Banned Books #64- To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird (To Kill a Mockingbird, #1)

First published: 1960
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2011 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, racism

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

BETH: To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourite classics and so advance warning – I might be slightly biased towards it. In attempting to look at it with a critical eye, this novel has been challenged even since its release in 1960. Reasons for banning it include the reasons above, the theme of rape and the fact that it made some people feel “uncomfortable.” It is true that there are problems with the novel, we are hearing the point of view of a white narrator and a white father who swoops in and saves the day. However for me, it was one of the first book that reminded me that no-one should be treated differently, regardless of their colour or beliefs. So no, I don’t think it ever should have been challenged or banned, especially as late on as 2011.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I am biased towards this book because it is one of my favourite books. I didn’t read it at school, but took it upon myself to read it for pleasure not long after I finished school at 15. I’m so pleased I did because it’s one I frequently re-read as I love it so much. I don’t believe that it should have been challenged or banned because I think it’s a highly educative book. I understand that some themes may have made people uncomfortable, but is that a reason to challenge it? I don’t think so.

How about now?

BETH: James LaRue, the director of American Library Association’s Office For Intellectual Freedom is unconvinced by some of the challenges that have been posed against this novel stating: “the whole point of classics is they challenge the way we think about things,” and I must whole-heartedly agree. The novel does go into some dark places with some abhorrent attitudes which does make for difficult reading at times. However, it is through reading that we learn, understand and develop a wider view on important issues. Reading about these issues has been such an eye-opening experience throughout my life so far and I would hate for that opportunity to be taken away from anyone else because of a challenge or ban.

CHRISSI: Like I mentioned, I think books like this are educative. I think they make the reader think about their own worldview. We can challenge what we read. If everything is censored, then we can’t have our thinking challenged and I think that’s dangerous! Everyone should have the opportunity to read things that make us think.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I gave this novel 5 out of 5 stars on my last re-read (review available on my blog) and I think it’s always going to have a special place in my heart. I haven’t read Go Set A Watchman yet (I do realise there were some major issues and controversies about this follow-up to Mockingbird) but for the moment, I’ll live in blissful ignorance and enjoy To Kill A Mockingbird for the classic that it is.

CHRISSI:  This is one of my favourite books, so of course I loved it. It will always be a special book to me. 🙂

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Just So Stories

Just So Stories (Illustrated) by [Kipling, Rudyard]

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The stories, first published in 1902, are pourquoi (French for “why”) or origin stories, fantastic accounts of how various phenomena came about. A forerunner of these stories is Kipling’s “How Fear Came,” included in his The Second Jungle Book (1895). In it, Mowgli hears the story of how the tiger got his stripes.

The Just So Stories typically have the theme of a particular animal being modified from an original form to its current form by the acts of man, or some magical being. For example, the Whale has a tiny throat because he swallowed a mariner, who tied a raft inside to block the whale from swallowing other men. The Camel has a hump given to him by a djinn as punishment for the camel’s refusing to work (the hump allows the camel to work longer between times of eating). The Leopard’s spots were painted by an Ethiopian (after the Ethiopian painted himself black). The Kangaroo gets its powerful hind legs, long tail, and hopping gait after being chased all day by a dingo, sent by a minor god responding to the Kangaroo’s request to be made different from all other animals.

Thoughts:

I had dipped in and out of Just So stories being a primary school teacher. I’ve had to use some of them before. Whilst I can appreciate that they’re charming and classic, there’s something that just doesn’t sit right with me about them. I don’t find them inspiring to teach or to read. I know that’s probably sacrilege, but that’s how I feel and I pride myself on being honest on this blog. Don’t get me wrong, I can totally appreciate that Rudyard Kipling was a talented writer and I do think he deserves his place in literature. It’s just that this collection of stories doesn’t work for me.

I loved that the stories involved animals. That’s always a winning formula for me. I also liked how the stories had a mix of magic, legend and mythical elements. They were fairy tale-esque and that’s something I always appreciate. The stories explain things like how the alphabet was invented to its audience. I assume it’s directed at children. The narrator of the story often speaks to the reader. I sometimes found this a little disjointing, but it was something that I got used to.

The stories are sweet and I can imagine many enjoy them. They just didn’t capture my heart.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge:
The Worst Witch- Jill Murphy

Banned Books #63- The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

For October’s Banned Books (late again!), we read The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn. 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
First published: 1884
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2002 (source)
Reasons: offensive language

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

BETH: I can probably speak for my sister right now and confirm that Huckleberry Finn was a bit of a tricky book for us both to read and analyse. Full disclosure right now – I didn’t manage to finish it so this post is being written without having read to the end. I can only report back on the small portion that I did manage to read. Personally, I think that the reasoning for challenging or banning should be a little more specific – in my opinion, “offensive language” is slightly vague and does not get to the real heart of the matter that this book covers. After a little internet searching and my limited experience of the book, I found it was mainly the racist terms/attitudes and the dialect used by the main character that were most offensive. As someone who finds these kind of things abhorrent obviously I don’t agree with it but I can also understand that this book is probably a product of its time. Not that it makes it acceptable, it doesn’t! However, I think we still need to read about the past to appreciate where we need to be in the future.

CHRISSI: This was a struggle to read and finish. Like Beth, I didn’t manage to finish this book and found myself skim reading. For me, I found the racist attitudes hard to read and it made me uncomfortable. Therefore from that side of things, I do understand why this book might be challenged. Although I think it’s more likely to be challenged nowadays when the type of language isn’t seen as acceptable.

How about now?

BETH: This novel was challenged/banned as recently as 2002 which makes me believe that some readers are quite rightly upset by its contents – particularly the language that is used. As a white person, I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to fully appreciate how upsetting that might be but I can acknowledge why people would be offended. From my point of view, I think if a book is presented in the right way i.e. taught that this kind of language is no longer acceptable then those studying it can always learn something from it to build a better future without racism or discrimination. I think everyone should have access to all literature – no matter what the issue, purely for the chance to learn. If things are hidden away or restricted, understanding abhorrent attitudes will be slightly more difficult.

CHRISSI: I can totally understand why this book has been challenged in recent times. The language used is completely offensive. However, I agree with Beth, if this book is used to examine how things used to be- then I can totally see its worth. I know many people have enjoyed this book, so there’s surely something about it!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately as mentioned in the first paragraph of this review, I didn’t get on with Huckleberry Finn. It wasn’t that I was offended by the language – although some of the attitudes did make me cross but I found it slow and difficult to read. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters or feel invested in the plot.

CHRISSI: I wasn’t a fan of it. I didn’t finish it because I found it difficult to read. It hasn’t been the first time I’ve tried to read this book. I see so many people loving this book and it’s really not for me. I just can’t get into the plot, no matter how hard I try!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Not sure.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Banned Books #48- Brave New World

Welcome to the 48th edition of Banned Books. That’s right, today marks the 4th year anniversary of this feature. Awoohoo!

Brave New World

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
First published: 1932
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2010 (source)
Reasons: insensitivity, 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: First of all, I’m so, so surprised that this book was only put on the ALA Banned & Challenged Books List in 2010! Not because I believe it should be banned or challenged, not at all. But Brave New World is counted as quite the classic and is one of the oldest books we’ve read and reviewed, being published in 1932 so I’m wondering if there were so many issues with it, why wasn’t it put on the list earlier? Food for thought. Anyway, I’ve already mentioned that I love trying to figure out the reasons why a book might be problematic (for some) before looking at the reasons and I’m always, ALWAYS surprised by the reasons they end up listing. For example, in Brave New World, they worship Henry Ford (founder of the Ford car company) as their God and in one particular scene at the end, suggest that the people who worshipped Jesus/God in the past were delusional. Aha, I thought! One of the reasons for this book being challenged is that it is anti-religion! Nope. That’s not a reason.

Instead, as with many of the books we’ve looked at so far, the reasons just make me laugh. Even thinking about back in the thirties, I’m struggling to figure out how this story could have been insensitive or offend anyone with the language. Unless they’re considering the whole growing embryos in bottles thing? Or deliberately depriving said embryos of certain vital materials i.e. oxygen to make them a lower class of people? Which of course makes for horrendous reading but at the end of the day, it is just a story and if you’re particularly sensitive to that sort of thing, you just put the book down, right?

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that it wasn’t banned earlier as well. I’ve known about it forever, even though I hadn’t read it earlier.  It was always one that I had known as a controversial read. Some of the reasons do make me roll my eyes. However, I can see that this book would make people uncomfortable. I certainly felt that way with this book.

How about now?

BETH: It’s quite frightening to think that nowadays we live in such a scientifically advanced age that things like this could be possible. Aldous Huxley has chosen a controversial and insightful topic to base his novel around and the culture and world he describes is horrifying of course! Yet when you mention reasons as racism or being sexually explicit as reasons for taking it out of people’s hands, I just don’t get it. The lower classes in Brave New World are treated disgustingly and this made for quite an uncomfortable reading experience at times but I think the author is deliberately trying to push our buttons and realise what living in a world like this could be like. And with the sexual explicitness? I roll my eyes. Our female lead removes her underwear by unzipping it. Saucy! Also, the people living in this world have quite open sexual relationships with a number of partners. Okay. BUT there is no graphic mention of sexual acts at all (which counts as sexually explicit in my opinion). So just by mentioning the word “sex,” it’s too graphic? Please!

CHRISSI: I think there’s much more explicit content out there. I think Aldous Huxley was totally pushing the boundaries, especially the time in which he wrote this book. As I mentioned before, this book made me feel uncomfortable. Perhaps because, as Beth mentioned, things like this could potentially happen now. That scares me.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Brave New World is a re-read for me and I seem to get something different out of it every time I read it. The part with the embryos and the way they are modified depending on the social class they are in is horrible and I’m always moved when I read it. This time around, I did find some parts a bit slower and hard to digest but generally, this is a fascinating classic that I think everyone should be exposed to at some point in their lives.

CHRISSI: I feel like I recommended this book because it was a book I ‘had’ to read rather than wanted to read. I felt like it was a hard, heavy-going read that didn’t grip me. I just couldn’t get excited by it. I hate not liking a classic like this but it didn’t work for me.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

 

The Great Gatsby

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How did I get it?:
I downloaded it free for my Kindle.

Synopsis:

In 1922, F. Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new–something extraordinary and beautiful and simple and intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he is best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s–and his country’s–most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

It’s also a love story, of sorts, the narrative of Gatsby’s quixotic passion for Daisy Buchanan. The pair meet five years before the novel begins, when Daisy is a legendary young Louisville beauty and Gatsby an impoverished officer. They fall in love, but while Gatsby serves overseas, Daisy marries the brutal, bullying, but extremely rich Tom Buchanan. After the war, Gatsby devotes himself blindly to the pursuit of wealth by whatever means–and to the pursuit of Daisy, which amounts to the same thing. “Her voice is full of money,” Gatsby says admiringly, in one of the novel’s more famous descriptions. His millions made, Gatsby buys a mansion across Long Island Sound from Daisy’s patrician East Egg address, throws lavish parties, and waits for her to appear. When she does, events unfold with all the tragic inevitability of a Greek drama, with detached, cynical neighbor Nick Carraway acting as chorus throughout.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read The Great Gatsby for some time now, so I’m glad I was inspired to read it recently. It’s not a long read, or hard to read so it was perfect to slot in between reads! I thought it was an enjoyable enough read, but I didn’t feel blown away by it. I think it’s because it was so short, I didn’t really have time to get invested in the story like I enjoy doing. Others feel like it’s the perfect length, so don’t feel put off by me not feeling like it was long enough!

I thought the narrator of the story, Nick Carraway was an intriguing narrator. He comes into contact with Gatbsy as he is his neighbour and is invited to one of Gatsby’s social gatherings. It doesn’t take long for everything to kick off.

Although this is a short read, it is full of depth and interesting insights into the human condition. I thought F.Scott Fitzgerald’s writing was beautiful and truly believe that this is a classic well worth checking out.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

The Children Of The New Forest- Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit

Children-of-the-New-Forest

How did I get it?:
I downloaded it free on my Kindle.

Synopsis:

Cavalier and Roundhead battle it out in the turbulent setting of the English Civil war and provide the background for this classic tale of four orphans as they face adversity, survival in the forest, reconciliation and eventual forgiveness.

This is the first enduring historical novel for children, which conjures up as much magic today as it did on first publication. The freedom from adult constraint allied with the necessary disciplines to survive in a hostile world make for a gripping read.

Thoughts:

I can’t believe this is the 8th book in our kid-lit challenge. You can read the previous reviews HERE. This was one of my picks, because I heard so much about it and never read it as a child. Without meaning to sound rude, I can see why I didn’t read it as a child. This book is recommended to be read from the age of 9-adult. I don’t particularly think it was an exciting read.

I think the problem with reading books like this now, is that they are incredibly dated. The style they are written in uses quite advanced language and in some cases, language that we don’t really use that much anymore.

The Children of The New Forest’s plot is not complex, which is good. I think children nowadays do tend to like a more exciting plot, but maybe this book would intrigue a child or adult that’s interested in the New Forest. The story is set in 1647. The Arnwood house, the inheritance of Edward Beverley is burnt down during the Civil War. Edward and his siblings have to make their own way in the forest. They are guided by the kind Jacob Armitage. Edward and his siblings have to learn how to fend for themselves. But as they all grow older, Edward and his family begin to be torn apart by politics and the Civil War.

The Children of The New Forest wasn’t really a book I enjoyed. I can see its appeal to some readers, but it wasn’t exciting enough to grasp my attention and really want to recommend it highly.

Check out Bibliobeth’s fabulous review on her blog HERE to see if she felt differently.

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (September):
A Wrinkle in Time – Madeleine L’Engle

Stig Of The Dump- Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit

stig-of-the-dump-puffin-mo

How did I get it?:
I downloaded it on my kindle specifically for this challenge!

Synopsis:

Stig of the Dump by Clive King is 50 years old and the story of Barney and his best friend, cave-man Stig, is as fresh today as it was when first published.

‘Stig’s nice. He’s my friend’

Nobody believes Barney when he says he’s discovered a boy living wild in the dump. But for Barney, Stif is totally real. They become great friends, learn each other’s ways and embark on a series of exciting adventures.

Thoughts:

This is the fourth book in my sister and I’s kid-lit challenge, taking on classics we remember reading as children. Stig Of The Dump was my choice. I remember reading this book when I was a lot younger. I think I must have been around 8 or 9 years old. Even then I was an avid reader. (Thanks Mum for encouraging me to read!) It’s such a charming book full of adventures. I absolutely love the relationship between Barney and Stig. Stig is so endearing. I do think that Stig Of The Dump is perhaps a bit too dated for our modern day child, but I think they should still be encouraged to read it. It’s imaginative and the written text is just beautiful. I love the simple pen and ink illustrations too.

I haven’t seen the film of Stig Of The Dump, I’m interested to see how it translates to the screen.

Check out Beth’s fab review of Stig Of The Dump here

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kit-Lit Challenge: (May)
Heidi – Johanna Spyri