Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Sledding Hill by: Chris Crutcher

This book was required for me to read for 2 different classes now. The first time I didn't get a chance to read it, but this time I did. This was an easy, quick read and I really enjoyed it. The story is mostly about censorship (which as a librarian/teacher is pretty important to have a good, well-rounded knowledge of). The story follows a 14-year old boy named Eddie Proffit from his dead friend, Billy. Although I have never read The Lovely Bones, it is apparently told from a similar angle. Eddie is a misunderstood, most likely ADD kid who is considered overly curious and his mouth often gets him into trouble. When he loses his dad and best friend, Billy, in the beginning of the story, he decides to go mute. Billy 'bumps' him and tries to get Eddie to go on living knowing that everything will be all right. When Eddie goes back to school and starts a "Really Modern Literature" class requiring them to read only books from authors who are alive, the teacher tells them the only book she is insisting they read is Warren Peece, also by Chris Crutcher. The librarian sends permission slips home for the students to get signed since the book addresses taboo issues like homosexuality, sex and uses bad language. This book does not go over well since the school is affiliated with the Red Brick church that has a preacher who tries to control everything. The book does a great job of showing how religion/church is really not THAT separated from school/education. Beliefs get in the way as the church (through others) try to ban the book. The problem: students who never read are actually reading this book. Many find comfort in the characters, especially a boy who is gay and is too afraid to do anything because of the people surrounding him. Eddie is one of the kids who find comfort in the book, and although he is mute, decides to take a stand.
This book really demonstrates the importance and role of censorship in school. Reading is reading, no matter what the material is. As a librarian, it is hard to decide what is ok and what is not, morally, to be in a library. I'm not sure my job as a librarian will be to protect children's "innocence" by banning books. Reality is real, and everyone finds that out at some point in their life. I think it is more up to a parent if they want to restrict what their child reads.
I was disturbed when doing this particular chapter to see the court cases and people who attack young adult literature. There is a list of titles in my textbook of books that often appear on the censored list (rarely near the top, but still on the list) and I thought I would share..

Judy Blume: Deenie; Forever
Robert Cormier: After the First Death; The Chocolate War; Fade; I Am the Cheese
Chris Crutcher: Athletic Shorts; Running Loose
Lois Duncan: Killing Mr. Griffin
Paula Fox: The Slave Dancer
Nat Hentoff: The Day They Came to Arrest the Book
S.E. Hinton: The Outsiders; That Was Then, This is Now
Robert Lipsyte: The Contender
Lois Lowry: The Giver
Harry Mazer: The Last Mission
Walter Dean Myers: Fallen Angels
Katherine Paterson: Bridge to Terabithia
Robert Newton Peck: A Day No Pigs Would Die
Mildred D. Taylor: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Paul Zindel: My Darling, My Hamburger; The Pigman
Any of the Harry Potter Series

(Nilson, A. P., & Donelson, K. L. (2001). Literature for today's young adults (8th edition). Boston, MA: Pearson.) a quick things on the above..I couldn't believe The Giver was on the list!! That is one of my all time favorite books! There isn't really any violence, curse words, etc. The book is about a utopian society! How does that get banned? Then again, there are several on the list I ask myself, why?

O well..that is all for this book review.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Copper Sun By: Sharon Draper

This book was about slavery, but in a different light than I had ever read about it. The story starts in Africa and talking about tribal traditions. The main character, Amari, bumped into the boy, Besa, that she was betrothed to. She was flirty and nervous in love. The setting in Africa sounds so beautiful and the way the tribe takes care of each other. Amari made mention of how all the women in the tribes were mothers to all of the children and helped them all out whenever they needed it. There was such a strong unity and bond in the African tribe. All is well and good until white men were escorted into their camp with another tribe and the Ewe (Amari's tribe) welcomed them with open arms, fed them, and danced for them, and not a few minutes later, the white men started shooting. Amari loses her family and is chained and escorted away with the other survivors.
She has no idea what is going on and is often humiliated and touched in wrong places like she was a piece of meat. There is a long account of how they traveled from Africa in a horrible boat to the "colonies" (US). The boat trip alone was enough to make you literally sick to your stomach. Amari and the other women were raped on a nightly basis, while the men were crammed into the bottom of the boat on top of each other and in their own bodily fluids. Some, who were "lucky" jumped ship and 'disappeared' as gray-finned animals came and created a pool of blood (they were eaten by sharks).
When they finally arrive in the colonies, they are auctioned off where Amari was forced to leave the only people she started to know. She was sent to the Derbyshire farms as a birthday present for the 16 year old boy of the house. She was under an indentured white gal, Polly, who was supposed to 'civilize' her. As the story goes on Polly and Amari become close and learn much about each other and their races. There are lots of tragedies and things that will make you want to stop reading and just cry, but there is a good ending as well.
This book did a great job in depicting the whole process of slavery, starting in Africa. It is a horrible fact that these things actually happened, but it is something that young people should be aware of so that history does not ever repeat itself. I recommend this book!