According to the American Library Association, fewer people called on libraries to ban a book last year. In 2013, the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves. In 2012, there were 464 reports. The office only counts formal written complaints in this statistic. The report does not give any reasons why the numbers dropped.
The American Library Association, once again, published its list of the” Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books”. Once again the “Captain Underpants” series by Dav Pilkey topped the list. The reasons given for challenging this series were offensive language unsuited to the age group the book is written for and violence. I checked our collection and circulation of this series is continual. Recently, a parent was “thrilled” to find the series on our shelves. She said she really loved reading them with her child. Number two on the list was Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye.” Interesting contrast of material.
Two new additions to the JP collection are really delightful. “Brother Hugo and the Bear” by Katy Beebe is the story of a missing library book. Beebe has a doctorate in medieval history from the University of Oxford and has spent many years studying medieval manuscripts. With this kind of scholarly background, Beebe sets her story in a medieval monastery. The characters are monks and, of course, a bear. A hungry bear has gotten a taste of how sweet a book can be by eating the letters of St. Augustine. Since it is the fault of Brother Hugo that the bear ate the book, he must reproduce a new copy. Since this is medieval times that means he must create the paper, make the inks, copy the manuscript and bind the book.
Besides being a funny and unusual story, the reader can learn a great deal about how books were created in the Middle Ages. The colorful illustrations are set off by illuminated letters beginning each paragraph. Both parents and children will enjoy “Brother Hugo and the Bear.”
“The Grudge Keeper” by Mara Rockliff is set in the town of Bonnyripple. People don’t keep grudges because that is the job of Cornelius, the Grudge Keeper. “Ruffled feathers, petty snits, minor tiffs and major huffs, insults, umbrage, squabbles, dust-ups, and imbroglios” are all received by Cornelius and tucked away in his ramshackle cottage. Rockliff’s language makes this a great read aloud selection, as well as, offering an important moral lesson. The illustrations are done in a yellowish hue that makes the characters and the action stand out. A good story about people in a small village who learn how to get along. Children will get the idea that this concept could be used throughout the world.
Tuesday’s Times lists Science Best Sellers and we have six of the 10:
David and Goliath, Thinking Fast and Slow, A Short Guide to a Long Life, The Power of Habit, The Sixth Extinction and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. All had healthy circulation except the newest, The Sixth Extinction. So good nonfiction does go out. I was beginning to wonder, as so much of our nonfiction, especially biographies, do poorly.
The Secret Rooms is a true story of an English castle, a scheming and interfering dutchess, and the secrets of a wealthy and titled English family. Catherine Bailey, the author, orginally planned on writing a book about English life in the East Midlands of England, during World War 1. However, during her research of the area, she stumbled upon Belvoir Castle and the war diary of the owner, John Henry Montagu Manners, who was the 9th Duke of Rutland. In 1939, at the duke’s suggestion, the castle had been chosen as a safe storage location for Britain’s Public Records. They were stored in several “secret” rooms within the castle, one of which being the location where John Manners had died a year later.
The author discovers missing entries in John’s war diary during three specific dates, along with family letters that had disappeared. After vast amounts of research, the author pieces together a very intriguing account of the Duke’s life before, during and after the war. This was a good read, especially for fans of English life during the Downton Abbey years.
I am sure that by now you all know that Donna Tartt’s best selling novel “The Goldfinch” has won the Pultizer in the category of best fiction. Some patrons were dismayed by the length of the book. Maybe this award will boost its circulation. In the category of journalism “The Washington Post” and “Guardian” won for stories based on the documents leaked by Edward Snowden. American and British lawmakers criticized the newspapers for stories that revealed government secrets, but the Pulitzer judges praised what they called “authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security.
“The Boston Globe” won for its coverage of the Boston Marathon and “The Detroit Free Press” columnist Stephen Henderson won in the category of commentary for his columns on the financial crisis in Detroit.