It’s humpday of Banned Books Week 2016. This year’s focus is on diversity in literature; books that get banned or challenged are disproportionately written by diverse authors.
For the uninitiated, Banned Books Week is “an annual event celebrating the freedom to read… it highlights the value of free and open access to information, [and] brings together the entire book community; librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types, in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.” More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982, according to the American Library Association (ALA).
Throughout the U.S. at libraries, schools, universities, and other institutions, “read-a-thons” and “read-outs” of books banned over the years will increase awareness of both censorship and the importance of the freedom to read. This year, virtual read-outs from around the country are featured on their own YouTube channel as well.
2015 Book Challenges in Detail
(from the Banned Books Week website)
- Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
- Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James
Reasons: Sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, and other (“poorly written,” “concerns that a group of teenagers will want to try it”).
- I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
Reasons: Inaccurate, homosexuality, sex education, religious viewpoint, and unsuited for age group.
- Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin
Reasons: Anti-family, offensive language, homosexuality, sex education, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“wants to remove from collection to ward off complaints”).
- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Reasons: Offensive language, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, and other (“profanity and atheism”).
- The Holy Bible
Reasons: Religious viewpoint.
- Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
Reasons: Violence and other (“graphic images”).
- Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Reasons: Nudity, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
- Nasreen’s Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan, by Jeanette Winter
Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group, and violence.
- Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Reasons: Homosexuality and other (“condones public displays of affection”).
Here in New England, September marks both the beginning of fall and the start of the children’s book award season, recognizing some of the most excellent books for young readers published in the past 12 months. A perennial favorite with youth services librarians, authors, and publishers, the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards Ceremony will take place on Friday, September 30 at Simmons College in Boston. The Boston Globe Horn Book Awards has been presented annually since 1967 and is considered among the most prestigious honors in the field of children’s and young adult literature.
Selections are featured in three categories: Picture Book, Fiction and Poetry, and Nonfiction. Additionally, each category includes two honor books. Unlike many American Library Association awards, the winning titles may be written or illustrated by citizens of any country as long as they are published in the United States. Awards are chosen each year by an independent panel of three judges appointed by the editor of The Horn Book.
This year’s award winners were announced by video on the Horn Book website in May. However, next Friday’s ceremony is especially exciting because it features speeches by the award winners, followed by a book signing.
2016 Award & Honor Winners
Nonfiction Award Winner
Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin (Roaring Brook Press, an imprint of Macmillan)
Fiction Award Winner
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge (Amulet Books, an imprint of Abrams)
Picture Book Award Winner
Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph written by Roxane Orgill, illustrated by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick Press)
Nonfiction Honor Books
- Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)
- Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Candlewick Press)
Fiction Honor Books
- The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick Press)
- Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House)
Picture Book Honor Books
- Thunder Boy Jr. written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
- One Day, the End: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich, illustrated by Fred Koehler (Boyds Mills Press)
Attendees at the Friday ceremony are in for a treat: with the exception of authors and illustrators Frances Hardinge, Sherman Alexie, and Yuyi Morales, all awardees will be on hand to give presentations to the audience. Many of these authors will also participate the following day at the 2016 Horn Book Colloquium “Out of the Box” that will also be held at Simmons College.
September is National Library Card Signup Month, and with back-to-school season in full swing, the American Library Association reminds us: “Children who use the library perform better in school and are more likely to continue to use the library for lifelong learning.”
Plus, kids who have library cards are just plain objectively cooler. Just ask Snoopy:
Follow I Love Libraries on Facebook and Twitter and the hashtag #LibraryCardSignUp to join the celebration on social media. ALA has a promotional kit available for libraries to use in their buildings and online, too.
And if your library is doing something special to celebrate, please let us know! We’d love to share your stories and photos here, or Facebook and Twitter.