Sunday, September 24, 2017

Ban This Book, a Novel by Alan Gratz

If fourth-grader Amy Anne Ollinger were to be asked by Goodreads to name her absolute favorite book, it would definitely be From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Not that she doesn’t love other books, but this is the one she checks out of the school library over and over and over. So, imagine her shock when she goes to get it off the shelf yet again, and…it’s gone. 

And it’s not just From the Mixed-up Files that is no longer there. The librarian, Mrs. Jones, tells her that it was decided by the school board that it is inappropriate for the kids in her school to read. From the Mixed-up Files had been BANNED, along with 10 other books, all because one influential (read rich) parent, Mrs. Spencer, decided they should be.

After her parents buy Amy Anne her own copy of From the Mixed-up Files, she lends it to her best friend Rebecca, who has never read it. Then, someone else asks to borrow it, and Amy Anne discovers that Danny, a boy in her class, has a copy of When Helen Comes, which was on the list and he’s willing to lend it to her to read.

As copies of the banned books begin to be swapped back and forth among the fourth-graders, it soon becomes apparent that something needs to be done to keep track of them. And so the Banned Books Locker Library, a/k/a the BBLL, is created in Amy Anne’s locker. And as more and more books are removed from the library’s shelves, thanks to Mrs. Spencer, the acquisitions for the BBLL expands accordingly, often with the help of other students.

Now, you know that the BBLL couldn’t continue for too long without the principal finding out, and she does, but not the way you would expect it to happen. And there are consequences, but one of the most important results of being discovered as President and Chief Librarian of the BBLL is that Amy Anne finds her voice and finally learns to speak up for herself about the things that bother her. And all the fourth graders learn that they can make a difference when they believe in their cause. Here, it’s censorship, because as Amy Anne explains: “Nobody has the right to tell you what books you can or can’t read. Except your parents.”

Ban This Book is a fun book with a serious subject and very serious message, but I believe it is one that kids will certainly think about as they realize that some of their favorite books have been challenged for all sorts of reasons. And, while this is an issue novel about censorship, it also addresses the idea that a school board can make rules for removing books from the library and then circumvent them willy-nilly to appease an influential parent and that isn't right. 

Amy Anne is a wonderful character. She’s a strong, intelligent champion for books and readers, and she is loyal to her friends. After being caught running the BBLL, she didn't rat out her friends that helped her in an effort to make things easier for herself - now, in my book, that is a good friend. 

There is an excellent in-depth Reader and Activity Guide at the end of the book about this that support state standards.

I should mention that every book mentioned in Ban This Book (and there are a lot) has been or is still being challenged. Is your favorite book in the sights of the censors?

This book is recommended for readers age 8+
This book was provided by the Tom Doherty Associates

How many books from Amy Anne’s Banned Books Locker Library have you read?

The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey, who makes an author visit to Amy Anne's school, is one of the most challenged book in America and he has something to say about banning book:

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday is a weekly event hosted by Shannon Messenger at
Book Ramblings, and Plenty of Shenanigans


  1. We both reviewed an Alan Gratz novel. This sounds like a must read. I love stories about kids standing up for what they believe. Thanks for the review.

  2. Such a great sounding plot. I can't wait to read this one and I've read six of the tiles on the banned book list.

  3. This one is going on my TBR list. High on the list. Thanks for the review.


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