The first step in protecting the library collection is making certain that the library has a clear and well-communicated collection development policy. Secondly, the policy must be followed. The collection development policy, approved by the appropriate powers that be, then becomes the document that supports all items in the collection. So, when an item is challenged, the library has the collection development policy to back up the decision to include the item.
Additionally, libraries can prepare for challenges by keeping copies of reviews and other sources used for choosing materials, for example award lists. These items can be kept in a file, electronic or otherwise, particularly for books that have already been or are very likely to be challenged. Positive Reviews can very often easily and quickly be found on Amazon.com, usually the information on a book’s webpage includes one or two professional reviews. Additionally, the Oakland Public Library’s website provides a link to multiple reviews of most of the items in its collection, so that is a sources for a more extensive listings of reviews, though, this is not as comprehensive a collection as Amazon’s. One can also find book reviews in online subscription databases like LISTA (Library, Information Science Technology Abstracts and Full Text) and Library Literature & Information Science Full Text. Reviews, of course, can also be found in one of many publications dedicated to literature reviews like School Library Journal, Library Journal, Multicultural Review, Young Adult Library Services, and many, many more.
Lastly, I wanted to share a collection of resources that could prove useful for dealing with challenges to materials or other intellectual freedom issues.
Intellectual Freedom and Challenge Resources
PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Intellectual freedom information and resources.
Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Intellectual freedom links: education and advocacy groups.
What do the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the Association of Booksellers for Children, the Children’s Book Council, the Freedom to Read Foundation, the National Coalition Against Censorship, the National Council of Teachers of English, the PEN American Center, and the People for the American Way Foundation have in common? They are all sponsors of kidSPEAK!, which was initially called Muggles for Harry Potter. (In the Harry Potter series, a Muggle is a non-magical person.)
Genres included in the blog were largely derived from the second edition of Diana Tixier Herald’s Teen Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests. This book only deals with fiction and books, so for non-fiction and other media the genre/genres assigned to each item closely matches one of Herald’s where possible, and otherwise were created by me with usability in mind.
The format for the Genres is as follows. Under the heading “Genres” I have listed all the possible Genres from Herald’s book, many of the entries in this blog fit into more than one genre, so they are listed with commas in between. Where I felt it was necessary, I added additional genres. I added the genre “Realistic Fiction” because, for those unfamiliar with Herald’s work, many teen novels fit into this category, so I wanted it to be there to make the blog more user friendly. Also, I added a genre called “Urban Fiction” to some of the titles, as this is a genre I have read about and researched and I feel it warrants being included.
Under the heading “Subgenres/Themes” I have detailed the genres into the subgenres and themes specified by Herald. I have started with the genre, then a colon for the next level of theme or subgenre and then another colon for a sublevel, where relevant. For example, the genre section for a book about a teen drug dealer in the inner city would look like this:
Genre: Issues, Realistic Fiction, Urban Fiction
Subgenre/Theme: Issues: Social Concerns: Crime and Criminals
Herald, D. T. (2003). Teen Genreflecting: A Guide to Reading Interests. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited, Inc.
Plot Summary: Cassia lives in a “Society” where everything is decided for her and the rest of the members by Society Officials. From her meals to her wardrobe, everything is predetermined, thus lessening the potential “stress” decision-making might cause Society members. When Cassia was young she did not think much of the lack of self-determination in her life. Now, she is 17, of age to be given her “match,” her ideal life mate that Society Officials will choose for her, as determined by algorithms and scientific data. At the match ceremony Cassia is happy to be matched with her close childhood friend, Xander. Their match is an unusual one, as the scientific method of determining matches makes it statistically unlikely that both people in a match will be chosen from the same Borough, but Cassia and Xander are that exception, and they are both pleased. They are each given a “match microchip” to view on their “ports” once they return home. Match microchips contain information about your match, so you can get to know your match better. Even though they have known each other for years, Cassia puts the microchip into her home’s port. And then something unpredictable, irregular, and seemingly erroneous happens, which, in a society built on predictability, regularity, and precision, stuns Cassia. While watching the match microchip about Xander, a face other than Xander’s flashes on the screen. And she knows who it is: Ky Markham, a boy who cannot be matched with anyone, because he has been classified an “aberration” by the Society because of some unsanctioned actions that his father took. And Cassia knows Xander is the match for her, or is he? Ever since his face appeared on the screen, Cassia cannot stop thinking about Ky, and the Society Officials are trying desperately to recover from this error.
Critical Evaluation: As far as Dystopian novels go, Matched is a great one. Condie weaves intricate details of a freedomless, future society with the authentic thoughts and feelings of a 17-year-old girl. Matched is its own novel, with nods to the dystopian novels, particularly The Giver and The Hunger Games, who have come before it. The voice of Cassia is strong and clear as she struggles with her feelings, her obligations, and her new found perspective on the society she has lived in and followed the rules for all of her life. The reach of the Society’s control is demonstrated again and again, by small events in addition to the larger ones. For example, Cassia receives an artifact from her grandfather for her matching ceremony. Artifacts have mostly been disposed of, as they are considered unnecessary, but her grandfather has held on to this one, a metal compact, from Cassia’s grandmother. In a tiny, unnoticeable compartment Cassia finds a small slip of paper with a bit of a poem written on it. Most poetry has been eliminated from Cassia’s society, except for a few works that have been archived. This bit of a poem was on an older type of paper, and Cassia was fairly sure that if she put the paper in the incinerator at her home, Society Officials would be able to determine that a foreign, even forbidden, object had been incinerated. She could get her whole family in trouble for burning a wisp of paper, so she finds another way. And this way of thinking, this trying to outsmart Society Officials, continues as Cassia starts to see her way of life differently. This book is accessible for teens of all ages and its message leaves much to be discussed and considered.
Matched was favorably reviewed and received several awards and honors. Matched is a New York Times Best Seller, was named number six on YALSA’s 2011 Teen’s Choice Top Ten, was on the 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Readers and Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers lists, and was on Publishers Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010 list as well.
Reader’s Annotation: Cassia lives in a “Society” where everything is determined for her and the rest of the members of the Society. So, when something unplanned happens, when there is a glitch, Cassia is stunned out of her rule following and starts looking for the truth.
Information about the Author: Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who keeps her license current, as she says, “just in case,” (Condie, 2011). She lives outside of Salt Lake City, UT with her husband and three sons.
Matched is the first book in a trilogy, something I did not know until I was doing research for this blog post. The second book of the trilogy is Crossed, which was released November, 1, 2011, and the third, and final, book of the trilogy is scheduled to be released in November 2012.
Genre: Science Fiction
Subgenres/Themes: Science Fiction: Dystopia
Topics Covered: Freedom, Choice, Love, Conformity
Curriculum Ties: Social Science, Political Science
- Would you choose to be matched or to be a single?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 18
Challenge Issues: There are no obvious challenge issues associated with this book. Preparation for any challenge can include the librarian’s: reading of the book, adhering to the library’s collection development department, and possessing reviews of the book from well-regarded sources.
Why is this book included? I found out about this book from a classmate in this course, I was excited to read it because it was fairly current, and I had not heard of it before.
Condie, A. (2011). Bio. Retrieved from http://www.allysoncondie.com/bio/
Plot Summary: Kagome lives in modern-day Japan, but on her 15th birthday she falls down a well on her family’s sacred grounds and emerges hundreds of years in the past. The Japan she has entered is full of magical creatures and dangerous monsters. Kagome’s arrival in the past creates quite a bit of buzz, as she is the spitting image of Kikyo, a warrior who died many years before. Even Kikyo’s, now elderly, sister is confused by this young girl who favors her long dead sister. Kikyo died holding the powerful Jewel of Four Stones, and her likeness (Kagome) inadvertently releases InuYasha from the spell that Kikyo put on him many decades before. Inu-Yasha is part demon, part dog, as his pointy ears indicate. At first he is hostile toward Kikyo, but when the Jewel of Four Stones falls from Kikyo’s body and shatters he realizes they must work together to put the powerful and ancient jewel back together.
Critical Evaluation: The story line is exciting and the illustrations expressive and imaginative. I am not familiar with manga, so it took some careful reading to understand the story; however, I do not believe manga fans would have the same difficulty. This is book one of a large series that has also been made into a manga cartoon series for television, which is also very popular. Amazon reader reviews by manga fans call the artwork “beautiful” and call Takahashi “magical” (Customer Reviews, 2005). InuYasha, as a series, has been well received by critics and manga fans alike. “Manga volumes from InuYasha have been popular in Japan, taking high places in rankings listing sales. In 2001, the manga won the Shogakukan Manga Award for best shōnen manga title of the year. In North America, the manga volumes have appeared various times in the New York Times and Diamond Distributions top selling lists,” (Wikipedia, 2011).
A note about me and manga: Let me just start out by saying that I have never been a comic book fan, which is in one way surprising because I am a very visual person, I love picture books, and any novel with added visual elements thrills me. But, comic books are difficult for me to read, my mind seems unable to integrate the illustrations with the text and come up with anything meaningful. Manga brings that confusion up a level, as there are words that are totally unfamiliar to me and I have no context for the settings or the storylines. I actually read another manga book for this blog, but did not understand it enough to write about. So, it is with these major limitations that I reviewed InuYasha, with some significant help from the internet.
Reader’s Annotation: When Kagome falls down a well and lands hundreds of years in the past she must join forces with half-demon dog boy, InuYasha, in order to survive.
Information about the Author: Rumiko Takahashi was born in Japan in 1957. As a teen she was interested in manga, but not more so than any other high schooler. Then, while in college, she enrolled in “Gekiga Sonjuku, a manga school that was known for the demanding nature of its founder, Kazuo Koike,” (Acres, n.d.). It was at Gekiga Sonjuku that Takahashi’s skills and talents developed and she was well on her way to becoming a manga creator.
InuYashi is one of several manga series by Takahashi, who is extremely prolific. Other Takahashi series include: Rin-ne and Ranma, among others. According to Takahashi’s biography, “Inu-Yasha marked a major change in the way she presented her most mainstream works. It was much darker and decidedly non-comedic when compared to the works that had come before,” (Acres, n.d.).
Below is some fascinating information about Takahashi from Wikipedia:
Takahashi is one of the wealthiest individuals, and the most affluent manga artists in Japan. The manga she creates (and its anime adaptations) are popular worldwide, where they have been translated into a variety of languages. Takahashi is also the best selling female comics artist in history; as of February 2010, over 170 million copies of her various works had been sold. She has twice won the Shogakukan Manga Award: once in 1980 for Urusei Yatsura, and again in 2001 for InuYasha. (Wikipedia, 2011)
Genre/Format: Alternative Format: Graphic Novels
SubGenre/Themes: Graphic Novels: Manga
Curriculum Ties: n/a
- Falling down a well and ending up hundreds of years in the past
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 10 to 18 to adult
Challenge Issues: In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors.
Why is this book included? Manga Graphic novels are very popular and often reach out to reluctant readers.
Amazon.com. (2005). InuYasha, Vol. 1: Customer Reviews. Retrieved from Amazon.com
Acres, H. & Acres, D. (n.d.). Rumiko Takahashi Biography. Retrieved from http://www.furinkan.com/takahashi/index.html
Wikipedia. (2011). InuYasha. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/InuYasha
Asher, J. (2008). Th1rteen R3asons Why. New York, NY: Razorbill. ISBN: 159514188X. 336 pages.
Asher, J. (2008). Th1rteen R3asons Why (unabridged audio book). Wiseman, D. & Johnstone, J. (Readers). New York, NY: Listening Library. ISBN: 073935650X.
Plot Summary: When Clay Jenkins comes home to find a package that was mailed to him with no return address he is instantly curious. When he opens the package to find 13 cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah Baker, his mind starts to race. Hannah recently committed suicide, and the cassette tapes list the thirteen reasons why she did it. Clay is one of the thirteen reasons, which confuses him, as he does not know what he might have done to contribute to her taking her life. Clay must listen to the tapes if he wants to know more, and part of him does not want to know more. But, part of him feels compelled, for himself and for Hannah, to listen to the tapes and hear the words she intended for him and the others who got the box the box before him and who would get the box after him.
So, he started listening. And once Clay started listening to the tapes he kept listening. Hanna’s words directed him on a zigzagging tour across their home town where he stood and listened in the places where significant things happened to Hannah.
Critical Evaluation: Dramatic and moving, Th1rteen R3asons Why brings readers into the depths of the mind of a girl who commits suicide BEFORE she commits suicide. Often, in the case of suicide, survivors are left with dozens of questions about why a person might have taken her/his own life. What those around her could have done to prevent it. Survivors also often feel guilt that they might have done something to cause the suicide or that they did not do enough to prevent it. Hannah Baker takes the control herself by recording cassette tapes prior to her suicide that answer many of the questions people who knew her asked. And the answers were not easy to hear. This book has an honesty and authenticity that is likely to create empathy in its readers. There is no one in the book who is blameless, even Hannah, and that is not the point. The point is that life, and death, are complicated. We all have a responsibility to stand up for what is right and speak for those who may not be able to at that moment. There is a strong and powerful message in this compelling and disturbing story.
The book’s text switches between Hannah’s voice on the cassette tapes (in italics) and Clay’s thoughts. This is an especially good option for listening to the audio book, because listening to Hannah on the audio book parallels Clay’s listening to Hannah’s cassette tapes. The audio book is well acted, with sincerity and feeling.
Th1rteen R3asons Why was highly praised by critics and was honored several times. In 2008 YALSA named Th1rteen R3asons Why on the following lists: Best Books for Young Adults, Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults.
Reader’s Annotation: When Clay Jenkins finds a package with cassette tapes in it he is stunned to find that they were recorded by Hannah Baker, a classmate of his who committed suicide two weeks earlier.
Information about the Author: Th1rteen R3asons Why was Jay Asher’s first published novel, and what a debut. His most recent novel, The Future of Us, with Carolyn Mackler, was released November 21, 2011.
Here is the entire biography of Jay Asher from the Th1rteen R3asons Why website
JAY ASHER has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore, and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping.
Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel. (Asher, n.d.)
The Th1rteen R3asons Why website is a place for an ongoing dialogue about the book. It also provides suicide prevention resources.
Category: Issues: Physical, Mental, and Emotional Concerns: Mental, Emotional, Behavioral Problems
Curriculum Ties: Suicide
- If your classmate committed suicide and you were somehow involved in her decision, would you want to know why?
Reading Level/Interest Age: Ages 13 – 19
Challenge Issues: Suicide. In response to any challenges, one can refer to the library’s collection development policies. Also, there are several positive reviews of the book, and it has won several awards and honors.
Why is this book included? Based on recommendations from YALSA lists I listened to the audio book of Th1rteen R3asons Why. While it was very intense, it also feels very important.
Asher, J. (n.d.) Thirteen Reasons Why: The Author. Retrieved from http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/author.php