Banned Books #63- The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

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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!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Royal Rabbits Of London (Royal Rabbits of London #1)

The Royal Rabbits Of London

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Life is an adventure. Anything in the world is possible – by will and by luck, with a moist carrot, a wet nose and a slice of mad courage!

Shylo has always been the runt of the litter, the weakest and queitest of all of his family, his siblings spend their days making fun of him for not being like the rest of them. But when Shylo stumbles across a band of ratzis and overhears their evil plan to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie, it’s up to this unlikely hero to travel to London and inform the Royal Rabbits of London about the diabolicial plot! The Royal Rabbits of London have a proud history of protecting the royal family and now the secret society need to leap into action to stop the ratzis… But can a rabbit as feeble and shy as Shylo convince them that Queen is in danger?

Thoughts:

Oh my goodness, this is such a cute book! So cute that I immediately took it into my classroom library ready for my class to enjoy this coming school year.

It centres around rabbits (which are my favourite animals!). Our main character is Shylo, a pretty weak member of his family. His siblings spend most of their time making fun of him for not being as strong as them. Shylo comes across a band of ratzis who are determined to take a photo of the Queen in her nightie. How scandalous! It is up to Shylo, to travel to London to make the Royal Rabbits of London aware of this terrible plot. The Royal Rabbits of London protect the royal family and they need to come up with a plan to protect the Queen… if they believe a meek rabbit like Shylo!

Shylo is such an adorable character and a wonderful role model for young children. Even though he is constantly mocked, he rises above and finds inner strength to save the Queen from a terrible plot. I loved the illustrations, the story line and the perfect balance of adventure and humour. I think it’s one that can be enjoyed by adults and by children. I thought it was utterly adorable.

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 (September):
I Capture The Castle- Dodie Smith

Banned Books #61- Whale Talk

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Welcome to the next edition of Banned Books. In August, we read Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher.

Whale Talk

First published: 2001
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2005 (source)
Reasons: racism, offensive language

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

BETH: It might be quite clear from our Banned Books Challenge so far that Chrissi and I are against banning or challenging books but we always enjoy checking out stories that have caused a bit of a riot and dissect whether they had good reason for a challenge. I can safely state that without exception, we have found no good reason to ban or challenge a book. Perhaps limit it’s availability in school libraries if there are very young children around – we agree on that but otherwise, we shouldn’t limit literature for anyone. Many reasons we’ve found for challenging a book can be quite exasperating and there’s been very few that we can see why some people may have had an issue. In Whale Talk, released in the early 2000’s, the reasons that they’ve given, I cannot really deny. Yes, there is racism in the book and it might offend people. Nevertheless, I think it’s still important to show different people’s attitudes (no matter how wrong we might personally find them) so we can carry on talking about an important, abhorrent issue.

CHRISSI: I think this is one of the rare books when we can actually get on board with the reasons for banning/challenging the book. There is pretty offensive language in the story- nothing which I’m sure teenagers/young adults haven’t heard before. However, it’s undeniable that it’s there. So would we want our young people to read it? Some may find it anyway and might not be offended by its content, compared to what else is around! It does also include racism. I don’t always think it’s a bad thing to educate young people on racism, but I’m not sure this is the right one to do that with.

How about now?

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous answer, it’s important to talk about racism in the past and in the present. It hasn’t gone away and sadly, some people’s views haven’t changed on the matter. The other reason for challenging is offensive language. Normally, when we get a reason like this I retort with something like: “Where was the offensive language in this book?!” In Whale Talk, I have to admit there was bad language. I wasn’t particularly offended by it but I understand why some people might be. However, it is a book marketed towards a specific audience of young adults and you aren’t going to be able to shelter them from bad language in the real world, as we’ve said many times on this feature before.

CHRISSI: Like I said, I can see why, but I don’t think it’s something that should be taken away from people. As Beth mentioned, it’s targeted towards YA and I’m sure there’s worse language within peer groups or on social media/films. Not necessarily a solid enough reason to prevent them from this book.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This book was only okay for me unfortunately. I appreciated what Chris Crutcher was trying to do and I really liked the main character, T.J. but it wasn’t a narrative that really grabbed my attention or stuck in my mind as memorable. I thought it did raise some important issues though and I can understand why many readers would really connect with it.

CHRISSI: I thought I was really going to like this book, but for me I didn’t gel with the author’s writing style. I think it brings to light some important issues, so I believe it should be tried!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

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!

 

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