Reading into the reasons certain books get banned

Event calls attention to targeted works

September 26, 2002|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

It's a blockbuster week for bibliophiles.

Locally, the Baltimore Book Festival, a three-day celebration of reading, begins tomorrow in Mount Vernon (see LIVE! for complete details). And throughout the country, libraries are observing Banned Books Week, an annual celebration of the right to read.

"We can read anything we want in this country," said Rebecca Frager, a library media specialist at Woodlawn High School. "This means we have a wealth of information, and we should rejoice in it."

For their part, Frager and co-worker Cheryl Quinn gathered several books that have been banned or challenged at various times and put them on display at Woodlawn's library. The librarians also handed out a 32-question quiz to students, challenging them to match each title to the reason the book was banned or challenged.

Frager said the books flew off the shelves like best sellers.

"The fact that a book has been banned seems to tweak readers' interest," she said. "They would pick a book up and say, `Oooh, this has been banned!' and walk off with it."

This year, 448 books have been banned or challenged in the United States, according to the American Library Association. Most often, a book is banned for content deemed "inappropriate" or "sexually explicit." Sometimes, however, the grounds for a ban are much cloudier.

Frager and Quinn's quiz proves that. Here is a list of 10 works of literature - both contemporary and classic - included on their quiz, and the reasons they were banned or challenged. Try your luck at matching them up. Some answers might surprise you - and get you running to your nearest library.

Titles of banned books:

1. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

3. My Friend Flicka, by Mary O'Hara.

4. The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss.

5. Where's Waldo? by Martin Handford.

6. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

7. The Odyssey, by Homer.

8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling

9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis

10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain.

Reasons they were banned or challenged:

A. "Contains a tiny drawing of a woman lying on the beach wearing a bikini bottom, but no top."

B. Condones the use of alcohol.

C. Challenged for "promoting witchcraft and beliefs in the occult among children."

D. Poet's description of being raped as a young girl.

E. Challenged in Howard County in 1990 for "graphic violence, mysticism and gore."

F. Banned in California in 1989 because it "criminalizes the foresting industry."

G. "Expresses Greek ideals of freedom -- dangerous in autocratic Rome."

H. The main character "not only itched, but scratched," and used the word "sweat when he should have said perspiration."

I. Banned in China for portraying animals and humans on the same level. "Animals should not use human language."

J. Removed from fifth- and sixth-grade reading lists because the book uses the word "bitch" to refer to a female dog, as well as the word "damn."

(Answers are on Page 5E.)

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