Archive | September 2012

Banned Book Week 2 – Interview with Ellen Hopkins

Me and Ellen Hopkins at ALA 2012

We love Banned Books here at For Those Who Know (so much that we’re doing a giveaway!). To help us celebrate Banned Books Week in style we caught up with the YA verse novel world’s Commander in Chief, Ellen Hopkins, to give us her thoughts about being “banned”.

FTWK: You’ve appeared on the “Most Challenged Books List” several times. How did you react when you first learned you’d made the list?

Ellen Hopkins: By the time I made the “Top Ten” most challenged list, I’d learned of several challenges to my books, so it wasn’t really a surprise. I will say, however, that when I first heard that my books had been challenged, it shocked me. I don’t remember ever having someone tell me what I could or couldn’t read. Not my own parents, or teachers or librarians. The idea that some random person could try to decide what others could read felt rather Draconian, and still does. My generation fought for certain rights, including civil and equal and most definitely first amendment rights. This is decades later. How have we not come farther?

FTWK: According to the ALA there are nearly three times as many challenges for “sexually explicit” as for “violence”. What do you think this says about our society?

Crank (Crank, #1)EH: It says a lot, doesn’t it? Why are people so afraid of giving their kids necessary information that might prevent an unwanted pregnancy or disease? But they’re not worried about the violent nature of video games or movies or books because…? Our young people are being desensitized to violence, and it’s showing. 

 FTWK:Most challenges come from parents and are aimed at schools or school libraries. What is a parent’s role in determining what their child reads at school? How old would your own children need to be before you’d want them to read your books?

EH: I think parents should know what their children are reading, and if they truly object, they should tell their kids why, rather than summarily removing a book from their possession. As for my books, it really depends on the reader. Each child’s realm of experience is so different. And as for my own kids, I would have been happy for them to read my books at twelve, if they were so inclined.

FTWK: Bonus Question! I once complained to a librarian about a book called ‘My First Book of Science’ which was shelved in the kids’ science section but was blatantly a religious/creationist text. I didn’t want it removed, only re-shelved. Under what circumstance might you feel like challenging a book?

 Impulse (Impulse, #1)EH: Um. How about if the writing sucks? No, not really. I might challenge a book in a school (not public) library if it advocated violent anarchy, especially if it gave a recipe for the tools. I’m not saying the book shouldn’t be available at all, just not in a place where young, emotion-driven adults could have too easy access to “Pipe Bombs 101.” So what’s the difference between that and my books? First, mine are fiction, not instruction manuals. And, second, my books illustrate outcomes to choices. The Anarchist’s Cookbook does not.

That’s funny because I was just talking with my husband and his cousin about all the explosions and mayhem they concocted as teens. I do think we have to be conscious of the sometimes dangerous messages that young people get from books, especially young men, who are so prone to such catastrophic mistakes. (see my post on Angelhorn, I ♥ Broken Boys for more on this)

Thanks so much for your thoughts, Ellen. Here’s to another year on the Most Challenged List. I hope to make the list one day myself. Given that the plot of my verse novel AUDACIOUS hinges on the C word, I think I have a pretty good chance! And don’t forget to enter to win Sonya Sones’s WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW in our Banned Books Week Giveaway.

This entry was posted on September 30, 2012. 3 Comments

September Verse Novel Reviews – Week 4

Teen Reads reviews TILT by Ellen Hopkins

Elephant Rag reviews EDDIES’ WAR by Carol Fisher Saller

Vegan YA Nerds reviews WHAT DOES BLUE FEEL LIKE  by Jessica Davidson

What Does Blue Feel Like?

Lambda Literary reviews OCTOBER MOURNING by Lesléa Newman. Publisher’s Weekly adds some thoughts.

Reading in Winter reviews I HEART YOU YOU HAUNT ME by Lisa Schroeder

Cardigan and Coffee Bookmarks reviews SOLD by Patricia McCormick

A Librarian’s Library reviews CRANK by Ellen Hopkins

Banned Books Week Blog Hop and Giveaway! Sonya Sones Interview

Click the image to visit other participating blogs.

One of my favorite times of year is Banned Books Week.  Banned Books Week is an annual event, much of it library driven, celebrating the freedom to read. Every year librarians collate of list of the books that are most commonly “challenged” (that is, there has been an attempt to ban them from a particular library or school). For many authors, making this list is almost like winning an Oscar both in term of sales and readership (books on the list almost always see an increase in sales) but also in terms of adding their name to a prominent list of authors who publicly speak out about censorship and free speech.What My Mother Doesn't Know (What My Mother Doesn't Know, #1)

As discussed in a recent post, verse novels seem particularly well suited to the type of material that is likely to be questioned by parents and library patrons. So in honor of Banned Books Week I’m excited to invite verse novelist Sonya Sones to share her thoughts about being “banned” for “nudity, offensive language; sexually explicit, sexism, and unsuited to age group” (NUDITY? That always cracks me up).

Here’s what she had to say:

FTWK: Sonya, you’ve appeared on the “Most Challenged Books List” several times. How did you react when you first learned you’d made the list?

SS: I was shocked, because there is nothing in What My Mother Doesn’t Know that is even very racy—no drugs, no alcohol, no bad language, and only a little bit of kissing!

What My Mother Doesn’t Know was on the American Library Association’s list of the top 10 most banned books in 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2011. I dance a happy little jig every time my book makes the list again. Not because this will increase sales (though it does) and not because it will lead to more teens discovering and reading my book (though it will). The reason I love being on the list is that when I am, I get invited to speak at schools about why books shouldn’t be banned. Which is wonderful, because there is still the possibility that I can lead a child in the right direction, before they’ve been dragged too far down the wrong path by a misguided parent.

The last time I spoke on this topic, at the Pegasus School, I told the students about the controversy that arose in Texas when Ellen Hopkins was uninvited to their young adult literature festival after a parent complained about the content of one of her books. I explained that some of the other authors who were asked to speak at the festival decided to stay home, in order to show their solidarity with Ellen. Then, I asked the students what they would have done, if they’d been one of those other authors. A student instantly raised her hand and said, “ I would have accepted the invitation, but when I got there, instead of reading from my own book, I would have read from Ellen’s.” How magnificently devious!

But if being devious is what it takes to protect our right to read the books we choose to read, then so be it. We are, after all, living in a country where people have even tried to ban the dictionary!

Sonya Sones

FTWK: According to the ALA there are nearly three times as many challenges for “sexually explicit” as for “violence” What do you think this says about our society?

SS: That they are more uptight about sex, than they are about violence. It’s a shame too. If all those people who are trying to get books banned would expend all that energy trying to get gun control laws enacted, this country would be headed in a much healthier direction all around.

FTWK: Most challenges come from parents and are aimed at schools or school libraries. What is a parents role in determining what their child reads at school? How old would your own children need to be before you’d want them to read your books?

SS: I didn’t allow my own children to read my books until they were twelve, which is the recommended age label in all of my YA books.

I think it’s an excellent thing that parents are concerned with what their children are reading. It’s their right to determine what their own child is allowed to read. But it is not their right to attempt to dictate what everyone else’s children should be allowed to read. Because, as the 2010 United States Ambassador of Children’s Books, Katherine Paterson, once said, “All of us can think of a book…that we hope none of our children or any other children have taken off the shelf. But if I have the right to remove that book from the shelf—that work I abhor—then you also have exactly the same right and so does everyone else. And then, we have no books left on the shelf for any of us.”

FTWK: Bonus Question! I once complained to a librarian about a book called ‘My First Book of Science’ which was shelved in the kids’ science section but was blatantly a religious/creationist text. I didn’t want it removed, only re-shelved. Under what circumstance might you feel like challenging a book?

SS: I would never challenge a book. I would just make sure that my own child didn’t read it, if I didn’t think it was appropriate for them.

Thanks so much Sonya, for giving us your insight. To celebrate Banned Books Week I’m also participating in a Blog Hop Giveaway. Comment below about any “banned” book you’ve read or would like to read and you’ll be entered to win Sonya’s challenged novel WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN’T KNOW.  Following this blog, or me on Twitter, tweeting this giveaway, or adding one of my books to your Goodreads shelves doubles your entry. Let me know if you’ve done it! You will find a list of challenged  books here. And don’t forget to visit other participating blogs.

This entry was posted on September 27, 2012. 33 Comments

September Verse Novel Reviews – week 3

Bit of a slow week, verse novel review wise, but I managed to track down a few. Remember to let me know if you are reviewing a verse novel so I can include it.

Huntington News and Literally Jen review TILT by Ellen Hopkins

BOOK REVIEW: 'Tilt': Young Adult Look at the Characters in Ellen Hopkins'  'Triangles'

Devour Books reviews AMBER WAS BRAVE, ESSIE WAS SMART  by Vera B Williams

Born Bookish reviews GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING by April Halprin Wayland

This entry was posted on September 22, 2012. 1 Comment

ELLEN HOPKINS DOES IT AGAIN!

Happy News on Twitter today and big news for all verse novel affictionados. Ellen Hopkins’s new novel TILT debuted at # 3 on the NYT bestseller list! Ellen is no stranger to the NYT bestsellers list of course but I couldn’t be more thrilled for her. TILT is a fantastic book and Ellen is a fantastic person. She continues to be a trailblazer for all verse novelists both in her unique approach to the form and in her repeated appearances on bestsellers lists – something we can all aspire to. Congratulations Ellen!

September Verse Novel Reviews – Week 2

Out on A Limb reviews FIVE verse novels as an update on the Verse Novel Reading Challenge

I Eat Words and A Backwards Story both review TILT by Ellen Hopkins

Teen Scene reviews THE WILD BOOK by Margarita Engle

The School Library Journal reviews THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate

The Andover Townsman reviews IDENTICAL by Ellen Hopkins

Identical

Born Bookish reviews KARMA by Cathy Ostlere

Devour Books reviews GIRL COMING IN FOR A LANDING  by April Halprin Wayland and REACHING FOR SUN by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

September New Release Giveaway Hop: OCTOBER MOURNING

https://i0.wp.com/booktwirps.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/SeptemberNRLarge-wpcf_300x300.pngBook Twirps is sponsoring a great giveaway this month; it’s all about new releases. And what a month for new releases! There have been some great ones already and there will be more as the month progresses. Certainly one of my favorite reads this year and one that everyone should read is OCTOBER MOURNING by Lesléa Newman. I reviewed it a little while ago am delighted to share it with another verse novel enthusiast as a book that does something new  with the form.

To enter follow this blog or me on twitter, or add my upcoming verse novel AUDACIOUS to your Goodreads to-read list. Leave a comment telling me what you’ve done and you’ll be entered to win! This contest is international.

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard

Here’s what Goodreads says about OCTOBER MOURNING:

A masterful poetic exploration of the impact of Matthew Shepard’s murder on the world.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

This entry was posted on September 15, 2012. 27 Comments