Ban This Book by Alan Gratz is one of the greatest stories I have ever read. The main characters are unique, well rounded, and realistic. A number of children’s books suffer from 1-dimensional and stereotypical characters. Not the case here. In fact, I felt a genuine connection to each of them!
As someone who works in a library, the themes of censorship, book recommendations, and getting kids excited about reading really speak to me. Plus, this story is hilarious in all the right places. The little sister who wants to be a pony and shreds paper to create haylofts made me laugh out loud.
I should mention that some of the characters, including the narrator, engage in behaviors we wouldn’t normally approve of. They lie. They steal. They disobey their parents and teachers. However, they are doing those things for a cause they believe in. A reading of Ban This Book gives you an excellent opportunity to discuss doing the wrong thing for the right reason (and the consequences of your actions) with your kids. Read the book together and talk about standing up for your principles. It also teaches important lessons about not judging a book by its cover or a person by their reputation.
So, you’re probably wondering what this book is about. Let me tell you. Amy Anne Ollinger is a lovable but painfully shy fourth grade girl. She loves to read. Her favorite book is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This is an especially fitting choice because both stories feature narrators who feel overlooked at home. Her only solace comes when the school librarian allows her to check the book out, once a month. So, you can imagine Amy Anne’s horror when her school decides to remove her favorite book (along with several others) from their shelves, effectively banning it.
Amy Anne even tries to speak at a PTA meeting, but she is unable to say a word. The books are gone. And what’s worse, the parent who challenged these books in the first place is urging the PTA to remove even more books from the library! Her parents buy a copy of her favorite novel, hoping she’ll feel better.
Amy Anne soon finds herself running a banned books library from her school locker. Will Amy Anne get caught? Will the school cave to parental pressure and remove more and more “inappropriate” books? Will Amy Anne learn to speak up for herself? Can she and her friends save the school library? Grab a copy of Ban This Book and find out yourself.