Thursday, September 29, 2011

The TTLG 2011 Picture Book Celebration: Book two hundred and seventy-two

This is banned books week, and in honor of this important week, I have a review of Americus, a graphic novel that shows, in a fictional setting, how banning some books affects young readers. This is an extraordinary book, one that readers of all ages should read.

MK Reed
Illustrated by Jonathan Hill
Graphic Novel
For ages 12 and up
First Second Books, 2011, 978-1-59643-601-5
For Neil Barton and his friend Danny Burns, life in the little town of Americus is not much fun. Neil and Danny just want to be left alone, and one of the few things that they can do to escape their lives it to read. In particular, the boys share a love of a fantasy series, which is about a character called Apathea Ravenchilde.
   The boys are coping pretty well considering, when Danny’s mother Nancy decides that the newest Apathea book is “wicked.” She takes the book back to the library and rips it up in front of Charlotte, the librarian. Back at home, Danny and his mother have a blazing row, which causes Danny’s parents to send him to military school camp. Neil is now friendless and he is going to have to navigate the perils of junior high alone.
   Following the removal of her son, Nancy Burns declares war on the Apathea Ravenchilde books. She wants them removed from the public library because she thinks that they glorify witchcraft, violence, and countless other immoral beliefs and behaviors. Neil is appalled and angry. He feels helpless against Mrs. Burns’ religious tirades and her virulent indignation. How can he, a shy, withdrawn, and unpopular boy, do anything to stop the library board from banning the books?
   In this powerful and sometimes disturbing book, MK Reed and Jonathan Hill explore a very explosive issue, the banning of books in public libraries. Through the eyes of Neil and Danny, we see how the banning of books affects young readers, and we see how important it is to stand up for what you believe in, even if it scares you to do so.

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