Banned Books Week Display

Since blind books are always a hit, I decided to bring back a wrapped/blind book display for Banned Books Week.

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This year I started with a black background (foam core as usual) and tried to streamline some of my graphics. I printed a giant “banned” to put on the side and then made my “Do You Read Banned Books?” image with a stock photo featuring letters on it. This year I realized I could save myself some time by making the actually BBW graphic separate so that I can conceivably reuse my other graphics down the line. (I also saved the stock image I used for background because it turns out they are not easy to find at all.)

I really like the way the display looks with the black background. Here it is fully stocked with banned books:

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I stocked the display with wrapped books. I pre-printed the banned graphics which I did save from last year and then just worked with a second sheet of paper to make sure that the books were all fully wrapped.

Here’s a close up of one of the books:

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Because we have barcode checkout (and self-checkout options) I also made sure the barcode on the back is visible even when the book is wrapped:

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This year I put my Banned Books Display up very early (start of September) to coincide with a coworker’s interactive display (she printed out pictures of frequently banned books and prompts patrons to use stickers to mark off the books they have read). It’s been interesting having the display up so early to see how patrons are interacting with it. I have routinely come back to restock the display to find it filled with unwrapped books or book wrappers that have been abandoned. The “sexually explicit” books I have put out have been opened several times to the point that I had to make new wrappers from scratch because they got so beat up.

If you want to know more you can visit BannedBooks.Org. The American Library Association also has a handy Banned Books Week landing page with a lot more information. School Library Journal also has compiled many useful resources.

What are you doing this year for Banned Books Week? Tell me in the comments!

Wondering how scandalous your reading history might be? Take this BuzzFeed quiz to find out (and share your results in the comments).

Here’s how I did on the quiz:

How Scandalous Is Your Reading History?

You ‘ve read 28 out of 93 banned books! You’ve dipped a toe into the pool of banned books, and you’re not afraid of at least some of life’s more illicit themes, like drugs, sex, and/or spooky monsters.

Banned Books Week Blind Book Display

Banned Books Week is a week-long event to raise awareness about the dangers of banning or challenging books as well as to celebrate the intellectual freedom that people enjoy by reading books and having books available in their libraries or schools.

Banned Books Week runs from September 27 to October 3 this year.

If you want to know more you can visit BannedBooks.Org. The American Library Association also has a handy Banned Books Week landing page with a lot more information. School Library Journal also has compiled many useful resources.

This year for BBW I knew I wanted to do a blind display. I’ve seen other librarians make displays covering books with paper bags and listing the reasons they were banned or challenged. (The Lorax is always an interesting one for this since it is sighted as promoting eco-terrorism and being anti-industry sometimes.)

I wanted to streamline the process (because restocking my Blind Date with a Book display got to be a bit tedious last February) so I went a little simpler. I made a few graphics with a “banned” stamp and some of the top reasons books are banned or challenged in libraries.

Here’s what that looked like:

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Like my Blind Date with a Book display, these books are all wrapped in such a way that they are still scannable at check out and easily unwrapped if someone needs the book.

I also have a poster board I use for displays so I made a sign with some text background and Banned Books Week information:

IMG_0294Part of the sign is a little hard to read because I didn’t make the background opaque enough when I made the sign in PicMonkey but I kind of like that because it seems fitting with what Banned Books Week is all about.

After that I put everything together and installed the display.

IMG_0329Reasons listed include: nudity, sexually explicit, anti-family, controversial, unsuited to age group, drugs/alcohol/smoking and offensive language.

Here’s a closer view of the display:

IMG_0330How are you exercising your right to read this Banned Books Week? Does your library have any cool displays for Banned Books Week this year? Are you featuring Banned Books Week content on your blog?

Let me know in the comments!

Thirteen Reasons Why: A Banned Book Review

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay AsherHannah Baker killed herself two weeks ago. No one knows exactly why, least of all Clay Jensen.

Clay had a crush on Hannah and watcher her from afar. He even saw her at a party once. Before.

But now, two weeks after her suicide, Clay comes home to find a box with his name on it. Inside the box are thirteen cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before she killed herself. Each tape details one of the reasons that Hannah decided to take her own life.

Clay is one of them in Thirteen Reasons Why (2007) by Jay Asher.

Find it on Bookshop.

Thirteen Reasons Why is a haunting story told in Clay and Hannah’s alternating narrations as Clay deals with his guilt and grief over losing Hannah with flashbacks (from the tapes) of Hannah detailing the moments that led to her suicide.

This book was one of the ten most challenged books in 2012. The justification for the challenge was: “Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group.”

Starting this story with the knowledge that Hannah is already gone does little to diminish the emotional resonance of this story. Asher’s writing is evocative and taut as he brings Clay and Hannah painfully to life.

This is an honest story and one that isn’t always the easiest to read. Clay and Hannah both make mistakes as do many of the other people readers meet over the course of Hannah’s story. Ultimately it is these flaws that make the story so poignantly real.

Thirteen Reasons Why is an ideal book for readers who aren’t afraid to shed a few tears. This story is sure to linger with readers long after the story ends.

Possible Pairings: The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson, The Secret Side of Empty by Maria J. Andreu, The After Girls by Leah Konen, If I Stay by Gayle Forman, 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson, The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban, Falling Through Darkness by Carolyn MacCullough, Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider, Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, The List by Siobhan Vivian

Quick Displays for Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week from September 21 to September 27.

Banned Books Week is a week-long event to raise awareness about the dangers of banned books as well as to celebrate the intellectual freedom that people enjoy by reading books and having books available in their libraries or schools.

If you want to know more you can visit BannedBooks.Org. The American Library Association also has a handy Banned Books Week landing page with a lot more information. School Library Journal also has compiled many useful resources.

At my library we were floating around a lot of ideas but sadly a lot of our ideas came a bit too late to implement ahead of Banned Books Week.

But today I had some time to put together some quick displays based on these amazing Banned Books mugshots that the head of my department found here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/briangalindo/5-criminal-mugshots-of-characters-from-banned-books#2wgtn3j

We made color printouts of each mug shot with an attribution credit as well as a sign noting when Banned Books Week takes place. I had also wanted to start an interactive display/trivia thing to get teens free books so our first question is asking teens to identify the books from which the mugshots were selected to win a book.

Then I put out a lot of banned books from our collection.

Here’s the finished product:

Since this is not the only display space we have in the teen area, I decided to make another display.

For that display I had an extra mugshot of Holden and I made a quick sign in PicMonkey. For the sign I found a Lorem Ipsum image that I could use at the background and then added text to it saying “Exercise YOUR Right to Read” and again added the dates for Banned Books Week and put some books around it.

Here’s that display:

(If you have noticed a typo, don’t worry because I did too. When I went out to fix it I even saw a girl browsing some of the books on the tabletop display.)

Given the time spent, I’m pretty happy with how everything looks and I plan on using this sign/book display in future to keep things fresh because it’s a lot easier than having images mounted on walls (especially since we don’t have much wall space). I particularly like my sign talking about the right to read because it brings it back to the idea of intellectual freedom and I generally think anything with Lorem Ipsum involved looks pretty neat.

What are you doing to mark Banned Books Week at your school or library or blog or  just in your heart?

Linktastic! Banned Books Week Edition

It’s Banned Book Week!

Ideally I’ll get a banned book review up before the week is out, but if I don’t I wanted to at least get some links out there while they’ll be timely!

Then, as is my way, here are some other random links:

Fat Kid Rules the World: A Banned Book Review

Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. GoingTroy Billings is seventeen years old. He weighs 296 pounds. He’s six foot one. And he has a crew cut. Yeah, that’s right, a crew cut. He is a sweating fat kid standing on the edge of the subway platform over the yellow line and looking down.

And, if you think about it right, there’s something funny about it, there really is.

At least until Curt MacCrae, the wily blonde ferret of a boy–sometimes student, sometimes dropout, all-the-time legend (and all-the-time homeless) boy/guitar genius, saves Troy’s life.

Suddenly, instead of jumping in front of the F train Troy is the new drummer in Curt’s band. Even though he can’t actually play the drums.

As Troy learns the ins and outs of Punk Rock and being Curt’s friend, he also finds that hitting it big as a drummer and in life might have a lot more to do with his attitude than is weight in Fat Kid Rules the World (2004) by K. L. Going.

Find it on Bookshop.

I didn’t realize it until just now when I was writing up the summary part of the review (I write those all myself, did you all know that?), but this is actually one of my favorite books.

It’s not easy being the outsider because you can’t shop at the same stores as the skinny kids or because you’re plain old bigger than everyone else.* It’s not easy having a brother who thinks you’re a loser or a father who pretty much knows you’re a waste of space. Troy has all of those things bringing him down.

He also has the most amazing sense of humor that comes through in every page of the book in his charming narration. Going manages to take a story that could be tragic and make it funny, poignant, hopeful and amazing. It’s short enough to dazzle reluctant readers, deep enough to thrill anyone looking for something more “literary.” In short, Fat Kid Rules the World is just kind of a great book.

But not everyone thinks so . . . *cue dramatic segue music*

For those of you who might not know, we are smack in the middle of Banned Books Week (September 25 to October 2, 2010). Banned Books Week is an annual thing that ALA has been organizing since 1982. It’s a week to raise awareness about books that are challenged in local libraries for reasons ranging from vaguely logical in a skewed-censorship-supporting-way to the completely insane (like this guy who thought Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was pornographic**).

At its core, Banned Books Week is, quite simply, about celebrating the freedom to read whatever you want. (Possibly also to read whatever you want without remorse.) Thankfully larger library systems, like the one where I work, don’t have a lot of challenges that reach this level. But many libraries do and it’s a serious problem because people should be able to make their own decisions about what they read. And it’s not just modern books either, many popular classics are banned or challenged all the time.

To celebrate Banned Books Week The Rejectionist and T. H. Mafi have proposed that everyone post a review of their favorite banned book on September 30, so here (obviously) is my review of Fat Kid Rules the World by K. L. Going which was the 58th most banned book of the decade (here’s the bonus list for 1990 to 1999) and also one of the sweetest, most optimistic books out there (in a manly, all of the characters are boys, kind of way). Oh and it was a Printz Award honor book in 2004.

Also, because I enjoy sharing links, here also is K. L. Going’s post about a recent challenge to Fat Kid Rules the World.

*I actually had many petite friends in high school who came to my shoulder and it’s really weird being surrounded by people who are smaller than you. Just saying. Moving on . . .

**SPOILER: He thought it was pornographic because of a rape scene. You read that right. You may already have seen a lot of #speakloudly hashtags on Twitter or heard about it through another book blog.

Possible Pairings: Will by Maria Boyd, You Look Different in Real Life by Jennifer Castle, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, King of the Screwups by K. L. Going, Geography Club by Brent Hartinger, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl by Barry Lyga, This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

The Great Gilly Hopkins: A (cautious) Chick Lit Wednesday Review (that is mostly analysis)

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine PatersonEleven-year-old Galadriel Hopkins (“Gilly” to the plebs she is forced to mix with in foster care) is not known for being cute or cuddly. Instead, she is the girl with the harsh words, mean attitude and, most recently, the really big bubble of gum that blew up in her face. Gilly is not the girl any foster parent in their right mind would want to adopt.

Which is just fine with Gilly because she already has a mother. A real mother. A movie star beautiful mother named Courtney Rutherford Hopkins who misses her and wishes they could be together.

For Gilly, that’s enough. Knowing that somewhere Courtney is wishing for her daughter as badly as Gilly is wishing for her mother can get Gilly through anything.

At least, it could before she arrived at Mrs. Trotter’s front door. Everything about this foster home is wrong. Trotter is fat and ugly. William Ernest, the other foster child, isn’t too quick on the uptake. And (gasp) a wrinkled, old black man lives next door. Trotter and her band of misfits might be more bizarre than Gilly could ever imagine. But could they also be just what she needs? It’s enough to make Gilly hatch an escape plan (or three) in The Great Gilly Hopkins (1978) by Katherine Paterson.

Find it on Bookshop.

First things first: The Great Gilly Hopkins was the 1979 Newbery Honor book (The Westing Game won the gold that year). It made it to #55 in Betsy Bird‘s Top 100 Children’s Novels poll. I haven’t been following the poll too closely because the posts overwhelm me, but the segment about Gilly is necessarily relevant to this review. Katherine Paterson herself was also just recently appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

In other words, everything about this book is a big deal.

Personally, I had very mixed feelings about The Great Gilly Hopkins (although I’m finding that to be true about a lot of children’s classics lately). On the one hand I wanted very badly to be on Gilly’s side and pull for her as an abandoned child that really needs someone to love her in her own right, not as a temporary commodity. On the other hand, Gilly works so hard at pushing people away that, at a certain point, it becomes hard to care too much or cheer too loudly for this girl who is all hard edges and anger.

This next part is going to have spoilers because just about everyone in the entire world has already read this book: Paterson does a great job creating Gilly as a character she is fully developed even though she is loathe to tell readers everything about her less-than-ideal past in the foster system. The book also handles a bold topic: looking at a little girl who is in the foster system not because she is an orphan but because her parent did not want her. The abandonment is extreme and, in the story, becomes palpable even as Gilly clings to the idealized vision she’s created for her mother from a photograph and a note.

That said, I also had a lot of issues with the book. Gilly is essentially racist at the beginning of the story. She does grow and evolve and move past that, but it’s one of those elements that seemed to be added to a book for a wow/edgy factor than for the actual story (in other words, I don’t know that Gilly had to be racist to make the book work). It also seems like race wouldn’t have been such a hot topic by that time–I might be mistaken though since I wasn’t actually alive in 1978.

The adults in the novel also bothered me. A lot. If the grandmother cared so much about Gilly why was she ever in foster care? Miss Ellis was also quite frustrating when she essentially tells an eleven-year-old girl that she screwed up because she wasn’t able to just suck it up until things got better. Really, Miss Ellis, really?

Finally, I found the message of The Great Gilly Hopkins to be really frustrating. Essentially, Gilly has a chance at having a real family with Trotter and William Ernest and Mr. Randolph but she blows that chance by writing to her mother about being unhappy that ruins everything and forces Gilly to lose yet another family. That seemed to translate to saying that children only get punished when they talk about being unhappy because things will only get worse which seemed problematic. (Do you have a different interpretation? Please share it in the comments!)

In summary, The Great Gilly Hopkins remains a bold, moving novel that is ripe for many rich discussions. It is widely honored and beloved by many. It’s also controversial and for some, self included, the allure is not always clear.

*Betsy Bird noted that this cover was one of her least favorite because it was so cutesy but I kind of like it for that same reason. Gilly tries to be tough and mean and push people away, but at her core she’s still a little girl with pigtails who wants someone to love her.

Possible Pairings: Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, You Don’t Know Me by David Klass, Holes by Louis Sachar, Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

The Amulet of Samarkand: A Banned Book Review

The Amulet of Samarkand coverThe Amulet of Samarkand (2003) is the first book in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy. (Find it on Bookshop.) This trilogy has the unique honor of having been banned in its entirety for the books’ presentations of the occult. They also feature magnificent cover art by Melvyn Grant (who also has a ridiculously clever website). For many readers, that would be enticement enough. I didn’t know about the book banning, but the cover art and blurb pushed it onto my ever-increasing “to read” list. A recommendation from a trusted YA librarian pushed it over the top.

Nathaniel, one of the novel’s main characters, lives in London. Like most large cities, many of London’s movers and shakers are to be found in government positions of influence. What most people don’t know is that these powerful men and women get up to more than politicking when behind closed doors. They all have power, certainly, but very little (none depending on who you ask) belongs to them. Not permanently at least. Working in obscurity, under strict rules of engagement (with stricter punishments should something go awry), demons are the real power behind London’s elite.

Nathaniel is six when he is torn away from his birth parents and sent to live with his new master, another magician.

As in many fantasy novels, the power of naming plays an important role here. Demons are summoned with the knowledge of their real names. If you know the demon’s real name, you can control them. Similarly, if a demon learns the true name of a magician (in this case their given name) the demon has the same level of control. No magician knows their true name in order to avoid just that kind of problem.

By the age of eleven, Nathaniel has adjusted to his life as an apprentice and eagerly anticipates two events: the day when he will pick his name as a magician, and the day he will become a great magician, like his idol William Gladstone, remembered by all. Nathaniel does choose his name in due time, but his dream of greatness, is put into serious question when Simon Lovelace, a prestigious magician, publicly humiliates Nathaniel.

Enraged, Nathaniel bides his time learning spells and waiting until the day he will be ready to exact revenge. Enter Bartimaeus, the novel’s other main character, and a djinni with a fondness for footnotes in his first-person narration. Initially summoned as an instrument of revenge, Nathaniel soon learns that Bartimaeus is not easily contained.

When Nathaniel’s brilliant revenge becomes murder, espionage and conspiracy djinni and boy strike an uneasy detente to see if both of them can survive the machinations Bartimaeus has set in motion under Nathaniel’s orders.

The Amulet of Samarkand alternates viewpoints, sometimes being told in witty first-person by Bartimaeus (filled with references to his 5000 year career as a brilliant djinni), other times following Nathaniel in a third-person voice. Combined, the narrations make for an original fantasy that is witty and sharp.

More interesting, especially as the trilogy continues, is the dynamic between Nathaniel and Bartimaeus. While the djinni is more entertaining of the two, Nathaniel is often more compelling. Watching him mature from an innocent boy to a calculating magician in his own right, Stroud creates tension as readers are forced to wonder will Nathaniel be a villain or a hero by the end of the story?

Possible Pairings: The Demon Catchers of Milan by Kat Beyer, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, Rise of the Darklings by Paul Crilley, Exquisite Captive by Heather Demetrios, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Death Note Tsugumi Ohba, Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson, The Fire Artist by Daisy Whitney