrated me a lot and I wanted her to do more for herself. I still had the same issue with Hannah’s voice, but I felt I could understand Hannah more this time around. I think over time I have come to understand mental health more. I think the Netflix series is absolutely fantastic. I know they changed some parts of the book, but I really appreciated how it was handled. It was uncomfortable viewing, just like the book is uncomfortable reading. As I’ve mentioned throughout this post though, both the book and the TV series are encouraging conversations and that’s what is vitally important to me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!