A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Itâ€™s the birth date of T. S. Eliot (1888-1965), Old Possumâ€™s Book of Practical Cats.
- Johnny Appleseed (1774-1845), born on this day as John Chapman in Leominster, MA, was a pioneer Nurseryman and American legend. Read Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh, illustrated by Kathy Jakobsen, Johnny Appleseed by Jane Kurtz, illustrated by Mary Haverfield, and Johnny Appleseed by Steven Kellogg. It also happens to be Johnny Appleseed Day.
- Itâ€™s Family Dayâ€”A Day to Eat Dinner with Your Kids. Read All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor, and Dinner Time by Jan Pienkowski.
From SeptemberÂ 22 through September 28, the American Library Association celebrates Banned Books Week. Often your local public library will display some famous banned books. I am always surprised to see what makes list of â€śtop banned/challenged booksâ€ť of the decade. Harry Potter leads the listâ€”possibly Harry Potter is going to lead all lists (sales, censorship, and box office). But number 2 seems to me almost impossible: Phyllis Reynolds Naylorâ€™s series about Alice McKinley.
Phyllis won a Newbery Medal for her much beloved Shiloh in 1991. But in 1985 she began publishing an even more popular group of books beginning with The Agony of Alice. When we meet Alice in sixth grade, she has just moved to a new neighborhood. She has a loving father, a single parent because her mother died when Alice was five, and an older brother, Lester. Like many middle schoolers, Alice thinks and worries about everything. She is often mortified by her own behaviorâ€”including bad poetry that she wrote in third grade. Overly sensitive, she tries to fit in at her new school. But she does not like her teacher and even tries to get her classroom changed to be with the teacher she admires more. A refreshing blend of daring and cringing, Alice successfully bumps her way along until the end of sixth grade, when she comes to adore her teacher and has gained a boyfriend.
Relationships and feelings stand at the core of these books. But Naylor is completely frank about details of life such as getting a first bra and having your first kiss. Since Alice goes through high school in the series, she encounters, of course, more complex issues. All the issues have been woven easily into the narrative, but it gives young readers a place to go for information in the event that they feel that they canâ€™t ask certain kinds of questions at school or at home.
I suppose this honesty about the human body has caused the books to be banned. All I know is that if a young girl needs some answers to lifeâ€™s questions, she can gain a lot of insight from one of the great ladies of the book world, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.Â Naylor, in fact, has said that to her Alice is the daughter she always wanted.
Young readers, age eleven to fourteen love these books because they identify with Aliceâ€”her awkwardness, her hopes, her dreamsâ€”and they also appreciate the wise advice about personal issues.
So for those who havenâ€™t read these books, pick them up during banned books week and make your own decision about their merit. In my forty years of experience, the childrenâ€™s books some attempt to ban are just the books that others cherishes most.
Hereâ€™s a section from The Agony of Alice:
When I got home, my brotherâ€™s car was parked out front. I went inside and back to the kitchen to feel around under the bread for potato chips. Lester always hides the things he likes. After I found those I looked under the lettuce in the refrigerator for the dip. Once you know Lesterâ€™s system, you can find almost anything. I had just started down to the family room with my snack when I heard a girlâ€™s voice upstairs. I stopped there in the hallway. The sound came again, the sound of a girl laughing in Lesterâ€™s room.
Something told me that Lester wasnâ€™t supposed to have a girl in his room. Not with the door closed, anyway. Not when Dad wasnâ€™t home.
Originally posted September 26, 2011. Updated for .