This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is kind of a cheat for me since I have taught a version of this class in the past. So I’m going to basically share my syllabus with you–with a slightly updated reading list.
How I framed the class:
This course aims to take a critical look at children’s and young adult literature that is frequently challenged and banned in public schools and libraries. While we will discuss issues of censorship throughout the semester, our primary concern will be with understanding these books first and foremost as works of literature. As such, we will consider the choices that authors make in composing these works, focusing on the functions of the literary elements contained within. Throughout our discussions, we will be able to determine how these “bannable” ideas or elements are or are not necessary for the books to function as cohesive narratives with specific themes. In the end, we should be able to determine if or when restrictions should be placed on novels intended for young people and who gets to make that decision.
1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain – it’s important to have a classic on your list because then someone will say, baffled, “But it’s a classic. How can you ban a classic?” Bonus points for Mark Twain because then you can pull out this quote:
I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, & it always distresses me when I find that boys & girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean. I know this by my own experience, & to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. … Most honestly do I wish that I could say a softening word or two in defense of Huck’s character since you wish it, but really, in my opinion, it is no better than those of Solomon, David, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood. If there is an unexpurgated [Bible] in the Children’s Department, won’t you please…remove Tom & Huck from that questionable companionship?
8. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling – because you can’t read the whole series, and this book works as a standalone. Also: magic.
9. Life Is Funny by E.R. Frank – I blogged about this book for Banned Books Week before, so I won’t repeat myself here. The main thing to know is this book was actually removed from a school library because it depicts things that actually happens to kids in middle and high school.
10. Whale Talk or Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher – Pretty much all of Chris Crutcher’s books have been banned or challenged. The list would be incomplete without him.
How I Ended the Class:
For the final project, I had them pick a novel on the ALA’s Top 100 Banned/Challenged Books list and write a paper explaining the theme of the novel and why the challenged elements are necessary for the reader to understand that theme. Then? Presentation on the book!