Freedom to Read Week 2014

It’s Freedom to Read Week! Sponsored by the Book and Periodical Council, this is a great celebration of the right to read books and judge for yourself the content of the material. You can read more about events celebrating the week throughout the country on their website, and even download a Freedom to Read Kit for schools. 

In high school I had to bring a notice home that announced To Kill a Mockingbird would be removed from the curriculum as a parent had complained that it contained racial slurs. Ever since then the proliferation of ignorance which surrounds book censorship has troubled me deeply. How does banning books that upset you change anything? A book should challenge you, make you feel uncomfortable, and open the door to ideas you’ve never considered before. There’s no greater way to empathize with other people than to open the covers of a book and see directly into someone’s mind. It’s a very special, important thing to do, and I’m very thankful my parents and the local librarian let me read unsupervised and with abandon. 

To celebrate this great event I’m going to run through some of the books and magazines which have been either banned or challenged in Canada for ridiculous reasons.

Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot 

  • Reasons: sexually explicit, age inappropriate
On the Brink?! Oh the scandal!

I remember reading The Princess Diaries series. I only remember the plot of the movie (starring Anne Hathaway and Julie Andrews!), but I still remember the books being about a teenage girl coming to terms with growing up. This is the eighth volume in the series, the protagonist is now a junior in highschool and is possibly entering a long distance relationship with her boyfriend. The big faux pas? She considers having sex with him.

Pranks a Lot: The Girls vs. the Boys by Robin Epstein

  • Reasons: occult, Satanism, religious viewpoint
Friendly slumber party or Satanic cult?

 Also known as Groovy Girls Sleepover Club #2. How a girls sleepover could turn into, I don’t know, a dedicated ritual to Satan when the summary is:

It’s the girls versus the boys! Spelling Bee season has arrived and the Groovy Girls are ready for more slumberrific F-U-N! During their second pajama party, the Groovies play a mysterious board game that spooks them almost as much as the boys’ “Boo!”. Before you can say marshmallow bunny and artichoke s’mores, the prank war is off and running. Join the Slumberrific Six for some unBEElievable adventures! 

The Wars by Timothy Findley 

  •  Reasons: sexually explicit, violence
A beautiful and bold story. But is it too bold?

Another story of a mother of a high school student protesting to the curriculum. The Wars is by far one of my favourite novels of all time, so naturally I felt I needed to address this. I studied Findley’s novel in high school myself and I remember being a little disturbed by how graphic it is. But it is graphic because it is a true depiction of WWII from the perspective of 19 year old boy who has been drafted. I read it when I was 18 years old and yes it freaked me out, but because I read this book I could really empathize and understand the implications of war. Studying it also made Timothy Findley my favourite author. That’s a huge statement coming from an English major. I also find this funny because the depictions of war in Call of Duty leave MUCH to be desired, and considering how many teenagers play said game I sure hope the concerned mother isn’t letting her baby play CoD instead of reading.

Rolling Stone magazine

  • Reasons: violence


Yes, violence. That’s what’s wrong with this magazine.

I have no words.  

Hooray for Dairy Farming by Bobbie Kalman

  • Reasons: inaccuracy

Don’t be deceived! This book doesn’t even show all the types of cows!

Apparently this children’s picture book doesn’t do a good enough job depicting the realities of dairy farming. Here is an excerpt from an editorial review the School Library Journal:

Dairy Farming does not mention that there are many breeds of dairy cows, but discusses the history of pasteurization. It has too many broad general statements that lead to wrong conclusions. Two photos and a drawing show unsanitary conditions in the milking parlor… The series title derives its name from the third paragraph of text that instructs readers to shout, “Hooray for…” the next time they encounter a product made from wool or milk. This may be intended to enliven the text but it comes across as silly. (Eldon Younce, Harper Elementary School, KS, Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

The Mystery Method: How to Get Beautiful Women into Bed

  • Reasons: sexually explicit; misbound in the cover of children’s novel Twelve by Lauren Myracle
 No, these definitely aren’t the same book. Or are they?

Besides the redundancy that a book about how to convince women to sleep with you has sexually explicit material, this book being challenged actually makes sense. It’s hilarious, but it makes sense. I wouldn’t want to be giving some 12 year old girl a book about how to lay beautiful women when I thought I was giving her a book about being 12 years old.