Wednesday 30 September 2015

Banned Books Week: The Picture Book Edition

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This week is Banned Books Week and once again lovely Sheila of Book Journey is inviting lots of bloggers to post,review and do giveaways on the subject. I'm participating for the fourth time and wanted to write about something I've not already written about. Previous years have seen me writing about why it's important to celebrate Banned Books Week, some of the banned and challenged books of 2012-13 that have meant the most to me, and a general rant about banning and why it's bad. This year I have two little children who love stories. I'm seeing how much the stories we read together affect the things they think about and the questions that they ask and I'm so grateful to have books to help start the conversation. I've said it before and I'll say it again; books should not be banned just because their subject makes people uncomfortable. Books start the conversation and one of the most important things we can do in the world we are currently living in is to have the conversation, especially if the conversation is a little difficult and a little uncomfortable but leaves everybody more informed and empathetic afterwards.

This year's theme for Banned Books Week is YA. To be honest I sort of didn't realise/remember that there was a theme until after I'd written this post, so what you get is pre-YA aka picture books.

That said, here are some books to start the conversation. All of these books have been challenged or banned, and you can win all of them in my giveaway below.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak 

Image result for where the wild things are book coverIf you don't know this book I honestly don't know where you've been. I loved it as a kid, my kids now love it and in the interim there was a film made of it. It has a turbulent history that I knew nothing of before starting to research this post. Before it was even published Sendak spent four years arguing with his publishers about the content of the book. He eventually won and the book was published in 1967 to mixed reviews. It has been challenged because of its representation of a disobedient child (apparently hard for parents to take in that period) and its apparent 'glorifying' of Max's anger. Bruno Bettleheim, who I've previously come across in a very different light during my dissertation about feminism and fairytales, called the book psychologically damaging to three and four year olds and thought that Max's mother denying him dinner was inappropriate punishment which would traumatise children. It's also been challenged for images 'promoting witchcraft and the supernatural'.

To all of this I say, what?! All children are disobedient sometimes, "And Max, the king of all wild things, was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all" hardly sounds like he was massively traumatised by being denied dinner. Also at the end of the book when he gets home, his dinner is waiting for him and it's still warm. For me this book sums up everything that is great about home. You can go off adventuring and then come home to where someone loves you best of all and be sure that dinner will be waiting. I search out books like this to help reinforce the feeling of home and safety and unconditional love that our boys get from us and honestly it's a beautiful, crazy, awesome book.

Other banned & challenged Maurice Sendak books: Outside Over There, In the Night Kitchen

The Lorax by Dr Seuss 

Image result for the lorax coverI couldn't believe it when I found out that this had been challenged. We're seriously huge Dr Seuss fans in my house, after having not been at all when I was a child myself, and I enjoy discovering his books as much as my kids do. The Lorax was challenged particularly for its negative representation of the logging industry in several communities where that is the primary business and was banned back in 1989 in California. I think this book has a fantastic message about ecological responsibility and taking care of the planet and I'm always sad that people would find such messages a threat. One of my favourite things about Dr Seuss are the themes contained in his books, and I would say this book is well worth a read!

Other banned & challenged Dr Seuss books: Yertle the Turtle, Green Eggs and Ham

The Family Book by Todd Parr

I'd actually never heard of this book before starting to research this post but I shall be reading it with my children during the course of this week. The Family Book was banned in an Illinois school district because of its references to same -sex parents. Apparently it's inappropriate for elementary school aged children to be learning about 'different family structures'. Personally I think that's exactly the time children should be being taught about all of the different family structures they're likely to come across throughout their lives, before they make tactless and potentially hurtful comments about something because they don't understand and have never been taught about it. Yes this is (or should be) part of our job as parents. No, everybody's parents aren't going to do it. I hope my children always feel like they can come home and ask questions about what they're learning in school, but honestly, I want them to be learning something in school to come home and ask questions about!

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson

Image result for and tango makes three book coverI'm sure that a lot of you will have heard about this book as it's been in the most challenged lists for the past few years. It's about two male penguins in Central Park Zoo who became a couple and were given an egg to raise. I'm sure you can guess why it's been challenged - if you're not new to the subject of banning you'll probably be painfully aware of the number of books which are challenged because of their homosexual themes (basically because of other people's homophobia). Honestly I find it mind boggling that people think it's acceptable to challenge a book because of its gay characters. If I were to say 'hey school board, I don't think anyone should read this book because there are black people/Scottish people/people with Downs Syndrome in it and I'm not black/Scottish/don't have Downs Syndrome' nobody would take it seriously, and yet if people don't want not just their children but anybody's children to be able to read a book because they are uncomfortable with homosexuality that's a thing the people in authority have to actually consider? That makes no sense to me.

My final thought for this year's Banned Books Week is the same as the previous three. Have the conversation, challenge your preconceptions, and most of all don't you dare tell my children what they can't read. 

You can win all of the above titles by filling in the Rafflecopter form. The contest is open internationally and I'll draw a winner on Sunday evening, good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

More about Banned Books Week here and check out lists of banned books here.