I couldn’t resist that title for today’s post, as this is the first day of Freedom to Read Week, an annual event that encourages Canadians to think about and reaffirm their commitment to intellectual freedom, which is guaranteed them under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (https://www.freedomtoread.ca/). I have a button at work that I will wear this week that says “I read banned books”, I’ve been using my Banned Books mug all month, and I’m considering reading a banned or challenged book this week, although I just picked up two books from the library that I’m also interested in reading...
I just went to look at my bookshelves to see if I had any books that have been banned or challenged that I might be interested in reading, and I found a copy of Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why, a Young Adult novel that was released as a Netflix series in 2017. It was challenged after the release of the series, which is supposedly more graphic than the book, and banned at an elementary school in Florida (https://bannedbooksweek.org/banned-spotlight-thirteen-reasons-why/). I know that at my school, we were made aware of the series and were given training on identifying mental health issues in children and teens. I’d forgotten that I had a copy, so hopefully it will be an interesting read that I can tell you about next week.
Last week I read a short children’s novel that my grade 5/6 book club is reading at school. They were all so far ahead of me that I decided to bring it home and finish it so I could lead an informed discussion at our next meeting. Among the Hidden, the first book in the “Shadow Children” series by Margaret Peterson Haddix, is told from the point of view of Luke Garner, a twelve-year-old boy living on a farm with his two older brothers, Matthew and Mark. At the start of the novel, the woods beyond the family farm are being cut down in order to build houses for elite government officials, and this changes Luke’s life irreparably. You see, Luke is a third child in a world where families are only allowed to have two children. The government, fearing overpopulation and food shortage, have instigated laws in order to control population growth, laws that are enforced by the Population Police, whose sole purpose is to find these thirds and/or fourths and have them and possibly their families punished or even killed. Now that the woods are gone, Luke has no protection against the prying eyes of the neighbours or the Population Police, so he must stay not just inside but also hidden for fear of discovery. One day, while taking a chance peek outside, he sees a face in a window where there should be no one home. He discovers that another third lives in a neighbouring house, and risks everything to make contact with her. Jen is the third daughter of a government official, but unlike Luke, she refuses to follow the rules. She would rather fight for the right to be recognized and to live freely than stay hidden. As their friendship grows, Jen tries to convince Luke to sneak out to attend a rally of hidden children in front of the President’s house, a move that could change their lives forever. This was a really interesting dystopian novel that certainly left me wanting more, so I may read the next in the series, Among the Imposters, just to find out what happens next. It was an easy read with an interesting plot, just the type of book I enjoy. It reminded me very much of The Giver by Lois Lowry, but with a less detailed and complex plot. I think Among the Hidden could be read by younger kids, while The Giver, another banned or challenged book, is definitely meant for older children.
That’s all I’ve got for you today. Get outside and enjoy the sunshine, but bundle up because it’s cold out there. Oh, and don’t forget to pick up a banned or challenged book!Bye for now…
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