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Books: Praise and Challenge

Banned_Books_Week.jpg Receiving a Newbery Medal is usually cause for celebration. Aside from the honor bestowed by the award, the increased public attention that accompanies a Newbery allows publishers to ramp up sales of an award-winning book.

But Susan Patron, author of The Higher Power of Lucky, has received ire from certain quarters following her book's win of the 2007 Newbery Medal. Some school librarians have objected to the book's inclusion of the word "scrotum," which the book's 10-year-old protagonist overhears.

A New York Times article quotes a librarian who said she would not be ordering the book for her elementary school: "I don’t think our teachers, or myself, want to do that vocabulary lesson." In the same article, Pat Scales, a former chairwoman of the Newbery Award committee, is quoted as saying, "The people who are reacting to that word are not reading the book as a whole."

The American Library Association (ALA), which gives out the Newbery Medal, celebrates Banned Book Week every year. In connection with the event last year, the ALA released the following list, based on the number of formal complaints submitted by schools and libraries:

Most Challenged Books of [the] 21st Century (2000-2005)

  1. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling
  2. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  4. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  5. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  6. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  7. It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz
  9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey
  10. Forever by Judy Blume

Banned Books (ALA)
Newbery Medal Home Page (ALA)
"With One Word, Children's Book Sets Off Uproar" (NYTimes.com)


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