The top 10 Most Challenged Authors in the last decade:
1. Alvin Schwartz (Scary Stories)
2. Judy Blume (Blubber, Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, Deenie, Forever)
3. Robert Cormier (Whale Talk, The Sledding Hill)
4. J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter)
5. Michael Willhoite (Daddy’s Roomate)
6. Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia)
7. Stephen King (Cujo, It, The Stand, Salem’s Lot, The Dark Tower Series, The Green Mile)
8. Maya Angelou (I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, And Still I Rise)
9. R.L. Stine (Goosebumps)
10. John Steinbeck (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men)
The Grapes of Wrath is one of the finest American novels ever written. If you haven’t read it, you’re missing not only a sublime book but a piece of our history told in a way that makes it real. Honestly, it’s one of my favorite books of all time and it should be required reading in not just literature courses but also in American history classes.
When I was growing up, Judy Blume books were a mainstay. She writes books for children with complicated themes and she doesn’t write down to kids. Her books are smart, her characters are smart. She addresses the seriousness of issues that children face and often alone. I also remember being 15 and reading Forever and feeling that “first love” in the book, the yearning for adulthood and to be loved. It’s still a great book that stands the test of time. Speaking of test of time, I’ve read the Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing and Fudge books to my sons and they loved them too.
Bridge to Terabithia – There’s a theme here with fantasy books for children being challenged. It makes me sad. Imagination is not the enemy. This book as well as Paterson’s other titles, again, tackle important themes in ways children can understand them.
Harry Potter – I’ve heard some of the criticism of the books and for the most part, I have to say that I discount things people say when they haven’t bothered to actually read something they’re trying to censor. The HP books are filled with important lessons about friendship, loyalty, courage and honor. These are themes not touched upon enough in a deep way in children’s books. And they’re fun.
Stephen King – well what can I say about Stephen King? I love his imagination. I wish he didn’t fall apart at the end of some of his best books (The Stand is my favorite but the very end makes me cringe). I suppose the magic and scary stuff is probably the reason for the challenges. Shrug. Imagination isn’t the enemy people.
Maya Angelou – I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read. Her poetry inspires me. Her journey inspires me. Her strength in the face of the things she suffered as a child is something I admire greatly.
I’m too old to have read Goosebumps and I’ve flipped through Daddy’s Roomate but I haven’t read the others.
What I will say is that we don’t need to censor ideas we don’t like. Censorship is ugly and wrong and it makes you the self appointed morality police for my head and my kids and that’s not your job.
When brilliant books like Grapes of Wrath are targeted, we miss out on truly amazing journeys. A book is a journey. If you don’t want to take that particular journey (like I’d avoid stepping into Ann Coulter’s head at all costs), you just don’t read the book. If you believe a book or an author espouses values you don’t want your child to learn, be a parent! Don’t parent MY child, parent your own. Watch what your kids are reading. If the very presence of an idea threatens you so much, you’re not doing a very good job.
Even if I hated every author on that list, I still wouldn’t espouse book banning. Books have been my friend since I was very young. They saved my life, they brightened my day, they’ve taught me things. Books are not the enemy.