Banned Books Week Giveaway

Banned Books Week has officially started, so I’m bringing back my week of posts about banned books.  I always put up a display in my classroom during this week so I can discuss censorship with my students.  It’s an excellent time to talk about how they feel about books, what they find questionable, and how we should deal with censorship in our school.  I also have a banned books project choice in my Young Adult Lit class that involves my students reading and researching banned books before putting together a presentation about those books and whether they agree with the action taken.  Many of my students will read some of the books that I have on display and can’t understand why they were banned.

During Banned Books Week I’ll be posting about a handful of books that are listed on the ALA website as banned or censored from 2010-2011.  Because my students often have so much to say about these books and the issue of censorship, I’ll be including their thoughts in each of my posts.  I hope you’ll come back to my blog this week to learn more 🙂

To kick off the week, I’m holding a banned books giveaway.  The winner will be picked randomly, emailed and allowed to pick a banned book that I’ll purchase and mail to them.

Giveaway Guidelines:

* Must be 13 or older to enter
* U.S. residents only
* Giveaway begins Sunday, Sept. 25th and runs through Saturday, Oct. 1st
* No extra entries are required, but spreading the news is always appreciated 🙂
* Only one entry per person

Banned Books Giveaway Winner!

Before I announce the winner of the Censorship Causes Blindness: Banned Books Giveaway, I want to thank everyone for their comments.  The Harry Potter series and To Kill a Mockingbird were definitely the most popular choices, and rightfully so.  I enjoyed the other books named as well, like Speak and The Lord of the Flies.  Even though Banned Books Week is over, I hope everyone continues to speak up for banned books throughout the year.  If you haven’t already, check out the Twitter thread #SpeakLoudly and the incredible website in honor of this thread.

I used to choose the winner.  Congratulations to Amanda West @! 😀 I will be contacting you through email to find out what two banned books you’d like.  I’ll update this post with pictures of the banned books Amanda chooses along with the picture of the signed copy of Unwind once it arrives.

FYI- During the week of October 25th, I’ll be participating in the Spooktacular Book Blog Giveaway Hop, so check back to enter to win some goodies 🙂

BBW Final Post- The House of Night series

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.   I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway.   Included in this giveaway is a signed copy of Unwind so make sure to enter!  FINAL DAY TO ENTER!

Banned Book: The House of Night series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Banned at Henderson Junior High School in the Stephenville, Tex. Independent School District (2009). The entire teen vampire series was banned for sexual content and nudity. Since the series has not been completed, “Stephenville ISD actually banned books that have not yet been published and perhaps even books that have yet to be written. There is no way the district could know the content of these books, and yet they have been banned.” Source: Nov. 2009, pp. 197–98, 225.” (Taken from

Why It Should Be Read: My best friend, a fellow teacher, recommended reading this series while we eagerly awaited the release of Breaking Dawn.  I was instantly hooked and read the first books in a matter of days.  This was over the summer, so when the school year started I told my students all about this series.  It didn’t take long for these book to become popular.

What I like best about this series is that not only do my female students enjoy this series, but many of my male students as well.  They’re fun and easy to read, so many of my more reluctant readers have advanced to series like The Mortal Instruments after reading The House of Night books. 

Sure the series revolves around teenage vampires, but all of the characters are dealing with normal high school issues.  They learn how to handle bullying, rumors, becoming a leader, relationship issues, and making and maintaining friendships.  P.C. Cast is a high school English teacher, so she understands the dynamics at play in the world of teenagers.  She’s writing the series with her daughter, Kristin Cast, who is in college now so she hasn’t forgotten the first-hand experiences of high school.  They’re a winning combination writing books that hook readers and help them in the process.

Student Response: This response comes from one of my students, Ellie, that graduated last year (Isn’t it cool that my kids are still participating even after high school?!)- “The House of Night series should be read because, aside from the whole vampire thing, there are a lot of normal teen problems, like discrimination, juggling guys and fitting in.  It shows that just because a problem is your own doesn’t mean you have to handle it by yourself.  I honestly don’t understand why the whole series is banned seeing as not all of the books in the series even exist at this point in time.  If the content hasn’t been written yet how do you know it will contain sexual material?  You don’t.”

BBW Day 7- Crank by Ellen Hopkins

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.   I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway.   Included in this giveaway is a signed copy of Unwind so make sure to enter!

Banned Book: Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: Unfortunately Hopkins’ book, Crank, along with her other books have been banned too many times in too many places.  To add insult to injury, Hopkins has even been dis-invited to the Teen Lit Fest in Humble, Texas.  To simplify this I’m including this link to an article about some of the book bans she’s experienced.

Why It Should Be Read: There are so many reasons to read Crank!  First of all, the verse it’s written in is gorgeous.  Some of her poems can be read both from left to right and top to bottom, some of the poems are concrete.  I can’t imagine the amount of time, effort and talent it takes to write something like that.  Truly wonderful.

I read Crank during my first year of teaching; I read it in one evening!  Honestly, I didn’t know crystal meth was referred to as crank until I read this book.  Once I figured that out, it hit a little closer to home because the school I did my student teaching at had a problem with crystal meth use.  Knowing this, it was a no-brainer that I had to tell my students about it the very next day.  They were immediately intrigued and- yet again!- another “non-reader” wanted to read it.  Once he did, this book didn’t stay on my shelf for the rest of the year.  It’s been that way every year since 🙂

I’ve said this before, and I’m saying it again, Crank is a new Go Ask Alice (and far better!).  I’ve never understood the appeal of drugs, and that understanding is even further away after reading Crank.  How can anyone rationally think “I’d like to try meth” after reading Hopkins’ book?  Kristina hits rock bottom once she tries “the monster.”  Teens should read this so they can see what happens to her and what could happen to them.

Student Response: One of my freshmen recently borrowed my copy.  When she did, she told me that she wanted to read it because a couple of her family members (including her mom) are addicted to meth.  Thankfully she’s not living with her mom, but I know it’s still hard for her.  She told me that this is the kind of book she needs to read since it hits so close to home.  I wouldn’t have known this about her if I hadn’t read Crank and put it in my classroom library.

BBW Day 6- Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.   I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway.   Included in this giveaway is a signed copy of Unwind so make sure to enter!

Banned Book: Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Why/Where It’s Been Banned: “Challenged in the Hillsborough County, Fla. school system (2007) because it was considered too intense for teens. Source: Mar. 2008, p. 59.” (Taken from

Why It Should Be Read: First of all,  I wish this information was more specific.  Did it stay in the school system?  Who complained about it? 

Anyway, I’m a huge Sarah Dessen fan so I can’t fathom why any of her books would ever be censored.  Just Listen, along with all of her novels, teaches valuable lessons. Annabel is perceived as the girl who has it all, but she has plenty of family issues and an incident from her recent past that constantly haunts her.  Annabel learns how to deal with her problems and how to reach out for help.  This is a hard lesson for teens to learn, which makes reading this book even more invaluable.  Honestly, censoring this book is right up there with Mr. Scroggins trying to ban Twenty Boy Summer and Speak.  Speak loudly and read Just Listen

Student Response: This is from one of my former students, Tiffany- “Just Listen really has no reason to be banned at all, it talks about a girl who deals with a horrible thing happening to her.  That’s nothing that should cause a book to be banned, it’s something that people see and deal with quite often. Just because someone is not comfortable reading about something that is reality to many people does not mean that it should be banned for everyone, it’s not right.”

BBW Day 5- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.  I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway

Banned Book: The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Removed from the Harford County, Md. High School curriculum (2007) because its message on the dangers of bullying is overshadowed by instances of vulgar language, including homophobic slurs. In November 2007, the Harford County’s school superintendent reversed her decision to bar Cormier’s novel and returned it to the classroom. Teachers now have the option of using the novel in a course that deals with harassment and decision making, but must get permission from all parents of students in the class. Challenged as an optional reading in a bullying unit at the Lake Oswego, Oreg. Junior High School (2007) because the novel is “peppered with profanities, ranging from derogatory slang terms to sexual encounters and violence.” Students are given a list of book summaries and a letter to take to their parents. Four of the eight optional books offered are labeled as having “mature content/language.” Challenged in the Coeur d’Alene, Idaho School District (2007). Some parents say the book, along with five others, should require parental permission for students to read them. Challenged as required reading for seventh-grade students at the John H. Kinzie Elementary School in Chicago, Ill. (2007). Challenged at the Northridge School District in Johnstown, Ohio (2007) because “if these books were a movie, they would be rated R, why should we be encouraging them to read these books?” Source: July 2007, pp. 147-49; Sept. 2007, p. 181; Nov. 2007, pp. 242-43; Jan. 2008, pp. 28-29.” (Taken from

Why It Should Be Read: This is the perfect example of how horrible bullying can become.  Archie is the leader of a “secret society” called the Vigils at his private school.  He’s very much a sociopath and forces those that rank below him in the social hierarchy to take part in activities they normally would avoid.  Selling chocolates in the annual chocolate sale is one of those activities, but one student, Jerry, refuses to sell them.  This sets off a chain reaction of increasing amounts of bullying against Jerry.  The social hierarchy, however, also involves the school’s administration, so it’s difficult for Jerry to gain support; Archie also holds power over the administration. 

Yes, there’s poor language and sexual situations, but that doesn’t take away from the message.  This book teaches about the importance of standing up for yourself and the dangers of giving one person too much power.  Another great part of The Chocolate War is Cormier’s amazing ability to create dynamic characters.  The reader gets to know Archie and Jerry like they would in any other book, but Cormier takes it to another level by taking the reader into their psyches.  We understand them at a different level, along with the lessons meant to be learned.

And of course, this book has really been a home run with not only reluctant readers, but reluctant learners.  My first year of teaching involved a student who constantly got himself into trouble (at school and with the law) and wouldn’t do his work.  When my students started working on an independent reading project I recommended The Chocolate War to him.  He was reluctant at first, but after some encouragement he tried reading it.  After that day I never saw him in the hall without it in his back pocket, and he never forgot to bring it to class.  All of a sudden he was staying awake in class so he could read.  Even better, he wanted to talk about it and do his project.  When he finished, he asked if he could go to the library to pick up another book by Cormier.  That in itself is reason enough to read this 🙂

Student Response: This is a response from Zach, one of my students that graduated last year- “The Chocolate War opens your eyes to how bad censorship can be especially towards books that absolutely have no reason for being banned. The only book I have ever seen/read that doesn’t need to be banned, but contains alot sexuality and maturity so should be strongly discouraged towards younger readers, is Boy Toy.”

BBW Day 4- Forever by Judy Blume

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.  I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway

Banned Book: Forever Judy Blume

Where/Why It’s Been Banned:  “Challenged in the Fayetteville, Ark. Middle and Junior High School libraries (2005). The complainant also submitted a list of more than fifty books, citing the books as too sexually explicit and promoting homosexuality. Source: Sept. 2005, p. 215.” (Taken from

Why It Should Be Read: First of all, it’s been a few years since I’ve read Forever, but I don’t remember anything that promotes homosexuality.  Maybe someone who’s read this more recently can fill me in on this.  The other part of the challenge says it’s too sexually explicit.  Yes, Katherine and Michael experiment and have sex.  Yes, there are a few scenes in which the couple is sexually active.  But is that the whole point of the story?  No.  Forever is about first love between a teenage couple. 

Many of the girls in my classes check out my copy and then have their friend(s) read it.  Like many of the books I have and am going to highlight this week, Forever is a book that’s successful with my reluctant readers.  That really shouldn’t be surprising considering how many teenagers are in “I love you” relationships and having sex.  Many of the girls in these relationships are so caught up in everything that they think they’ll be with their boyfriend forever.  Is that the case most times?  No.  The story isn’t any different in Forever.  Teenage girls should read this book so they can experience Katherine’s first love before they experience their own.  Or so they can learn how to deal with a serious relationship if they’re currently in one.  Girls aren’t going to be reading this and learning to have sex (there’s plenty of that in TV).  They’ll read this and learn that just because they’re “in love” doesn’t mean they should have sex because they may not be with their boyfriend forever.  This may be surprising to some, but there are legitimate lessons to be learned from Forever.

Student Response: This is from one of my freshmen girls, Taylor- “Forever is actually a really good book.  It’s great for teenagers and helps you connect with the problems going on in the story.  Plus, it proves good points about relationships and the different situations involved.”



Book Club (5)

In our book club meeting we decided to read a banned book (or multiple!) in honor of Banned Books Week.  So… How are your books?  Do you agree with them being banned?  Have you done any research on why it’s banned? 

Here’s my list of banned books that I am proud to have read and provide in my classroom library 🙂

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Speak / Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block
Forever by Judy Blume
The House of Night Series by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Mortal Instruments Trilogy by Cassandra Clare
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I Am the Cheese / The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
Deadline by Chris Crutcher
Just Listen by Sarah Dessen
Shattering Glass by Gail Giles
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Crank, Glass, Burned, Impulse, Identical, Fallout by Ellen Hopkins
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Boy Toy by Barry Lyga
The Earth, My Butt and Other Big Round Things / Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler
Cut by Patricia McCormick
The Twilight Series by Stephenie Meyer
Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult
Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging / On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God: Further Confessions of Georgia Nicolson by Louise Rennison
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Unwind by Neal Shusterman
What My Mother Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones
Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser

I didn’t realize how many banned books I’ve read!  I know I’m forgetting some, and I’m purposely leaving off Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird because I teach those.

BBW Day 3- Unwind by Neal Shusterman

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.  I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway.    Included in this giveaway is a signed copy of Unwind so make sure to enter!

Banned Book: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Withdrawn from classroom use and the approved curriculum at the Montgomery County, Ky. High School (2009), but available at the high school library and student book club. Some parents have complained about five novels containing foul language and cover topics — including sex, child abuse, suicide, and drug abuse — unsuited for discussion in coed high school classes. They also contend that the books don’t provide the intellectual challenge and rigor that students need in college preparatory classes. The titles appeared on suggested book lists compiled by the Young Adult Library Services Association, a division of the American Library Association, for twelve- to eighteen-year-olds who are “reluctant readers.” The superintendent removed the book because it wasn’t on the pre-approved curriculum list and couldn’t be added by teachers in the middle of a school year without permission. Source: Jan. 2010, pp. 16–17; Mar. 2010, p. 56.” (Taken from

Why It Should Be Read: Yet again, I have another book for reluctant readers 🙂  Unwind has turned at least three of my students last year into excited readers.  The cooler part is that those three students told other students about their success with the book!

Besides hooking teens, Unwind also makes readers think and promotes discussion.  Almost every student of mine that’s read this has said “What if that happens to us?”  Yes, what if?  It’s important for books like these to be readily available to students because one day they’ll be in charge and making big decisions.  We should all hope that teens are thinking in-depth about the future now.  I suppose thinking is dangerous, but where would we be if we didn’t? 

Student Response: This is a response written by my student, Caroline, that graduated last year- “I absolutly loved the book Unwind by Neal Shusterman.  This book constantly had my attention.  Based on the future where abortion is no longer allowed at all, parents can choose to have their children unwound during the child’s teenage years.  I loved following the run-away unwinds through their journey for survival.  I don’t think that this book should be banned. This book can give kids an insight on how things could be, and how to look at all sides of a story.  On one hand, the unwinds are helping others, but on the other hand, the unwinds don’t get to live a normal life.”

BBW Day 2- Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

In honor of Banned Books Week I am highlighting a different banned book each day of the event (maybe even more!) here on my blog.  I’m also hosting a Banned Books Week giveaway

Banned Book: Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

Where/Why It’s Been Banned: “Challenged, but retained at the Effingham, Ill. Helen Matthes Library (2009) despite concerns about its graphic content and the unsatisfactory ending.  The book is about a fifteen-year-old’s perspective of living with her captor after being forcibly kidnapped and imprisoned at the age of ten.  The book has received several accolades from book critics.  Source: Nov. 2009, pp. 219–20.” (Taken from

Why It Should Be Read: I learned about Living Dead Girl at a Y.A. Lit conference last fall.  Ellen Hopkins reviewed it and said “Stark.  Gripping.  Totally unforgettable.”  I thought “If Ellen Hopkins is saying that about a book, it’s a book I have to read.”  I bought my copy and read it in one sitting.  I admit, there were times when I wanted to stop and began to cry, but this is an eye-opening book that I couldn’t put down. 

A young girl, later re-named Alice, is tricked into leaving a field trip with a stranger, and ends up spending the next five years being physically and sexually abused by that man.  The story takes a surprise twist when Ray, the kidnapper, decides he needs a new “Alice” and wants Alice to pick out the new girl. 

The reader understands what’s happening to Alice, and it’s not always because of vivid details.  Scott tells this story in a poignant way, but the sense of urgency and importance is not lost.  I told my students about Living Dead Girl after I read it; my students understood that it’s a mature topic.  It became so popular, with both guys and girls, that I had to buy a second copy and the library bought a copy.  My students were shocked, moved, and wanted to discuss it.  After the Jaycee Dugard story came out, even more students wanted to read this, because they knew the stories were similar.  If anything is learned from Living Dead Girl, it’s to pay more attention to the people around you…

Student Response: One of my students, Paige, said this about Living Dead Girl: “It opens one’s eyes to the situation the story tells about. Stuff like that happens in real life, even if people are in denial about it. This book is for a mature audience. The scenes can seem graphic at times, but it’s no different then what you’d see on tv. Kids see worse stuff than this in movies and on tv shows and on the internet. Banning this book is like removing all rape and child molesting cases from the news.  It’s real, it happens.  You can try to ban the book but you can never get away from the fact that this stuff happens in the real world.”

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