Banned Books Week: Looking for Alaska and everything Roald Dahl has ever written

This post is part of a series for Banned Books Week 2014 and some information may be outdated. Questions? Please reach out to us online or at the Information Desk.

Photo Description (above): Nataly Blas, Business Librarian

What is your favorite Banned Book?

Looking for Alaska by John Green.

Why is Banned Books Week important to you?

I love Banned Books Week and think it is important simply because I strongly believe in the freedom to read. Additionally, it is crucial to promote critical thinking and imagination, as well as tolerance for the viewpoints and artistic expressions of others.

Looking over the American Library Association’s lists of banned and challenged books, which have you found the most surprising and why?

I am not usually surprised at the banned books list as much as discouraged. Often these “controversial” topics could serve as catalyst for conversations on social issues and for a better understanding of each other’s perspectives.


Carol Raby, Library Event Specialist

What is your favorite Banned Book?

Roald Dahl books: The Witches, The BFG, James and the Giant Peach. Also Shel Silverstein- his poetry titles and The Giving Tree. And many more!!

Why is Banned Books Week important to you?

It is so important to have the right to choose what one reads! I I want to make my own decision what is right for me, and I want to facilitate the opportunity for everybody to do that. Banned Books Week highlights the freedom to read, one of our basic human rights. Other countries censor heavily. Breaking Stalin’s Nose is a great book to read about this issue.

Looking over the American Library Association’s lists of banned and challenged books, which have you found the most surprising and why?

The banned Shel Silverstein poetry surprises me. Really now, how can people NOT realize how funny he is? A sense of humor is a wonderful thing.

You mentioned that you had the opportunity to meet a couple of writers and illustrators whose work has been challenged. Can you tell us about that?

Meeting S. E. Hinton, author of The Outsiders, was full of surprises for me. Somehow I didn’t realize she was a woman. I was shocked to learn that she wrote the story very quickly when she was 15 and just put it into a drawer in her bedroom. When she was 16 she showed the story to a close friend who showed it to her mother, an author. With Hinton’s permission her friend’s mom sent the story to her agent and the rest is history. The book was published when she was 18 and it has been in print for almost 50 years! I think it is as current today as it was in 1967. The book was #43 on the ALA list of most frequently banned books from 1990-2000. It has been most frequently challenged because the story depicts underage drug and alcohol use, gang violence, underage smoking, slang, and my personal favorite – dysfunctional family life.

Henry Cole is the author or illustrator of about 80 books. He was given the Upstanders Award for the book, And Tango Makes Three. The book, about 2 male penguins who choose each other as mates and are given an egg to raise by a New York zookeeper, is frequently at the top of the Banned Books List over the past 10 years, because it depicts an alternative family style. I asked Henry what it is like to be the creator of such a notable banned book. Cole said that his editor gave him a warning about taking on the project, but he was steadfastly committed to doing the project from the moment he was asked to. When I share this book aloud I think of Henry Cole and how he embraced the project even knowing that once it was published it could impact his career in a negative way.