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.
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Holes

Holes (Holes, #1)

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from school!

Synopsis:

Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption. 

Thoughts:

As you may know if you’re a regular reader of my blog, I teach in a primary school (4-11 years old), our older children studied Holes last year and I’m afraid to say I hadn’t heard of it. The English co-ordinator at my school said I had to read it. It took me a while but I’ve finally done it and I can see why they were raving about it. It’s such an exciting read which is incredibly easy to devour. I’m so pleased that they study this book as I can imagine it inspires them so much!

Holes centres around Stanley Yelnats who is falsely accused of stealing a pair of shoes. He is sent to Camp Green Lake which is a cam for criminal boys. The boys have to get up early each day and dig massive holes. If they find anything unusual they are to report it and they will be rewarded with some time off digging. The warden isn’t looking for fossils or anything like that. There’s something darker going on.

I found this story to be really exciting. This book isn’t your average children’s book. It’s quite a mature book. The content is dark, but funny at the same time. It’s also completely whimsical. There’s so much packed into its less than 3o0 pages. There are rattlesnakes, poisonous lizards with red eyes, black teeth and white tongues. It really is a feast for your imagination.

I loved how there were multiple story lines within this story. It was really clever how they began to merge together. I don’t usually get on with books that flip from generation to generation but Louis Sachar did it very, very well indeed.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An exciting story that I’m glad that I made time for!

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club (The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club #1)

The Polar Bear Explorers' Club

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from Faber and I’ve purchased a copy!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.

Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .

When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?

Thoughts:

I have loved Alex Bell’s adult and YA books. Seriously, if you haven’t checked out The Ninth Circle and Jasmyn please give them a go. They’re amazing and so underrated, in my opinion. I was super excited to pick up The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club. It’s such an exciting story that I believe will pull children in and keep them engaged throughout the story.

Its plot is fast paced and so easy to read. The reader follows a group of young explorers on a quest to find the coldest part of the Icelands as they are separated from their parents. It’s such a fun read. I couldn’t help turning the pages. I practically binge read this book, completely captivated by the story.

The main characters Stella, Shay, Beanie and Ethan were so well written. I immediately liked them, especially Stella. What a wonderful protagonist! I loved how she was such a strong female character. We need more of those in middle grade literature. I also appreciated how she was allowed to go on the adventure after it being notoriously males only. Her relationship with Felix (who she saw as a father) was heart-warming. I absolutely adored the character of Beanie. Such a sweet character that took everything literally. It reminded me of a few children that I teach!

Talking about teaching, I think this book would be perfect for Key Stage 2 children. There’s so much to get stuck into. I loved how descriptive the story was. This book really is jam packed with content. It’s both fairy tale-esque and adventurous. There are penguins, pygmy dinosaurs, cabbages…and more. I think Alex Bell has created such a wonderful world that I can see developing well as a the series continues (I assume it’s a series!)

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A gorgeous middle grade adventure!

Letters From The Lighthouse

Letters from the Lighthouse

How did I get it?:
It was a gift from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

February, 1941. After months of bombing raids in London, twelve-year-old Olive Bradshaw and her little brother Cliff are evacuated to the Devon coast. The only person with two spare beds is Mr Ephraim, the local lighthouse keeper. But he’s not used to company and he certainly doesn’t want any evacuees.

Desperate to be helpful, Olive becomes his post-girl, carrying secret messages (as she likes to think of the letters) to the villagers. But Olive has a secret of her own. Her older sister Sukie went missing in an air raid, and she’s desperate to discover what happened to her. And then she finds a strange coded note which seems to link Sukie to Devon, and to something dark and impossibly dangerous.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adore Emma Carroll’s writing. I don’t know why I didn’t get around to this book any sooner, because my goodness it was amazing. It didn’t take me long to devour. As soon as I get started on an Emma Carroll book, I’m instantly gripped and Letters From The Lighthouse was no exception. I cannot recommend Emma Carroll’s books highly enough. I can’t wait to teach juniors again so I can expose them to her beautiful writing. I will, however, pass this book onto our Year 5/6 teachers, especially because their topic is going to be World War II. This book would be incredibly for those older children to explore.

Letters From The Lighthouse centres around Olive and her little brother Cliff, who are evacuated to the Devon coast after a bomb raid in London. During an air raid, their older sister Sukie goes missing. Olive finds a coded message which seems to link Sukie to Devon. Olive is determined to find out what’s going on with Sukie, but she never expects to find out what she does…

This book does have light and dark moments. I loved the lighter moments, but it was the darkness of humanity around that time that struck a chord with me. It always makes me feel so disheartened whenever I read about what Jewish people went through. I wish things had been different.

I loved the characters Emma Carroll has created. As ever, they are so well rounded and developed. There wasn’t a character that I didn’t feel for in one way or another. There are some genuinely touching moments. I shouldn’t have been surprised, as Emma is a wonderful writer, but the poignancy of this story really touched my heart.

This book may be intended for children, but it’s a pleasure for adults to read as well. It will stay with me for a while, I know that.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

A simply stunning read about family, grief and tolerance!

Furthermore

Furthermore

How did I get it?:
It was a gift from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow 12 rates three things most important: Mother, who wouldn’t miss her; magic and color, which seem to elude her; and Father, who always loved her. Father disappeared from Ferenwood with only a ruler, almost three years ago. But she will have to travel through the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, where down can be up, paper is alive, and left can be both right and very, very wrong. Her only companion is Oliver whose own magic is based in lies and deceit. Alice must first find herself—and hold fast to the magic of love in the face of loss

Thoughts:

I was bought this book at Christmas, by my sister and fellow book blogger, Beth. I was really excited to read it, but somehow took over 6 months to get to it. Pesky TBRs… I was super excited to read Furthermore. It looked different to the Shatter Me series and it really was. Furthermore is such a captivating, unique story and I’m thrilled that I read it.

Furthermore centres around Alice who lives in Ferenwood. In Ferenwood it is incredibly colourful and magical. Alice is different to the rest though. She lacks pigmentation so she stands out in her community. However, this isn’t the only thing wrong with Alice’s life. She’s lonely, her father has disappeared and the Surrender ceremony that happens in Ferenwood is looming. Alice’s life is about to get a whole lot more daring…

I absolutely love Tahereh Mafi’s writing. I know that some readers find her writing quite ‘flowery’ and descriptive, but I think it’s beautiful. I’m always captivated by her words and the worlds that she creates. Ferenwood is an enchanting but unusual world. I could picture it as I was reading. I’m a big fan of fairy tales, so this magical middle grade read really did tick a lot of boxes for me. I adored the magic. I thought there was a good pace to the story and a great deal of action amongst the weirdness. I can see that it would captivate many readers both younger, into YA and beyond.

As for the characters… I bloomin’ love them. Alice is so unique but lovable. I loved her sassiness. Goodness knows, I love a sassy character. Oliver took a while for me to warm to, but I enjoyed his character in the end.

I think this book will appeal to a wider age range than middle grade. There’s adventure, fantasy and sass. Surely many people would enjoy that?

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

I was worried that I’d hyped this book, but I didn’t… I was captivated right from the start!

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events #2)

The Reptile Room (A Series of Unfortunate Events, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Bad Beginning

Synopsis:

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

Thoughts:

I enjoyed the first book in the series, which was much darker than I had anticipated. I was looking forward to reading the next book. So many people rave about this series! I can see why. It’s a short read and it’s engaging at the same time. Reading it as an adult, some things about it frustrate me, however, I know I’d have loved it when I was younger.

In The Reptile Room we catch up with the Baudelaire children. They have been moved away from Count Olaf who we know is completely crazy. They’re now staying with a very distant relative who is obsessed with reptiles. He even has a reptile room. Just as the narrator reminds you, something awful will happen to the children… and it does!

I’m really enjoying this series. I’m hooked by the story and want to know what’s going to happen to the children. I’ve certainly been trapped by the story even if a lot of it frustrates me.

As an adult, I get frustrated with the lack of communication and support the children are receiving. I realise that’s me thinking from an adult perspective, but I can’t help being annoyed by it! As with the first book, I’m not completely sold on the constant defining of words. I understand why the narration is like this, but it still grates on me.

Despite my reservations, I’d still highly recommend this series as there’s so much to enjoy! It’s engaging, fast-paced and so easy to read.

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

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Next up in the Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit Challenge (August):
Fortunately, The Milk- Neil Gaiman

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- A Snicker Of Magic

A Snicker of Magic

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.

But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck’s about to change. A “word collector,” Felicity sees words everywhere—shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog’s floppy ears—but Midnight Gulch is the first place she’s ever seen the word “home.” And then there’s Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity’s never seen before, words that make Felicity’s heart beat a little faster.

Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she’ll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that’s been cast over the town . . . and her mother’s broken heart.

Thoughts:

I saw this book around everywhere a few years back, but for some reason never got around to reading it. I’m pleased that we picked it for our kid-lit challenge. It’s a really cute, magical realism, middle grade read. I don’t think it will be for everyone, but I do believe so many readers will enjoy it!

A Snicker of Magic is about a girl named Felicity who sees words everywhere. She sees them above people, in the air, around the house etc. Felicity lives with her family, but they travel around a lot as her mum can’t settle down for some unknown reason. Felicity and her sister just want to call somewhere home. When they arrive in their mum’s hometown, they wonder if it’ll be the place they finally settle down in. The town has history. It used to contain magic, and some residents believe it still contains ‘a snicker of magic’. As Felicity gets to know the residents, she finds out there’s more to the town and her family than first meets the eye.

This story is incredibly cute. I thought it was so easy to read and the magical realism was fun. It doesn’t have major amounts of plot development, it’s more about the characters. This didn’t bother me though as I liked to read about the characters and their back story.

Natalie Lloyd’s writing is descriptive and whimsical. I think you’ll either really enjoy it or it’ll frustrate you. It really depends on your taste. I think it’s so worth checking out though!

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

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Reading next in Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (May):
The Sea of Monsters- Rick Riordan