Tag Archives: Banned Books Week

Vagabond Librarians Day Last: Scary Stories to Tell IN THE LIBRARY

(Ed: In honor of the imminent end of our own scary story Attack of the Mold! we present this discussion of a frightfully frequently banned book)

Warning: Creepy images ahead!

The Scary Stories series, written by Alvin Schwartz, has been creeping out kids with its spooky stories since 1981; which officially makes it older than me. The books are a collection of creepy urban legends that often end violently. But the real draw of the books is the grotesque illustrations by Stephen Gammell).


Isn’t she a pretty lady?

The books took the top spot on the ALA’s list of the most frequently challenged books from 1990-1999, and seventh place on the list of most challenged books 2000-2009.

In 1990, “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” was challenged in the Livonia, MI schools because the poems were thought to frighten first grade children. Written by Schwartz and illustrated by Stephen Gammell, “Scary Stories” was followed by “More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones.” All three titles have been challenged due to objections about the content and illustrations for children. (ALA’s amazing Banned Books Timeline)

Miriam Downey, a retired librarian, faced a parent challenging Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark in her elementary school library.

The superintendent came to me again, took me into the back room of the library and tried to reason with me. He told me that there were thousands of books in my library; why would I risk my career over one book. I told him that this was a book that could face down a challenge because of its provenance, and that I was willing to defend it. (The Cyberlibrarian Reads)

Recently, Scary Stories celebrated their 30th anniversary. The publisher chose to mark the milestone by putting out a new edition – with new illustrations by Brett Helquist (who you may know as the guy who did the art for A Series of Unfortunate Events).

Remember our friend from before?


Yeah, her. Well, now she looks like this:


And you have to wonder how much the publisher was influenced by the series’ frequent bannings – due in part to the weird, wonderful, and horrifying illustrations.

To end, here’s a video of a librarian reading The Viper from Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark:

-Signing off, Mr. Gette (who needs to go check out what that scratching noise is by the window)

Vagabond Librarians Day 7 (Kind of Day 8): Banned Books Retaliate

This week is the American Library Association’s (ALA) Banned Books Week.

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week 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. (ALA-BBW)

As you have all probably noticed, the books of Calarco Library recently banned us. Perhaps, they are retaliating in honor of their brethren who have suffered mightily throughout years of challenges, burnings and bannings. Or maybe not, but still, a fantastic and morally upstanding theory.

Banned Books Week is celebrating the freedom to read from September 30 – October 6 this year. The annual event highlights not only the rising problem of censorship, but also the fun fact that many popular books (and books that you read for English class) have been banned or challenged before. Huff Post Books generated an interactive infographic demonstrating the 10 most challenged books of 2011 (and why they were challenged). See screen shot example below.

Screen Capture – Huff Post Books Infographic

Courtesy of Huff Post Books

Raise your hand if you have read The Hunger Gamesexactly.

You may be asking yourself, “What is the difference between a banned and challenged book?” You may not be asking yourself at all, but DON’T WORRY, I asked for you.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others. Due to the commitment of librarians, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens, most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection. (ALA)

Below are some challenged and banned books alongside the reasons why they were challenged/banned (all information from the ALA BBW Timeline):

  • SlaughterHouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut: “The Island Trees (NY) School District School Board removed the books in 1976 because they were ‘anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Semitic and just plain filthy.'”
  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee: “Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird ranks among the true classics of modern American literature and explores complex themes of justice and compassion. It has also faced significant controversy due to its consideration of challenging issues such as rape and racial inequality.”
  • The Giver – Lois Lowry: “In 2003, The Giver was challenged as suggested reading for eighth-grade students in Blue Springs, MO, where parents called the book ‘lewd’ and ‘twisted’ and pleaded for it to be tossed out of the district…Lowry’s novel for young readers has frequently attracted objections due to its ‘mature themes’ including suicide, sexuality, and euthanasia. The Giver received the Newbery Medal in 1994.”

Interestingly, books that are often banned are 1. some of the best and most innovative works published, 2. filled with themes of freedom of information, acceptance, equality and etc., and 3. riddled with social commentary.

Irony, much?

Lastly, let’s highlight a frequently challenged book that is also being widely released in theaters this weekend (finally!): The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

n 2009, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower was challenged on the Wyoming, OH high school district’s suggested reading list and restricted to juniors and seniors at the William Byrd and Hidden Valley high schools in Roanoke, VA. In a complaint that grew to include scores of young adult titles and attracted significant media attention, it was also challenged at the West Bend, WI Community Memorial Library as being “obscene or child pornography.” The library board ultimately voted to retain the book, “without removing, relocating, labeling, or otherwise restricting access.” Published in 1999, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” contains references to drug use, homosexuality, and suicide, and has drawn comparisons to “Catcher in the Rye” as an iconic novel of adolescent alienation.

Since all of us who raised our hands are considered to be full of wild-eyed ideas (according to those who challenge The Hunger Games), we might try doing nice things for Banned Books Week in the hopes that the Calarco Library books will quell their righteous protest. So…read a banned book! Visit your public library and check out a banned book (and support any events that may be happening this week)! And of course…come visit the Calarco Library and check out one of our fabulous Kindles or Kindle Fires. I promise, they are riddled with banned and challenged books.

Signing off, Jenny Barrows (who has always and will always love banned books more than any others)