The words “A Conversation about Book Challenges” on a light green background with the logo for Down Time with Cranston Public Library to the right of it. The logo is a pair of bright green headphones over a light blue stack of books.

A Conversation about Book Challenges

The Cranston Public Library in Cranston, RI hosts a weekly podcast titled Down Time with Cranston Public Library where they talk with librarians, library workers and community members about a variety of topics. On February 15th, 2022 they spoke with Martin Garnar, director of the Amherst College Library, and Marianne Mirando, the Librarian from Westerly High School in Westerly, RI to talk about the recent increase in book challenges across the country. They discussed what it means for a book to be challenged in a school or public library and what you can do to protect intellectual freedom in your community. This post is an excerpt from their conversation.

Toby Price

Assistant Principal Fired Over “I Need a New Butt” Readaloud

A Mississippi educator will have to wait to see if he will be rehired after he was fired for reading a children’s book called “I Need a New Butt!” by Dawn McMillan, to a group of second graders. Toby Price is fighting to regain his job as assistant principal at Gary Road Elementary in the Jackson suburb of Byram in Hinds County. The Hinds County School Board’s decision on Price’s employment is expected in about two months.

#2 Most Challenged Book of 2021 Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

Top 10 Banned Books: Lawn Boy

Jonathan Evison’s Lawn Boy is number two on the 10 Most Challenged Books of 2021 list. The coming of age novel has received top marks from critics and readers, but also some challenges as well in schools and libraries. Evison won an Alex Award from the Young Adult Library Services Association for “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18.

#6 Most Challenged Book of 2021

Top Ten Banned Book: Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

If number of challenges are a marker of the serious themes of a book, Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is worthy of close attention as one of the top ten most challenged books of all time. The novel features a teenager born with disabilities including encephalitis, who has grown up on a reservation in Spokane, Washington. Fourteen-year-old Arnold, or “Junior” is a cartoonist and book worm with a fiercely protective best friend, Rowdy. Soon after they start freshman year, Junior transfers from a school on the “rez” to one in a small white town, 22 miles away. Although his parents support his decision, everyone else on the rez sees him as a traitor. Throughout the book, Junior struggles with questions about community and identity. He is determined to improve himself and overcome poverty despite the challenges of birth and race. Cartoons and dark humor illuminate the serious themes of the book in a way that even the most reluctant readers can connect with and enjoy.

Harper Lee with President George W. Bush, when she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

Happy Birthday to Harper Lee, born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama! Lee’s name is inextricably linked with her first novel To Kill a Mockingbird which has been both celebrated and challenged since its publication in 1960. Throughout it all, Mockingbird and Lee have remained as a staple of literature and continue to be a springboard for discussing the history of racial tensions in the American South.

Photo of Simoke Elkeles next to the cover of her book, Perfect Chemistry

Happy Birthday Simone Elkeles

Today is bestselling author Simone Elkeles’ 52nd birthday. To date, she has penned 11 novels, including the award winning young adult Perfect Chemistry series. She is also a dog lover, former hockey and Girl Scout mom, and Chicago native living in Florida.

In 2017, Perfect Chemistry faced a book challenge at Academy School District 20’s Challenger Middle School Library in Colorado Springs. A mother of a 6th grade student found the book amongst her child’s things and, after reading the book, objected to its place at a middle school library due to profanity, alcohol use, gangs and gun violence, and sexual situations.