Monday, September 04, 2017

MMGM- Ban This Book

31702735Gratz, Alan. Ban This Book
September 5th 2017 by Starscape
E ARC from Edelweiss Above the Treeline

Amy Ann loves to read, in part because it's a quieter pursuit than having to deal with her sisters. In order to escape the house, she's told her parents that she is staying after school for clubs, but she doesn't. Her favorite book is The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, which she checks out of the library every time she is can. When she goes to get the book one day, the librarian, Mrs. Jones, tells her that it isn't there, because it and a handful of other books have been removed with the approval of the school board at the request of Trey's mother, Mrs. Spencer. Amy Ann's busy parents buy her her own copy, but she thinks it is unfair that other students can't read the book. She copies the list from the newspaper of the books that have been removed and sets out to collect them. She starts the Banned Book Locker Library, learns about circulation cards, and starts giving books to her classmates. Some of them even band together to put new covers on the books in case teachers see them. After the librarian uses money that Mrs.Spencer has collected for an author visit to host one of the banned authors, even more books are removed from the library and Mrs. Jones' job is in jeopardy. Amy Ann and her classmates come up with an innovative way to prove their point to the school board that books shouldn't be randomly banned.
Strengths: Gratz is a really, really good writer. He has a good feel for pacing, intriguing characters, and convincing dialogue. Amy Ann's motivations, her family situation, and her methodical plan to circulate books all ring true.
859385Weaknesses: I had some trouble believing that the school board would decide to ignore its own policies on challenged books. Why? Also, it would be more difficult to remove the librarian. Amy Ann's suspension also didn't seem quite right. Granted, these are all necessary plot devices, and maybe different school systems have different rules, and tween readers won't know any differently, but a lot of the school's actions seemed unlikely to me. For instance, the principal would have to okay the banned author's visit, which would seem unlikely to happen.
What I really think: Am I the only one thinking about Nat Hentoff's 1982 The Day They Came to Arrest the Book? Since I can't really think of another title dealing with banned books that has been done in the last 35 years, I guess it's time for another one. This kept me turning the pages even though I don't usually feel compelled to support banned books. I've had a couple challenged in my library unofficially, and I just remove them. Until that family is gone from the school, and then the book goes right back on the shelf. I don't have time for nonsense and drama, and this ploy has circumvented it so far.

34694734Levinson, Cynthia and Sandford. Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Framers, Their Fights, and the Flaws That Affect Us Today 
September 1st 2017 by Peachtree Publishers
ARC provided by the Publisher

This book addresses a variety of points in the Constitution, starting with specific cases that show an inherent problem with the way the document was originally set up. Each case is introduced, followed by an explanation of "Meanwhile, Back in 1787..." that discusses why the framers of the Constitution set up the wording the way it was, and "So What's the Big Problem", which discusses the "fault lines". Different ways that these problems are addressed in various states and in other countries are then laid out, and each chapter ends with "The Story Continues", which tells a little bit about the current state of the aspect being discussed.

This is a very timely and interesting book, and is quite well done. I had heard of many of the cases that are mentioned. I like that the book is broken very clearly into sections such as "Who's Running America" and "Emergency! Emergency", and each section discusses a couple of pertinent issues. The language is accessible, and the accompanying charts and sidebars help explain some issues further.

I can see this being a useful book to have in a middle school or high school classes that talks about the Constitution or Constitutional law, and certainly any nascent legal eagles will pore over the pages. I'm slightly less sure about how well this will circulate for pleasure reading since it lacks the central story of something like Ms. Levinson's compelling book We've Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March or Watch Out for Flying Kids

It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Shannon Messenger's Blog and #IMWAYR day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers. It's also Nonfiction Monday.

Ms. Yingling


  1. I haven't been able to see Fault Lines yet, I'm looking forward to it. It will be interesting to hear if upper MG or HS teachers find ways to use it.
    I finished Ban This Book this week and I thought it raised good points, some that challenged my thinking. I feel like I'm pretty liberal with what I have in my classroom library, although there were books on that list that made me cringe thinking of 10 year olds reading it, so that made me think some more!

  2. I've read a few comments about Ban This Book and really appreciate reading your thorough review here.
    I had a parent once complain about a book her kid was reading. She hadn't actually read it, but thankfully I had and was able to calm her down.
    I more often had parents giving their kids books to read that I though were inappropriate for their age. Seriously, who thinks their 8 year old should be reading The Hunger Games?

  3. Thanks for the review. I purchase Banned Book bookmarks just to peak my students curiosity.