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Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Review: Ban This Book

Ban This Book is a powerful, gripping and brilliant middle grade novel about a shy girl’s quest to get her favourite book unbanned from her school’s library shelves.

Amy Anne Ollinger is the girl who never speaks up. She’s a rule follower, a book worm, a library lover. But when the school board bans her favourite library book, Amy Anne starts to question why someone else gets to decide that she shouldn’t read a book.

When Amy Anne discovers more books are being banned (for being too rude, or encouraging bad behaviour or being too scary) she sets out to find and read every banned book she can find. 

Other students want in, so the Banned Book Library Locker is born and Amy Anne becomes a secret librarian and school champion of everyone’s right to read what they want.

Author Alan Gratz has taken on a big and important issue, and the empowering messages are clear in the story. But very skilfully, Gratz has woven these strong messages into a gripping and highly entertaining story that stands alone. The characters feel real and they’re very relatable. The story is fast-paced and interesting.

Gratz has also been sensitive to the fact that his words have power. This is the kind of book kids read and pass onto their friends. It will open their eyes and make them think and question. But Gratz has made sure the message he sends about no one having the right to choose what children read excludes parents. 

Parents do and should have a role in guiding (and sometimes limiting) their kids’ selection of books, but Gratz has made this clear in the story, without hitting the reader over the head with the message.

Another very cool thing about this book is that all the books banned in the story are real books, and they are books that have been challenged or banned in an American library at least once in the last thirty years. Books like Matilda by Roald Dahl, Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey and Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. Popular and much loved books that someone thought would harm kids in some way.

And the funny thing is, if Ban This Book existed within the fictional world of Amy Anne Ollinger and Shelbourne Elementary, it, too, would absolutely be banned because it shows kids that adults aren’t always right, that they make mistakes and that it’s okay to ‘bend’ the rules to fight for something you believe in.

I think these are vital lessons to teach kids if we want them to grow up to be strong and independent thinkers. I will be encouraging my children to read this book, not only because it's a fantastic story, but also because it gives readers a powerful gift: to be able to analyse the difference between right and wrong and decide for yourself which side you want to sit on.

Title: Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Publisher: Hachette, $15.99
Publication Date: September 2017
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780734417824
For ages: 8+
Type: Middle Fiction

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