Banned Books #60- In The Night Kitchen

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books! This month, we read In The Night Kitchen.

In the Night Kitchen

First published: 1970
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2004 (source)
Reasons: nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.

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

BETH: Trying not to scream at this moment in time. I’ve just finished this book (as it’s a picture book it took me about 30 seconds!) and sat down to collect my thoughts on why it might be banned. As always, I don’t like to read the reasons until I’ve finished the book and I had a sneaking suspicion nudity might be in there but as for the others? I just can’t deal with it. This book is one of the less recent banned books in our challenge so far, being published in 1970 and although I wasn’t around back then, I’m struggling to understand why a children’s picture book could cause such offence. Especially for the reasons mentioned! Let’s go back to the nudity thing. Yes, there is a cartoon picture of a naked little boy. It’s not gratuitous or explicit in any way and I really can’t comprehend why an innocent drawing could cause a furore. Answers on a postcard please.

CHRISSI: I thought it would be nudity when I saw the pictures. As Beth said, it’s a cartoon naked boy. It’s not an explicit, detailed picture and it’s not on every single page. So do I agree with any of the reasons? No. There really isn’t a reason that I could get behind for challenging this book. Would I read it to my class? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s a great story in my opinion. No other reason than that!

How about now?

BETH: Sigh. A challenge on this book was raised as recently as 2004 which means for me that some people somewhere are still having an issue with this book. Okay let’s take nudity out of the question because that might be just some people’s personal preference – which I can kind of understand, innocent though it is. But sexually explicit and offensive language? Was I reading a different book?! Has it been re-published and watered down for the noughties children, amending some lurid details from the seventies? Please can someone enlighten me because if it hasn’t, I don’t understand where the sexual explicitness and offensive language came from. In my eyes, there was none! Ridiculous.

CHRISSI: I honestly can’t see anything wrong with this book. I, too, understand that naked children is a bit of an issue, but it’s a story. There’s nothing sexually explicit about it whatsoever. I’m a bit baffled by it. Like Beth, I’m wondering if the story has been changed?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I understand that Maurice Sendak is a beloved children’s author however for me, this book didn’t quite work. I appreciated the fantastical, whimsical elements but I sadly didn’t connect with it on the level that I wanted to. Perhaps because I’m not the intended age group for the book? It has fans all over the globe though and was nominated for the Caldecott Medal in 1971 so it’s obviously a treasured piece of children’s literature.

CHRISSI: It was very, very odd. I do like whimsical stories but this one didn’t really work for me. I actually finished it and wondered what on earth I’d been reading!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

 

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Beth and Chrissi Do Kit Lit- What Katy Did

What Katy Did

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Katy Carr intends to be beautiful and beloved and as sweet as an angel one day. For now, though, her hair is forever in a tangle, her dress is always torn and she doesn’t care at all for being called ‘good’. But then a terrible accident happens and Katy must find the courage to remember her daydreams and the delightful plans she once schemed; for when she is grown up she wants to do something grand…

Thoughts:

I read this book a while back on recommendation from Beth. It was really great to revisit it again. Although I didn’t read it as a child, like Beth did, it still felt nostalgic coming back to it 8 years after I first read it.

It centres around the bundle of energy that is Katy Carr. Katy lost her mother when she was younger and feels responsible for her 5 siblings. Katy’s always getting into trouble. She’s a feisty character who is often in trouble for talking in class, for breaking things and for generally being a bit careless. Katy is involved in an accident which changes her outlook on life. When visited by her cousin, Helen, who is unable to walk, Katy soon learns that her situation isn’t as dire as she thought. She takes on Helen’s advice and feels more hopeful about the future. I really like Katy as a character. She’s feisty, strong and full of energy!

Whilst it does come across as a little old-fashioned (it is over 100 years old!) it’s such a charming read. I liked that it did have a darker more serious side to it. I think it teaches children that life isn’t always straight forward. . I loved how it taught many lessons without being preachy which can be an issue sometimes. Old children’s books really do have something special about them.

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

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge:
The Dreamsnatcher- Abi Elphinstone

Banned Books #60- Arming America: The Origin Of A National Gun Culture

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Welcome to the 60th edition of Banned Books! Wow. 60! This month we read Arming America: The Origin Of A National Gun Culture.

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture

First published: 2000
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: inaccuracy

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

BETH: Full disclosure time – I haven’t had a chance to finish this book. To be perfectly honest, I did give it a shot and found it so dry and difficult to read. Additionally, even if I was reading this off my own back and not for our Banned Books Challenge I would have still DNF’d it halfway through the first chapter. I have however done a little bit of research on this book as I was still intrigued to find out why exactly it was banned. Like all of our banned books I go into it blind without finding out the reasons for challenging but you always have preconceptions about these kinds of things and initially I was certain it was going to be because of the mention of guns and potentially, violence.

Once again I was completely wrong – the actual reason is inaccuracy which has to be one of the most curious arguments I’ve heard yet for challenging a book and definitely made me want to find out more! Of course, inaccuracy in a work of non-fiction is never a good thing, especially when you’re writing information for your reader that they presume to be entirely factual. As I’m not an expert on this field though, I’d hesitate to offer my opinion on the matter.

CHRISSI: I have to admit, like Beth did, I didn’t read all of this book. It was a beast of a book at over 600 pages long. I was really confused to find out the reason why it was banned was inaccuracy? What? I thought it would be because it was violent subject matter. Very confusing. If you’ve read this book all the way through, please tell us if there’s something that we’re missing?

How about now?

BETH: The uproar behind the publication of this book appears to centre around parts of the author’s research being completely fabricated. It certainly has one of the lowest readings I’ve ever seen on Goodreads – 2.89 which made me slightly concerned to read it before I had even begun, I have to admit. It seems that the original Bancroft Prize which was awarded to this book was taken away, the first time in the prize’s history that it has been revoked and Bellesiles had to resign from his post at Emory University after “blistering criticism by a blue-ribbon panel.” The edition of Arming America I read had a new introduction by the author where he offered explanations behind his research in the original edition and that he had made changes in this edition where necessary. As I mentioned before, I’m not an expert in this field so can’t possibly comment on what he did or didn’t do wrong but I could understand readers becoming angry if they felt they were misled or in receipt of false information. For further information, I found this article quite interesting: http://hnn.us/articles/1185.html

CHRISSI: I can understand why this book has been banned if there was stuff in it that is fabricated and that could cause more damage. I doubt anyone wants untruths out there in a work of non-fiction. So although I don’t think inaccuracies is a good enough reason to ban a book, I can see why they did?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’m afraid this book just wasn’t for me. I have quite strong opinions on guns anyway as a pacifist, but do respect other people’s points of view if they differ from my own. I’m a fan of non-fiction generally but sitting down with this book unfortunately felt like a chore rather than a pleasure. It’s a shame to say that I was quite relieved to make the decision to DNF it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, this book wasn’t for me. I wasn’t impressed with the writing and it didn’t grip me like I wanted it to. The size of the book was intimidating and I found the writing was rather dry for my liking.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree #1)

The Enchanted Wood (The Faraway Tree, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Joe, Beth and Frannie find the Enchanted Wood on the doorstep of their new home, and when they discover the Faraway Tree they fall into all sorts of adventures!

Thoughts:

Well, well, well… I used to be quite the fan of Enid Blyton when I was younger. I loved her whimsical writing and I was looking forward to getting stuck into the adventures once more. It is still totally charming, but I’m a little sad that they’ve changed the name of the characters. I believe Frannie was once Fanny. I can see that children would laugh at that now but they probably would’ve done so when reading it when it was first published too. Beth reminded me that Dame Snap had been changed from Dame Slap. For goodness sake, censorship is a little ridiculous nowadays. I don’t see any harm in those names at all. I know when I read about a character named Dick in my class, the children giggle. I just have to explain that it’s short for Richard and they tend to get over it quickly. This is a story and children aren’t as delicate as we think.

Mini rant aside, I thought this book was just as whimsical and lovely as I remember. I remember absolutely loving Moon Face! 🙂 I loved their magical adventures and always wondered what land would come up next. As an adult, I think I look at it more critically which is a shame. However,  it’s strange to think how easy-going the children’s parents were. It was apparently fine to go off until midnight into a magical land! If you can put little things like that  aside, then I really think this story will bring you a lot of joy. It certainly perked me up!

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

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (June):
What Katy Did- Susan Coolidge

Banned Books #59- Crazy Lady

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read Crazy Lady by Jane Leslie Conly.

Crazy Lady!

First published: 1993
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2005 (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 don’t know why I put myself through this each month – as soon as I see the reasons for books being challenged/banned, I get cross! Haha. This book was originally published in 1993 which feels occasionally like a million light years ago but strangely enough, at the same time, it feels not long ago at all for me, it’s a year I remember quite well. Attitudes have changed quite dramatically from the nineties, especially regarding children with special needs (thank goodness!) but as for the reason this book was challenged? I just don’t get it. It states offensive language and well, there are many moments in this book where the characters “cuss,” but no mention is ever made of the particular words they use. All that is said is the word “cuss,” which isn’t offensive by itself – not to me, anyway. So I’m left feeling slightly confused as to where the offensive language was?!

CHRISSI: We never agree with the reasons for things being challenged and I really don’t see the problem with any language in this book. As I’ve said before, children and young adults hear and see much worse in their family home. Even in the 90s! I don’t think offensive language is reason enough to challenge a book. I really don’t!

How about now?

BETH: Nowadays I would hope that the mere mention of the word “cuss” or “swear,” wouldn’t send people running for the hills but sadly, that still appears to be the case. Well, when it was challenged in 2005 that is! Fair enough, not everybody appreciates bad language, I personally don’t use it in my reviews because I don’t want to offend anyone but I understand and enjoy the fact that everyone is different. However, I don’t understand why when the “bad words,” aren’t even mentioned that some people still have an issue with this book? Perhaps I’m being incredibly naive.

CHRISSI: I can’t believe that this book was challenged in 2005, especially when TV and the media have much worse language occurring. I mean, seriously?! If the language was more explicit, then I could probably get why it was challenged, but it’s really not that bad at all. I’ve read worse and I’m sure teenagers/young adults have heard worse too. I think we can censor our children/young people too much and it makes them curious to seek out what is being challenged.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Crazy Lady was a quick and easy read for me but nothing I really want to shout from the rooftops about. It was interesting to see the depiction of a special needs child written in the nineties (but set in the eighties) and how far we’ve come as a society since then in our attitudes and treatment. I thought the alcoholic character of Maxine was an interesting addition but I have to admit, she frustrated me slightly especially as it seemed like she wasn’t making any effort to really help herself or her son Ronald.

CHRISSI: It has an interesting story-line and one I’m pleased is represented in children’s literature. It wasn’t a book that I’d rave about. I found the ending to be a bit of a let down. Mainly, like Beth, it made me appreciate how our treatment with people with special needs has progressed. We still have a way to go, but we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction. I liked how it didn’t try and talk down or be condescending.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

Banned Books #58- We All Fall Down

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier.

We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
First published: 1991
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2003 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexual content.

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

BETH: I never usually understand any reason for a book being challenged/banned, no matter what year it was raised in. I can think of occasional books where access should perhaps be restricted in a school library setting for very young children but generally, I think people should be free to read whatever they like, particularly if there’s not a solid reason for the challenging or banning. This book was published in the early nineties and although it’s slightly dated, I feel that it could still be read right now without any difficulty. As always, I get a bit dumbfounded about the issues that were raised. I think this is meant to be a work of young adult fiction, so for the age group it’s aimed at, I do think there shouldn’t be too many problems. I don’t think there’s too many incidences of offensive language – certainly nothing I found offensive anyway but I do appreciate that people are different and may be more sensitive to those aspects.

CHRISSI: I didn’t think the language in this book was overly offensive. When it’s aimed at young adults, we really need to stop thinking that they can’t handle offensive language. I’m pretty sure most young adults use offensive language. It’s everywhere! Film, TV, books, family members and peers… why should we challenge a book due to offensive language? I do think there are some moments in the book that is quite heavy going, so I think if this book was in a school library, it should have an age range on it. It’s really down to individual discretion, I think and guidance from teachers/librarians if it’s in a school.

How about now?

BETH: The fact that this book was still on the list for 2003 blows my mind a little bit. There is a bit of sexual content (although it isn’t graphic) but could still upset readers so they should perhaps be aware of that. I find it very strange though that I always try and guess the reasons for challenging a book and more often than not, I’m usually wrong. I anticipated that people would have problems with the level of violence that is used in this novel and that isn’t mentioned at all. However, I do stand by what I said in my previous answer – it’s meant to be young adult fiction and I think it is probably okay to be read by that particular age group.

CHRISSI: I have definitely read more explicit books in the YA genre than this. Like Beth, I thought the violence would be a bit of an issue, but it’s not mentioned in the reasons for challenging this book. I don’t see why it was challenged in 2003. There’s definitely more to be worried about than a book like this. As I mentioned in my previous answer, it should be restricted access to the YA age range.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book left me a bit surprised, to be honest. It’s only 200 pages so didn’t take me that long to read and I fairly flew through it as it was quite action-packed. I was intrigued by the story-line, the devastation that a family go through after their property is violated, leaving one of their daughters in hospital. I was also curious about the part of the plot that involved The Avenger and how that ended up being resolved, which was very much “heart in the mouth,” kind of stuff. I certainly didn’t expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

CHRISSI: I flew through this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. It does seem a little bit dated having being published in the 90s, but it was still highly enjoyable and so easy to read. There was a great amount of intrigue that kept me turning the pages!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘Now You See Her’ with Bibliobeth!

Now You See Her

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

NOW YOU SEE HER
She’s playing at the school fete with your children. You pull out your phone, scroll through Facebook, and look up again.
NOW YOU DON’T

Charlotte is looking after her best friend’s daughter the day she disappears. She thought the little girl was playing with her own children. She swears she only took her eyes off them for a second.

Now, Charlotte must do the unthinkable, tell her best friend Harriet that her only child is missing. The child she was meant to be watching.

Devastated, Harriet can no longer bear to see Charlotte. No one could expect her to trust her friend again.

Only now she needs to. Because two weeks later Harriet and Charlotte are both being questioned separately by the police. And secrets are about to surface.

HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO PUT THINGS RIGHT?

CHRISSI: Did you have any preconceptions before you went into reading this book?

BETH: No, not really. I had read some excellent reviews from my fellow book bloggers and because it was on the Richard and Judy book club list for Spring, I had high hopes that we were going to be getting a great psychological thriller. However, because I feel like I’ve read a lot of books in that genre recently, I was a little bit concerned that it was going to be a bit too similar. Keeping an open mind was the best idea though because I really ended up enjoying it!

BETH: Charlotte has a really tough time in this novel when a child she is looking after goes missing. Did you sympathise with her?

CHRISSI: Oh my goodness. It is my WORST fear. As you know, I teach and I’m responsible for 31 children every week day and it would seriously be my worst nightmare. I can’t imagine the guilt you would feel if a child in your care went missing, so yes. I TOTALLY sympathised with Charlotte. I know some people would think that Charlotte should have been paying much more attention to the child, but something can happen in an instant. You can’t possibly be watching every second.

CHRISSI: The thriller genre is very populated. Do you think this book stands out enough?

BETH: It most definitely is. As I mentioned in the previous answer, there is a risk that the market has become a bit over-saturated with books that explore all the same themes and as a result, that can make them less exciting to read – especially if you can predict what’s going to happen within the story. I haven’t read any books by this author before but I do think it stands out. It was a very quick, fast-paced story that was enjoyable with some interesting characterisation and even more intriguing, tense moments.

BETH: The story illustrates the importance of a good friendship support network. Do you think if Harriet had this things might have been different?

CHRISSI: I think things would have been very different if Harriet had a good friendship support network. I also wish she had a stronger friendship with Charlotte. I feel that if she was closer to Charlotte she could have explained more to her about her life. I wish her friendship circle had been larger so she would’ve had more people to turn to and talk to. I felt like Harriet isolated herself from others.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, did you predict where this story was going to go?

BETH: I don’t think I did, which was a relief! I love to be surprised, particularly in this genre and do get a bit disappointed if I can predict what’s going to happen. This book did surprise me with the direction that it took and I particularly loved the darker aspects of the plot (which I couldn’t possibly discuss for fear of spoilers) but added something a little extra to the story in general.

BETH: This novel has also been marketed under the title Her One Mistake. What title do you prefer?

CHRISSI: Ooh, this is a tricky one because I get the reasons behind the two titles. Hmmm… I guess I do prefer Now You See Her because it makes me think ‘now you see her, now you don’t…’ and I think that’s quite a creepy feel which fits with the novel. I feel like there were more mistakes made in this novel than just one and not all by females…

CHRISSI: Discuss the pacing of this novel.

BETH: The pacing of this novel was excellent. It was fast-paced but not so fast-paced that you find yourself struggling to keep up with everything that’s going on. I also appreciated that it was slow enough where you got a real sense of the characters i.e. their personalities, their past experiences and their motives and in that way, it made me feel a deeper connection and care about them a bit more individually.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I definitely would. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I read so many books like this that it takes quite a lot to impress me.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!