Since it’s Banned Books Week, we’ve been reading articles, keeping up with the news and generally keeping our attentions focused on banned or challenged books. While the list of challenged books from Harper Teen is long (view the full list here), we’ve narrowed it down to ten essential books that you need to read if haven’t done so already. These are in no particular order, so browse through and share with us which ones you’ve read and which books you would add to this list!
WHALE TALK by Chris Crutcher
Why it was challenged: Challenged at the Missouri Valley (IA) High School because the book uses racial slurs and profanity.
A group of misfits brought together by T. J. Jones (the J is redundant) to find their places in a school that has no place for them, the Cutter All Night Mermen struggle to carve out their own turf. T. J. is convinced that a varsity letter jacket–unattainable for most, exclusive, revered, the symbol (as far as T. J. is concerned) of all that is screwed up at Cutter High–will be an effective carving tool. He’s right. He’s also wrong.
Still, it’s always the quest that counts. And the bus on which the Mermen travel to swim meets–piloted by Icko, the permanent resident of All, Night Fitness–soon becomes the cocoon inside which they gradually allow themselves to talk, to fit, to bloom.
JACOB HAVE I LOVED by Katherine Paterson
Why it was challenged: Challenged in the Gettysburg, Pa. public schools (1993) because of offensive language.
“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated . . .” With her grandmother’s taunt, Louise knew that she, like the biblical Esau, was the despised elder twin. Caroline, her selfish younger sister, was the one everyone loved.
Growing up on a tiny Chesapeake Bay island in the early 1940s, angry Louise reveals how Caroline robbed her of everything: her hopes for schooling, her friends, her mother, even her name. While everyone pampered Caroline, Wheeze (her sister’s name for her) began to learn the ways of the watermen and the secrets of the island, especially of old Captain Wallace, who had mysteriously returned after fifty years. The war unexpectedly gave this independent girl a chance to fulfill her childish dream to work as a watermen alongside her father. But the dream did not satisfy the woman she was becoming. Alone and unsure, Louise began to fight her way to a place where Caroline could not reach.
Renowned author Katherine Paterson here chooses a little-known area off the Maryland shore as her setting for a fresh telling of the ancient story of an elder twin’s lost birthright.
JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George
Why it was challenged: Challenged at the Erie Elementary School in Chandler, Ariz. (1994) because the book includes a passage that some parents found inappropriate in which a man forcibly kisses his wife.
To her small Eskimo village, she is known as Miyax; to her friend in San Francisco, she is Julie. When her life in the village becomes dangerous, Miyax runs away, only to find herself lost in the Alaskan wilderness.
Without food and time running out, Miyax tries to survive by copying the ways of a pack of wolves. Accepted by their leader and befriended by a feisty pup named Kapu, she soon grows to love her new wolf family. Life in the wilderness is a struggle, but when she finds her way back to civilization, Miyax is torn between her old a new lives. Is she Miyax of the Eskimos — or Julie of the wolves?
GEOGRAPHY CLUB by Brent Hartinger
Why it was challenged: Withdrawn from the Curtis Junior High and Curtis Senior High Schools libraries after a University Place (WA) couple with children in both schools filed a written complaint stating that the book could result in “a casual and loose approach to sex”, encourage use of Internet porn and the physical meeting of people through chat rooms.
Then his online gay chat buddy turns out to be none other than Kevin, the popular but closeted star of the school’s baseball team. Soon Russel meets other gay students, too. There’s his best friend Min, who reveals that she is bisexual, and her soccer–playing girlfriend Terese. Then there’s Terese’s politically active friend, Ike.
But how can kids this diverse get together without drawing attention to themselves?
“We just choose a club that’s so boring, nobody in their right mind would ever in a million years join it. We could call it Geography Club!”
Brent Hartinger’s debut novel, what became first of a series about Russel Middlebrook, is a fast–paced, funny, and trenchant portrait of contemporary teenagers who may not learn any actual geography in their latest club, but who learn plenty about the treacherous social terrain of high school and the even more dangerous landscape of the human heart.
STUCK IN NEUTRAL by Terry Trueman
Why it was challenged: Challenged, but retained on the reading list for eighth-graders at the Evansville (WI)High School despite concerns about profanity, sexual imagery, and violence.
Shawn McDaniel’s life is not what it may seem to anyone looking at him. He is glued to his wheelchair, unable to voluntarily move a muscle-he can’t even move his eyes. For all Shawn’s father knows, his son may be suffering. Shawn may want a release. And as long as he is unable to communicate his true feelings to his father, Shawn’s life is in danger.
To the world, Shawn’s senses seem dead. Within these pages, however, we meet a side of him that no one else has seen-a spirit that is rich beyond imagining, breathing life.
What banned books are you reading this week? See the longer list of challenged Harper Teen titles here!