Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Retained at the Bangor, Pa. Area Middle School (2007) despite a student’s aunt’s concerns about the book’s depiction of school violence. Source: Mar. 2008, p. 79.” (Source–Quote taken from the ALA banned books resource page)
My Thoughts: Give a Boy a Gun has been part of our sophomore English curriculum since I started teaching at Clio six years ago. It’s also one of the most successful and engaging units we teach. Todd Strasser hits many big issues like bullying, violent video games, troubles at home, etc. that students have no choice but to speak up and discuss what they’re reading. Almost every time we read this book in class I end up hearing from my most introverted students. It’s a powerful moment when so many students in class are buzzing and engaged and asking to have a discussion.
The story is violent, so I understand concerns about reading Give a Boy a Gun. My bigger concern is the rising number of violent acts in schools. They’ve escalated so much we’re now seeing news coverage of shootings near popular tourist attractions and on college campuses. Todd Strasser makes some valid points in his book in a number of ways. He includes information he found while researching as footnotes in the story. He also has the book set up from varying points of view so readers can get a full perspective. The teachable moments in this book are plentiful, so I hope teachers, librarians, and parents will take it upon themselves to read it and share it. It’s certainly a book worth discussing.
Student Response: This response comes from one of my YA Lit students and aspiring author, Noah.
“I’m not surprised, but I still think it shouldn’t be banned. We hear real life stories like this book all the time. It won’t convince any kid to perform a school shooting and it tells what some kids went through.”