Monday, September 24, 2018

Property of the Rebel Librarian - by Allison Varnes

Published just in time for Banned Books Week this young adult novel tells the story of seventh-grader June Harper, whose parents remove all the books from her bedroom when they discover that she is reading a library book - The Makings of a Witch - of which, they inform her, they do not approve. Furthermore, they now need to vet all of her reading material. To make matters worse, they decide that everything in her middle-school library is potentially dangerous material, and have most of the books removed, along with the beloved librarian Ms. Bradshaw! Parents, teachers, and the school principal advise the students that they will face "serious consequences" if they are caught reading any un-approved reading material. This includes any text
containing profanity, drugs, violence, rock/rap music, witchcraft, drinking, smoking, or rebellion of any kind
There is good satire here. The "rebellious' young people just want a good book and a quiet place to read. The stealthy pre-teens are inventive in finding ways to hide their dangerous habit from the adults. Meanwhile their parents receive warnings reminiscent of  the cautions we might be more likely to expect about drugs or sex.

June discovers a Little Free Library in her neighborhood and uses the books therein to start her own underground library at school. She deems herself the "Rebel Librarian" and protects her classmates from discovery by having each one use a superhero pseudonym when checking out a book.

As I expected there were a lot of references to banned books here. And while Erica Jong's Fear of Flying is not among those specifically mentioned, I did see an ironic parallel between Jong's work and Varner's. In both books the heroine finds pages of the books she wants to read covered up. In Fear Isadora discovers oak tags shielding Nazi images in German library books, and in Rebel June's parents glue index cards to some of the passages of her book, which they then complete with "alternate" wording! Isadora uses the old-fashioned steam method to find out what is underneath the covers. June had only to use her memory. Her parents seemed to have forgotten that she'd already read the books!

Will people ever learn that censoring materials will only make them that much more attractive?

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