Sunday, 28 February 2021

Good-bye Freedom to Read Week and Black History Month...

It’s the last day of February, which is also the last day of Black History Month, and yesterday was the final day of Freedom to Read Week (I’m breaking the rules by using my Banned Book mug again this morning!).  It’s difficult to keep up with the themes and events and recognitions that all happen in the shortest month of the year, but I think I’ve got all the bases covered with the last book I read and with my current book.

Last week I read Jay Asher’s debut YA novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, which I chose because it was challenged after the release of the Netflix series in 2017, as well as being banned from an elementary school in Florida.  After reading it, I can see why it was deemed inappropriate for elementary-aged children, but I think the issue with some banned books is the fact that they were banned without following proper procedure for the reconsideration of materials.  I would certainly think twice about having this book in my school library, but in a high school setting, it would be perfectly suitable.  This novel is told in the form of thirteen recordings by Hannah Baker, a high school student who has recently committed suicide.  As the novel opens, these cassette tapes have arrived on the doorstep of Clay, a fellow student who had a secret crush on Hannah.  These tapes give Hannah an opportunity to explain how each of these thirteen people played a part in her decision to kill herself, and after listening to them, each person is required to repackage them and send them off to the next person on the list.  Clay is horrified to be included on this list, and can’t figure out what he’s done to add to the reasons for her choice.  Clay’s personal commentary and internal monologues are interspersed with Hannah’s narratives, and we experience his rage, anguish, guilt, longing and regret along with him as her life is revealed, tape by tape, person by person, to a final, heart-wrenching, but all-to-real conclusion.  I thought this was a fabulous book, one that every teen should read in order to understand how their actions could affect others.  I think that these days everyone, including children and teens, is becoming more aware of and educated about the prevalence and validity of mental health issues.  It is my hope that we’re also becoming more sensitive, and that’s why a book like Thirteen Reasons Why is so important in this education; through this book, readers become privy to the thoughts, feelings and experiences of both Hannah and Clay, and may learn to be more empathetic towards them (https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190523-does-reading-fiction-make-us-better-people).  And although I didn’t realize it at the time, it was also a great book to read last week because we celebrated Pink Shirt Day on Wednesday (https://www.pinkshirtday.ca/) in support of bullying awareness initiatives.  All in all, it was the perfect book to read and I’m glad to have found this on my shelf.  

That’s all for today.  I better get outside for a walk before it starts raining.  Then it’s back to The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a fabulous read that is both appropriate for Black History Month and Freedom to Read Week.  WOW, I’m really ticking all the boxes!

Bye for now…
Julie

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