10 Books about censorship

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (1953)
    1. This chilling novel is about the restriction of human freedom. It is set in a future dystopia (a nightmare universe) where books are banned and television screens are everywhere, lining the walls of houses and forcing people to constantly live glued to an alternative reality. The main character of the book, Guy Montag, is a fireman and, in this book, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His team’s job is to burn books, which are illegal, and destroy the houses that they are found in. The imagery in the book suggests that the authorities are taking away the human right to ask questions, develop opinions and gain intelligence. By burning the very things which help people learn and understand the world they live in, they are taking away personal choice and liberty, stopping people thinking and almost making them become like robots.

  2. Maudie and Me and the Dirty Book by Betty Miles (1980)
    1. This is a book about censorship, told from a student’s perspective in a fictional school. An older student volunteers to read a book to the younger students in her school, and nobody could predict the drama that happens. The book that the older student reads is about a dog who has puppies, and the younger students start asking questions about sex and reproduction. There is outrage amongst parents and in the media, and a large school meeting about censorship is held. The storyline focuses on questions around age and exposure to certain knowledge (namely sex education); at what age do you think kids should learn about the 'birds and the bees'? 
  3. The Year They Burned the Books by Nancy Garden (1999)
    1. The editor of a high school newspaper writes an article in favour of a new ‘health curriculum’ which supports the distribution of free condoms in school, and honest discussions about homosexuality. This causes controversy amongst the other students in the school, and an alternative group is made against the new curriculum, called ‘Families for Traditional Values’ (FTV). FTV want to stop the newspaper reporting and actively reduce their freedom of speech because they believe their discussions to be morally 'wrong'.
  4. Places I Never Meant to Be by Judy Blume (1999)
    1. Places I Never Meant to Be is a collection of short stories put together by Judy Blume to support the National Coalition Against Censorship (http://ncac.org) whose motto is: “Freedom to explore. Freedom to think. Freedom to create.” The stories are all written by authors who have fought censorship throughout their writing careers. The majority of them feel that it is up to parents to choose what age children should learn about certain issues, but they are also encouraging of young people simply reading and exploring ideas for their own enjoyment.
      The stories all revolve around protagonists (main characters) being trapped in a particular situation; they are stuck in places they didn’t intend to be, either physically or mentally. It’s suggested that reading about people in difficult circumstances can be helpful for people struggling with similar problems, so this book gives the reader freedom to explore different ideas in a safe and interesting way.
  5. Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise (1998)
    1. This book is about the drinking fountain in Dry Creek Middle School. It’s broken and the school principal wants to fix it. He hires a woman to come in who has more of an artistic vision than anyone expected! The School Board President and her friend have a secret reason for wanting the original fountain to remain, and the school’s History students set about investigating the reasons for the tensions both in school and for the wider town itself.
      Censorship is explored through concealment of motives and hidden information.
  6. 1984 by George Orwell (1949)
    1. This shocking text is all about the restriction of personal freedom. Humans are watched wherever they go, and society is oppressed and controlled by the government. There is a total ban on individuality and everyone must live in the same way as dictated by those in charge. The main character bravely decides to try to break free from the restrictions that are forced onto him but faces many difficult challenges ahead of him. One of the themes in 1984 is ‘Newspeak’, a version of English that the government introduces to try to put a stop to the freedom of thought. George Orwell, the author of the book, thought that is was almost impossible to know what an idea means without having the words to describe it. So by inventing a language that is shortened, reduced and less descriptive, he’s arguing that the government can censor and control our ability to say what we believe in (i.e. free speech). 
  7. The Day They Came to Arrest the Book by Nat Hentoff (1982)
    1. This powerful book concerns a teacher, Nora Baines, teaching her class the novel 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'. One of her students thinks that the book is inappropriate due to some of the racist language it uses. The student talks to his dad and together they ask for the book to be banned from the school. The school’s head teacher has asked Nora to ban other books in the past, and she doesn’t agree that novels should be censored, so carries on teaching it and asks for it to be sent to the school censorship committee for their opinions. Some students leave the class, and some remain to decide for themselves how they feel about the text.

  8. The Sledding Hill by Chris Crutcher (2005)
    1. This story has a tragic beginning; the main character, Eddie, loses both his father and his best friend in a very short space of time. Whilst he is trying to cope with the grief, a local priest starts a campaign to remove one of the books from Eddie’s class. Eddie really enjoyed this particular book and doesn’t think it’s right for it to be banned because he found comfort in the characters within the novel. There are two opposite groups of children that Eddie finds himself caught between; the ones that like the book that are being punished for it, and the ones who are involved in the church and want Eddie to join them in the fight to ban the book. Censorship is the biggest issue in this story, and the reader must think about which group of children they agree with most.

  9. The Landry News by Andrew Clements (1999)
    1. This is a tale about a lazy teacher who has students who are anything but! One student, in particular, motivates him into action through journalism; the class set about creating their own newspaper that gets a lot of attention in ways nobody expects. The entire town has a huge discussion about it, and questions are raised as to whether the teacher will get fired for encouraging the students to broadcast news in such a way. Through freedom of speech and expression, the lazy teacher is reformed and ends up delivering the best and most powerful teaching of his life! There is a message in the book about role reversal; this teacher needed to learn from his pupils as much as they needed to learn from him.

  10. Americus by M. K. Reed (2011)
    1. This fascinating story is told through a comic strip! It focuses on a teenage boy named Neil, and his best friend’s mum, who really tries to have Neil’s favourite book series banned from the library in his town. She is a Christian and feels that the fantasy genre is not appropriate as it offends her personal beliefs. It is suggested that the author of this book based this situation on some real-life examples that have happened. For example, there are some places where books such as Harry Potter are banned because some believe them to promote witchcraft and set bad examples for young people. The storyline grows and explores Neil’s own free speech and personal relationships at school with different people with differing opinions; he uses his experiences to build up enough confidence to give a talk at the library’s board meeting about book-banning.