Monday, September 29, 2008

Banned Books Week!

This week is banned book week and 2k8er’s are taking a good long look at some of the books that have been challenged or banned. What have these books meant to us and what might our world have been like if we hadn’t read them? How have these books affected our writing or our life?

First off, we have Barrie Summy, author of I So Don’t Do Mysteries talking about a family favorite, The Great Gilly Hopkins.

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson (published 1978 for approx 10-15 year olds) was banned by many libraries and schools for rough language (the “n” word) and Gilly’s inappropriate behavior. (At the start of the story, she’s racist.)

The Great Gilly Hopkins won many, many awards including the National Book Award, a Newbery Honor, the ALA Notable Children’s Book List, The Horn Book’s Honor list, the Jane Addams Award, the Christopher Award, and the list goes on.

The book opens with Galadriel or Gilly as she prefers to be called and her social worker on their way to yet another foster placement for Gilly. This eleven-year-old girl is tough and mean and manipulative and purposefully difficult to get along with. Imagine her behavior when she finds herself living with Maime Trotter, an illiterate, religious and obese foster mother; William Ernest Teague, a shy, nervous, slow, seven-year-old foster child; Mr. Randolph, her blind neighbor who is black; Miss Harris, her sixth grade teacher who is also black.

Over the course of the book, Gilly learns respect for others and for herself. She learns that family comes in all different shapes and sizes and isn’t necessarily connected by blood. And when her maternal grandmother shows up to claim her and reunite her with her biological mother, Gilly learns that getting what you wish for doesn’t always turn out to be all that great.

In our family, The Great Gilly Hopkins is the first decent-sized chapter book (as in over 80 pages) that Child #1 requested after listening to a fellow classmate’s book talk.

So, a book that encourages discussion about family shapes, racism, and anger (to name a few topics) seems to me like a book you’d want kids to read. Hard to believe some people are still trying to get it banned. Thirty years after the fact.

For a really good sized excerpt, click here

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