Last time I checked we stopped burning (or drowning or crucifying) witches hundreds of years ago. And yet some people would like to ban (even burn as some churches have done) books that feature witches or magic of any kind. They fear the words will corrupt children, make them want to cavort in Satan's playground.
STREGA NONA? Really? I'm stunned that someone challenged the right of Tomie dePaola's Caldecott Award winner to be in a library. But they did.
This delightfully-illustrated book tells of a boy who disobeys his employer, an old lady with a magic cooking pot. He tries her spell when she isn't home and covers the town in pasta. It's funny. It teaches a lesson about showing off, disregarding warnings and not being respectful. I seriously doubt it would lure any kid into the dark side, for heaven's sake.
This is Banned Book Week, the annual event hosted by the American Library Association to highlight books that have been attacked, that someone has tried to remove from a school or public library because the books don't fit their world view.
Like STREGA NONA, J.K. Rowling's HARRY POTTER series, Katherine Paterson's BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA and Roald Dahl's THE WITCHES have been challenged for occult themes. The Potter books were burned by churches in New Mexico and Michigan, with congregations in Iowa and Maine only stopped by fire departments.
Among authors who speak out against book bans are the venerable Ray Bradbury, whose anti-censorship novel FAHRENHEIT 451 is frequently challenged; Judy Blume, whose ground-breaking children's books are targeted because they address such real life issues as racism, bullying and sex; and Laurie Halse Anderson, who recently sounded the alarm against a professor in Missouri who tried to get SPEAK taken out of schools. It's what Wesley Scroggins said about that book that made me sick to my stomach for a week.
He called the novel about date rape "soft porn" in a newspaper op-ed piece. I've read that book. There's nothing remotely pornographic about the tastefully-written, painful account of what happens to a rape victim and her slow road back to emotional recovery. Anderson has received thousands of thank-you notes from kids who found help dealing with their own trauma. While Anderson gave rape victims hope, Mr. Scroggins victimized them again with his words. I feel I have the right to say that since I am one of those victims.
The reasons given for challenging books can be anything from religion and politics to language and sexual content. The question is do you want somebody else deciding for you what's acceptable to read? If you have never checked out ALA's list of frequently challenged books by decades, please click the link above. I think you will be astounded at how many extraordinary, important, thought-provoking books are on the lists. Read them. Talk about them. Don't let someone's narrow world-view put blinders on you.