Challenged book chosen for library book club
SILVERTHORNE – Banned Books Week kicks off today, and the North Branch Library’s book club for middle and high school students is reading a book that frequents challenged book lists. But at least two parents don’t agree with the selection.”Killing Mr. Griffin” is the first book the club, headed up by North Branch manager Janet Good, will be discussing at its Oct. 2 meeting. The book by Lois Duncan is number 33 on the American Library Association’s (ALA) Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 list. According to the ALA, a challenge is an attempt to remove or censor materials based upon the objections of a person or group. A successful challenge results in a ban.”I try to choose books that have had lasting value in the young adult area,” Good said.
“Killing Mr. Griffin” is about a group of students who carry out a mean prank, kidnapping a teacher. Unbeknownst to the group, the teacher has a heart condition and dies while in their care. One of the students is, as Good put it, “mentally unbalanced” and kills another individual. In the end, they all get punished, and throughout the book, a character named Susan serves as the voice of reason but gets roped into helping the group. “It does have two swear words in it, but what these parents were objecting to was the plot,” Good said.Ron and Cheryl Bristol of Silverthorne questioned if the material is suitable for students as young as sixth grade. The couple has two daughters, Lauren, 14, and Jessica, 13, that were to participate in the upcoming discussion of the book. The girls are homeschooled by their parents.”When we got it from the library for my kids to read, my wife noticed the title and looked at the summary on the back cover and decided she should read it first,” Ron Bristol said. “For older kids, high school kids, I could see it being OK. For middle school, it didn’t seem appropriate to us.”
According to Good, the book has been used in middle and high schools for discussion since it was published in 1978 and was one of the ALA’s Best of the Best Books for Young Adults in 1978 and 1994. “The purpose we’re using it for is a discussion about peer pressure and not being roped into something that you feel deep down is wrong,” she said. “We like to provide material for all ages and beliefs. If parents don’t want their children to read something, it’s up to them to monitor that.”And that’s exactly what the Bristols did and encourage other parents to do.”They need to make sure they’re comfortable with the books being selected for the book club,” Ron Bristol said. “We’re very comfortable with the idea of talking about controversial subjects. It doesn’t bother us at all. We like that to happen, but we didn’t see any educational value out of this book with it being appropriate for middle school students.”
The Bristols hope to continue to participate in the book club, but Bristol said his daughters won’t be able to for this book.The book club currently has nine students in sixth through 10th grade signed up to participate. The Friends of the Library, a nonprofit, fundraising group, purchased the books for the book club to give to the students.Jennifer Harper can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 248, or at email@example.com.
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