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When I signed up to write about my favorite banned book over at @thmafi’s blog I was stumped. Which one to choose!?! There are simply so many! The obvious choice was the HARRY POTTER series, which as we know, I heart, and which tops both the list of best selling books for the past decade and the ALA’s list of most challenged books. But that’s too obvious. Basically, if people have not figured out yet that it is not a Satanic diatribe, well, God help them *roll eyes*

Of course, there are (sadly) many other fabulous books to write about. In its 50th year of publication, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is  a good example. It is often chosen as a classic Must-Read, and it has faced challenges since the beginning. But so have  a lot of others that I have enjoyed over the years: Gatsby, Catcher, Color Purple, GWTW, Rebecca,  Huck Finn (Twain’s response to Denver’s ban of his book is as amusing as most of his work 🙂 ) and yes, Winnie-the Pooh.

Meanwhile, there are the books that make one say “WTH” ? the Dictionary!?! Captain Underpants? What about Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (which I personally have avoided reading over and over and over for the past year…parents know what I’m sayin’) but which serves as an example of the ignorance that surrounds book banning. It was banned in Texas because the school board did not A.) Do their freaking research B.) Bother to read the book and C.) Think that it is possible for 2 men to have the same name, i.e. “Bill Martin”. Funnily enough, the author of this and dozens of other picture books is a Junior, so obviously there is more than one.

I often wonder if people who challenge books actually read them first. Or if they just want to promote their own agenda. Or if they really care about Freedom of Speech. There was a local news story about a woman who was challenging a book on a school’s Recommended Summer Reading List. NOT required, not even (most likely) expected. Just suggestions of books to choose from if a parent should decide to take their child to a library over the summer. Her beef was the junior picture book version of AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH by You-Know-Who. Now, I get that some people still think science and climate change are not real. Whatev. But I still think she just wanted to get on TV and try to push her (completely unsubstantiated) opinion.  If it is not required reading, then do not read it. Duh. Rant over.

So, I narrowed it down to Books I Have Read and Books Under Challenge Now. Yes, there have been a lot of books challenged and banned in the past. Some of them are on the list every year and are familiar to many readers. I am more concerned with the newer books that are being challenged and banned. Most of these are Young Adult books that are challenged for sexual references.

I think that to most young readers (and let’s face it–they are the citizens whose intellectual rights are challenged the most) books are an important source and outlet for information. I admit, I read books that my parents would not have approved. I also read books that they did approve and bought for me. I generally liked most of them. But part of growing, learning and becoming a functioning adult is  practicing critical thinking and developing your own mind. I would not want to keep my children from having all available resources or from pursuing their own happiness.

Young adults are going to learn about sex one way or another. If parents have not learned how to discuss it with them, if teachers are not able to teach non-abstinence facts, then teens will still learn about It. I would prefer the new-found knowledge be from a book, rather than from television or the Web. And I would rather their learning be done critically, showing all facets and points of view as most books do, especially books published as Kid Lit, instead of physically through clumsy trial-and-error which may lead to STDs, teen pregnancy and/or hours of crying into one’s pillow. (Or worse! Teen suicide is a bigger problem in this land than teen sex. There. I said it!) Also, as a writer who can only hope that one day she makes it to a Banned Books list, I want kids to read and I know that they are far more likely to read a book they are interested in, rather than an assigned book chosen by an adult. Personally, I think it is amazing and awesome that there are SOOO many books being published in the children and young adult market. End of the Book, pshaw!

So, I pondered it, read lists, looked on my own highly controversial bookshelves and I went to the best place to learn about books: The Library. One of the most beautiful facts of our country’s freedoms: we get free books. I spend a lot of time at the library and have a good dialogue with my librarians. The conversation we had about banned books (as she set up their display) was heartening. I learned that only one book has been challenged (in her knowledge) in our  400-year old, smallish, right-leaning county: AND TANGO MAKES THREE. {Follow the link for a post about that children’s picture book from the fabulous Booklady’s Blog.} The saddest thing about that challenge is it is NON-fiction. People want to ban facts. Grrr…

Finally, I opened the library’s print-out of this year’s Banned Books Week campaign and saw THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN by Sherman Alexie listed first. And I learned that it was banned, removed by a school board in Missouri this year and previously in Oregon among other challenges. I read this book, primarily because it was a National Book Award winner and one of the top recommended books for teen boys. I like sharing books with my son, ever since he was in utero. I read it, laughed, cried, laughed A LOT more and even learned a little (granted, I had some previous knowledge of the subject matter). Then I gave it to him and said “You have to read this” which was not an order, but as he knew, just a great suggestion.

The main reasons cited for banning TATDOAPTI are language, substance use, and sexual situations. I admit, I was keenly aware of giving my son a book that discussed masturbation, but I had a feeling he already knew about that. But sex, drugs and rock n’ roll aside, this book depicts a reality that many teens in this country experience daily. At the same time, it also depicts one that many people are not aware of or do not understand. I wanted my brilliant son to appreciate his education and just how good he’s got it.

The main character experiences obstacles, discouragement, and a whole lot of stress in order to pursue his education. Since birth, he had physical challenges, which required brain surgery. He is awkward and ridiculed and also brilliant and hilarious. His story is about making the most of what you can in your life no matter what problems you face. He actually walks miles to get to a school that can give him a better education. Alexie throws light on the difference between reservation schools and US public schools. He also details a bright boy’s struggle to find his place in two societies, neither of which fully accepts him. A student speaking out in support of the book said at the Stockton County, MO school board meeting

This book in a nutshell is my hope. It’s not about giving up. It’s about not letting people tell you you’re not worth it.

and she was completely ignored. The vote was 7-0 to ban it. I pray that does not cause her to lose hope. She and her peers need to know that their experiences and feelings matter, too. When young people are constantly told that their opinions and beliefs do not count, they begin to believe it.

Junior, the MC and narrator of “Absolutely True Diary” , is one of those teens and his story is worth reading. Yes, teens cuss, are exposed to substances, and think about sex too much. But they also try to find their talents, develop their abilities and dream of their futures. Why would we want to censor that?

I am sorry that I have been absent for so long (if anyone was looking)…Let’s just say that I hit a speed bump, not a block 🙂 But I do know that the first rule of writing is: Sit Down and Start! and that if at first we don’t succeed, try, try…you get it. So, here I am tired, humbled and maybe a bit more determined. Today is the first day of the rest of my yadayada…
normal_book1jkrfanAnd what a great day in literary history it is! Joanne (K) Rowling was born today, July 31st and she also gave her famous protagonist the same birthday, so some people call this Harry Potter Day. I don’t know if they need their own holiday (?) but it is a good day to apply pen to paper and get back into the flow.
Personally, she is one of my inspirations as far as success stories and admiration of style and skill, as well as, darn it, personality. When I first discovered the Harry Potter books, I was a single mother, struggling through a bad separation and divorce, temporarily living at my parents and waiting tables while also trying to finish my degree and maintain a healthy relationship with my 5-year old son. My British, reading-teacher mother actually bought the books to read to him while I worked dinner shifts, but reading at bedtime was one of our Favorite Things, so one night I read a chapter to him, then could not stop after he fell asleep. I had to go back and start the wondrous journey all over. Despite being tired, stressed and a literature major for goodness sakes, I was enthralled. That was in 2001, the boy is 13 now, and we love all things Harry Potter.
I admit to being a bit of a fan, as in fanatic, when it comes to Rowling and her amazing Wizard World. Hearing her own story only cemented my obsession. {btw: if you have not yet seen the documentary A Year in the Life with JK Rowling, you can view it on the ABC site.  i cried. } She was at a low point in her life, divorced with a young child who depended completely on her and an idea for a story that apparently would not leave her head (a feeling I know well). I think that millions of people would agree with me when I say, “Thank God, she wrote it down.”
I believe that her story, both the fictional and the biographical one, epitomize the answer to the struggling writer’s question “Why write?”  A: You never know, it may just change the world.

ADDED Aug 7: Since I have been in a Potter mood this summer and the books are always fun to read, I am definitely signing up for this challenge at Galleysmith. If you haven’t read the series yet, well, of course I recommend it! And if you have, then you may want to listen to the audiobooks, which is accepted for  the challenge. You have almost a year to complete it and yes, there are prizes. But, of course the biggest reward is the joy of reading, right? 😉  Sign up by August 15th to be entered for the prize drawings!

I am apparently not writing a poem today, just surfing and recovering from the sugar overload. And sharing stuff with others, too…Here’s a good list to check out:    10 Best Writing Books on Editor Unleashed
I am so glad I have some of these 🙂 It is a good sign.

I ran across this link on a “research surf” and thought I would share. offers a fun and easy search program for finding the book you might enjoy. You can choose based on your mood, what type of characters you like, etc. The site is British, so the “Borrow” feature only works if you are in the UK, which I am not. I have not actually read my choices, so I cannot say whether they matched my data exactly, but I did get some interesting looking titles. I do recommend using the “how to use” tutorial as it helped me. whichbooklogo

I know most people are over the holidaze season by now but they are not technically over yet. Although the celebration seems to begin mid-October and keeps on going with various disguises and excuses to eat, drink and make merry, I have always liked the idea of beginning the winter celebrations with Solstice [i.e. the first day of winter], bringing in the greens and lighting the dark with candles and half-burned out strands of twinkles, enjoying the gifts of presence with friends and family, and ringing in the new year with a toast or four. When I was young I said I wanted to do the 12 Days of Christmas thing with my future family, though, as a mom I find that it is hard to cancel the revelry of Day 1. However, it bugs me that certain media conglomerates and retail corporations are trying to change the month preceding Yuletide to the 25 Days of  Xmas [and what was with the ABCFamily 12 days of Christmas in November Countdown to the 25 Days of Christmas thing? talk about overload]…oops overflowing again…

Anyway, I generally celebrate any which way I can and take a lot of joy in sharing my friends’, families’ and colleagues’ traditions. I have always been a bit of a cultural junky as well as a party animal [though that is limited these years]. Celebrations are what make life fun, so why shouldn’t we celebrate everything we can 24/7/365…[and before I hear from any devotees of any specific religion, i am a recovering Catholic, know all the rules/mores/myths, have studied many major religions and do not join any organized ones, so please keep your religion personal, as it should be :)]…

Soooo… I was inspired this morning by the revelation that the fifth day of Kwanzza is the day of Purpose as well as the Digital Dame’s spirit of giving me info on a free book-writing program to pass on some more gifts to anyone out there hal1facp_newwho wants free stuff. The DD has links to 2 software downloads, and at one of those sites I found a free download of an amusing sci-fi book from Australia- Hal Spacejock. It is the first in a series apparently popular down under, so alert any sci-fi/Douglas Adams fans you know. He also has a free book-reading program available, among others.

It was easy enough to find a few sites dedicated to free books like for mp3s of classic audio books, poetry and speeches. They are available to read too and the site also offers a lot of other resources good for home-schooling, ESL or research.

If you are beginning the new year with a resolution to finally begin your writing career, here is a link for freeware offering Writing Tips [“Our goal is to inspire would-be-authors, and publishers who dare to dream in the later seasons of life.”]

That makes five and the Sixth Freebie is perhaps my favorite. It counts as a book, but 200px-hortonhearsawhobookcoverdoubles as an environmental guide if your resolution is to get greener. The Energy Star folks made a guide for school-age children using the characters of “Horton Hears a Who“.  I think I like it so much because the kids got the “Horton” DVD for Xmas, so I know I can do some eco-education here at home. [I am also considering using the original for the LitFlicks Challenge].  Dr. Seuss is good for readers of any age, and there are a lot of old dogs out there who need to learn some green tricks, but if that’s just too juvenile for you or yours, there are a lot of other Energy Star guides and downloads available here including another Horton Tip Guide.

Well, I definitely feel like I fulfilled my purpose, as this blog is here to promote reading, writing and being green. I am working on my resolutions/goals/changes for 2009, some of which are already happening. Tomorrow, I plan to Blog for Peace on the first official iPeace Day, but I do want to send love and luck out to you all for the New Year. It’s bound to be a good one- and I believe that this extended celebration should go from now until about January 20 :).

I am definitely giving a lot of books this year. I have a slight book buying addiction which I really cannot seem to suppress, so I have to spread the stacks around. Some people are hard to shop for, but there is probably a book available for everyone on everybody’s list. I have found that kids love getting cool new books, especially activity books or boxsets of the fave series. Personally, I am tired of toys, especially ones with lots of little pieces. Books tend to come in one piece and they are easy to wrap. And think about all of the good you will be doing for the publishing world! If I haven’t convinced you yet  check out the celebrity endorsement from They have more hints and tips too.

I spent a lot of time socializing online yesterday and ended up signing up on both GoodReads and Twitter. I would love to mingle with other bloggers, writers and readers if you are hanging around on those networks too. I was not quite sure what twitter was all about, but I checked it out when Inkygirl started a blogging writers group and found out its a network of just my favorite part of myspace and facebook…the status updates :)…so this is also a fun way to keep track of some great blogs and the writers themselves!

Through Goodreads I also found out about BetterWorldBooks which is self-described as “an online bookstore with a soul”. I have to admit to having a hard time when it comes to reviewing or linking to books on here. The standard link is usually amazon, which I dont really have problem with, but I do not really want to push them on everyone. I usually try to link to an author’s personal site. Then they can provide the amazon link [:)], but from what i have seen so far I think Better Books may be my store of choice from now on. They are a company determined to promote literacy and save books as well as provide a product. New and used books are for sale online and, somehow, US domestic shipping is free. Watch on for more info:

Finally, if anyone else is as interested in the ongoing saga between Rosamond and Emily as I am [it’s an artistic soap!],  here is another post with some interesting background and views.  The comment board on the original post at YouThoughtWeWouldntNotice is stuffed and not always so nice. The controversy is all over the blogosphere now, though I have not heard any more beyond the illustrator of Nate the Great and Rosamond, Marc Simont’s statement that he has referred the issue to the publisher’s legal department.

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