My Farewell

May 22nd, 2015

Good Afternoon Readers,

 

Next week I will be attending the Book Expo of America, or BEA, which I’ve been looking forward to since the first weeks of my internship in January.  BEA is a huge trade show amongst both small and large publishers.  It’s bound to be exciting and I, for one, cannot wait.

But the excitement is bittersweet, for today is my last day in the Beaufort office.  I’ve been here since the first weeks of January, but, cliche as it sounds, I truly feel as if I have just started.  I’ve learned so much about the various processes that must occur before a book can be published, as well as all the publicity needed in order for it to be successful.  I’ve read countless manuscripts and my input has always mattered, I’ve proofread, created press releases, and managed to fit lengthy ideas into 140 character tweets.  I’ve loved interning here at Beaufort where I’ve learned not only about the editorial and publicity sides of publishing, but even a bit bit about distribution.  A small company was really the best introduction into the publishing world because of all the different aspects I was able to learn about.  I also could not have asked for friendlier or kinder people to learn from.

I’m going to miss it here, but I’m looking forward to whatever it is that awaits me next.

 

So long for now!

 

BEAUlores Umbridge

 

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Dr. Seuss and Children’s Lit

February 20th, 2015

Good Afternoon Readers,

As a Creative Writing major and a Children’s Studies minor, I am greatly interested in children’s and young adult literature. I’ve also grown up loving Dr. Seuss. My elementary school always celebrated Dr. Seuss Day, March 2nd, with green eggs, ham, and green bagels, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original, cartoon version) was one of my favorite Christmas movies growing up.

I also recently read, for the first time, The Lorax. The story is told by the unseen Onceler who, upon moving into a land that is home to Brown Bar-ba-loots, Humming-Fish, Swomee Swans, Truffula trees and the Lorax, decides to begin a business venture. In order to make knitted “thneeds,” the Onceler must cut down Truffula trees, which he does throughout the book, despite the Lorax insisting that the trees are vital to the survival of the other creatures and the land.

In so many of Seuss’s stories, amidst the colorful places, creative characters, and memorable rhymes, there is an important underlying message. In the case of The Lorax, these messages are the necessity of taking care of the environment and the consequences of greed. This ability, to write stories that teach lessons in a way that is not patronizing, is amongst the reasons why Dr. Seuss is still such a celebrated children’s author and why so many people are looking forward to July.

This July, as is already known by most I’m sure, a recently found manuscript of a book Seuss wrote many years ago will be published. What Pet Should I Get? will be released by Random House on July 28, to many readers’ delights.

Since it is only February, though, there are five months until the book’s release. So while you wait, why not pick up a different children’s book? And if you’re at a loss as to what you should read, below is a list of some of my favorite children’s books which, hopefully, you will enjoy too.

1. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. A couple of nasty aunts, some magical beans, and an adventure with some friendly, oversized insects.

2. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle. Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who send Meg and her genius little brother through time dimensions to save their scientist father.

3. The Giver by Lois Lowry. The precursor to children’s dystopias and I will say no more.

4. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. A book of Silverstein’s fantastic poems. Like Seuss, Silverstein had a knack for embedding important messages within his colorful, and often humorous, poems.

5. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. A recently deceased multi-millionaire named Sam Westing with a will that leaves his fortune to whichever of his 16 possible heirs can solve his murder.

6. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. Bored Milo’s journey through various punny lands as he tries to reconcile the King of Dictionopolis with his brother, the King of Digitopolis by bringing Rhyme and Reason back into the kingdoms.

7. A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket. A series that I’m currently rereading, starting with the aptly named The Bad Beginning. This series follows the three Baudelaire orphans as they attempt to outwit and escape their dreadful distant cousin and guardian Count Olaf, who is intent on procuring their vast inheritance.

8. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. To leave Dr. Seuss off this list is unthinkable, and while I definitely prefer other Seuss books to this particular story, One Fish, Two Fish features a brother and sister…who will be the main characters in What Pet Should I Get?

So, happy reading and Happy (early) Dr. Seuss Day!

BEAUlores Umbridge

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The Unlikable Protagonist

February 12th, 2015

 

Hello Readers,

I’m one of the new interns at Beaufort and I will be writing under the pen name BEAUlores Umbridge, a nod to my least favorite character in the Harry Potter series.  Why? You might wonder.  Because, despite being one of Harry’s main antagonists, Umbridge is an incredibly fascinating character to read about.  She’s ruthless and power-hungry, but she hides all of her horrible motives under a love for the color pink and kitten plates.  She is the quintessential unlikable antagonist, but think about how dull the stories would be without her.

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Some of my favorite characters in literature also serve as relatable role models.  Hermione Granger (who is easily the antithesis of Umbridge in every possible way) is the brains behind the trio, is exceptionally compassionate, and is constantly seeking equality.  Elizabeth Bennet from Pride & Prejudice is an independent thinking, voracious reader who turns down two marriage proposals during a time when marriage was pretty much a necessity for women, simply because she refuses to settle.  We often read to find characters we can understand, or as C.S. Lewis says in Shadowlands “We read to know we are not alone.”

And yet…There is something oddly fascinating when reading about the lives of characters we cannot and do not want to relate to.  While she can be interesting to read about, Dolores Umbridge is an antagonist in the book series, and as such, she is expected, at least on some level, to be unlikable. It’s the protagonists in stories who are the ones we usually root for. And this is what I really want to talk about today: the unlikable protagonist.

What happens when the character we’re supposed to root for and relate to is someone we cannot stand?  Enough times we end up closing the book before it’s finished, but there are times when an unlikable protagonist is so interestingly complex that such a character stays in our head long after all of those likable heroes and heroines have faded from memory.  Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina, Humbert Humbert from Lolita, Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, and Amy Dunne from Gone Girl are all characters we would never want to be friends with in real life.  They’re characters who, as we read their stories, only make us angrier and angrier because of the choices they make, and yet we continue to read their stories anyway because they fascinate us.  Because isn’t that the other reason we read?  To learn that not everyone sees the world the way we do.

Classic, goodhearted heroes and heroines will always be well-loved.  They’re the characters who, if real, we’d be best friends with.  But without some unlikable characters, their stories are boring.  And sometimes we need a reminder that not everyone is good and predictable.  And when this happens, the unlikable protagonist finds a spot on our bookshelves.

 

Until next time,

BEAUlores Umbridge

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A Haze of Suspicion Surrounds Harper Lee’s New Novel

February 6th, 2015

2/6/15

BeauRegards to all,

It’s been reported that Harper Lee is going to have another novel published. It is titled, Go Set a Watchman, and has been described as a sequel of To Kill a Mockingbird, featuring many of the same characters twenty years later. When I first heard this I was shocked—as I’m sure most were. Frankly, I had assumed Harper Lee was dead. Her name had heretofore resonated in my mind as the author of that great classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, that played a formative role in my childhood; I vividly remember reading it in 8th grade and being challenged by my teacher to think deeply about big themes like race, hatred, innocence and gender–really for the first time.

Thus it was more than a little puzzling to hear this news, as it immediately begged the question (in my mind) of why it has taken so long for this novel to be published. The answer to that question cannot ultimately be known (although I think it’s fair to say that Lee didn’t want it published, considering it was written in the 1950s), but the circumstances surrounding the publication are known and are, frankly, quite suspect. For one thing, Lee’s sister–a lawyer who had apparently been a careful advocate for Lee, protecting her publicity-shy personality—passed away merely 3 months before the news of the novel’s publication came to light. Secondly, Lee’s current attorney, Tonja Carter, has stated that “Lee has a history of signing whatever’s put in front of her.” Couple these things with the fact that author suffered a stroke in 2007,whereby she was left forgetful and nearly blind and deaf, and the story becomes, indeed, very suspect.

Nevertheless, the novel is slated to be published in July of 2015 and thus we, as readers, are faced with something of an ethical dilemma in our approach to it. As much as it pains me to say this, I don’t think I will read it, as I don’t think I could ultimately get past the nagging feeling that it very well might be the case that the only reason the book is in print is because the publisher manipulated a defenseless author into agreeing to it. I suppose one could argue that a work of art takes on a life of its own once created; that it isn’t owned by the author in the same way a child isn’t owned by his or her mother. That argument may have some merit, but ultimately the means by which the novel appears to have been published don’t justify the end, in my estimation. I could be wrong, though.

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Greetings, Blizzards and Reading

January 26th, 2015

January 26th, 2015

Hello all,

As I am new to the Beaufort Blog, I will take this time to introduce myself. My name is Francis; I come from the town of Dobbs Ferry—a suburb of New York; and I bring to Beaufort a great passion for words and ideas, as I see my foray into publishing as, (to some extent) a continuation of my interests in literature and philosophy—my two majors in college.

And now for something completely different.

Today is a nervous day for New Yorkers, as we await what could be, as Mayor Bill de Blasio assures us, “the biggest snowstorm in the history of this city,” (much to the chagrin, surely, of weather reporters, whose actual job it is to comment on these things.) As amusing as it is when weather reporters (or mayors) get it completely wrong (as they seem to have done so often in the past), there is certainly an atmosphere of worry that’s settled over even my small town of Dobbs Ferry. The owner of my local deli greeted me with a foreboding—yet warmly humorous —“Stocking up?”, as I paid for milk and bagels enough to last a couple of days. This sentiment—I think—really catches the spirit of gearing up for a blizzard: we are nervous at the prospect of being snowed into our homes—and rightly so—but there’s a part of us that can’t help delighting in the snow and in the promise of having an excuse to be confined to our homes for an unknown period of time. In other words, to have what the Danes call hygge; a wonderful word that resists direct translation into English—which makes it all the more interesting—please do look it up!

But the delight is perhaps greatest of all for bookish people, many of whom look for any chance they get to curl up with a book. And without the burden of having to commute to work, and without friends prompting us to leave the house to be social, I’m sure many of you are like me and will thoroughly enjoy—when you are done working, of course—the lazy pleasures of reading over the next couple of days.

Stay safe, everyone—and warm!

BeauRegards,

Francis

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Thrifting (For Books)

December 11th, 2014

Good afternoon voracious readers,

If you buy too many books and then cry when you look at your bank account, raise your hand.

Well readers, I have extremely exciting news for you (just in time for the holidays.) I discovered a website that sells used books, some for less than half of the actual marketing price. Opening a new book you just picked up from Barnes & Nobles may give you a warm feeling, but used books decreases paper waste and extends the lifetime of a book. Thrift Books has over 7 million used books and ships for free. And what’s better than free shipping? Besides cheap books of course.

I read other people’s testimonies about the website. One person said they purchased $66 worth of books for only $20 (5 books), and another claimed they bought four books for $16 that was worth $90. Crazy, isn’t it? Oh, and I also heard they sell textbooks so that should be a great savior for your wallet next semester.

Titles on this online “thrift shop” ranges from best sellers to books you’ve never heard of. The paperback copies of the Harry Potter series sell for $3-4 while a hardcover copy of the popular Gone Girl is only $5-6. What’s even better than these inexpensive prices is their Holiday Sale – buy four and get one free.

It sounded too good to be true so I decided to try the website out. I ordered 10 books, (a few being hardcovers), and in total they were worth $150. I paid $40. Merry Christmas to me!

Have fun thrifting,

Daisy BEAUchanan

P.S. It’s sad to say my time here at Beaufort Books has come to an end. I have enjoyed blogging for you these past couple months. Keep on reading my lovely bookworms!

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The Nonfiction Novel

December 10th, 2014

Good evening, my dear readers,

Today marks my last day as an intern with Beaufort Books.  It’s been a whirlwind of a semester, but I’m so grateful that I had the chance to work here.  From reading submissions, to brainstorming titles for upcoming books, to drawing upon my long-neglected and virtually-nonexistent math skills (suddenly I am no longer proud of the fact that I’ve not taken a math class since high school), interning at Beaufort Books has been an insightful and fun experience.  I’m going to miss coming into the office next semester!

I’d like to muse today on a topic that only recently came to my attention: the genre of the non-fiction novel.  Given that the genre label of non-fiction novel is something of an oxymoron, it’s not a surprise that this genre has attracted a fair amount of controversy among bibliophiles since its inception in the ’60s.

Truman Capote was the first writer to use this term in describing his novel In Cold Blood.  Capote believes that the non-fiction novel is a book in which “reporting” facts is done in a manner where it is “made as interesting as fiction, and done as artistically.”  He goes to great lengths to distinguish the non-fiction novel from New Journalism, a school of news writing that used literary techniques to report facts, remarking that such writers were primarily journalists and thus “useless” at achieving the “creative reportage” that he praises.  Capote also distinguishes nonfiction novels from documentary novels, as the latter usually allow imagination to “run riot over the facts” (http://tinyurl.com/9lx9s).  In Capote’s opinion, a true non-fiction novel would marry mastered literary techniques with pure hard facts.

cold blood

The definition of the nonfiction novel has loosened a little since Capote first set down the genre’s parameters.  Wikipedia defines the genre, for instance, as a work that portrays real historical events and people meshed with fictional conversations and literary devices (http://tinyurl.com/8255wwg).  Merriam-Webster states that the nonfiction novel is a book-length narrative of facts told in the style of the novel (http://tinyurl.com/kkswcac).  Encyclopedia Britannica says that it is a work that tells the story of real figures and events using the dramatic techniques of a novel (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/417684/nonfiction-novel).

While all of these definitions state similar things, they also differ enough to create continued confusion about what exactly the nonfiction novel is.  Beyond the question of length, for instance, are there clear limits between creative nonfiction and the nonfiction novel?  Or is the nonfiction novel meant to be a subgenre of creative nonfiction?  What about the limits between  the nonfiction novel and historical fiction novels?  If a work of historical fiction uses both real and fictional people, is that enough to bring it into the realm of the nonfiction novel?  And in writing down any fact with a creative spin, doesn’t that fact become fictionalized to a certain degree no matter how dearly the writer sticks to notions of reality?  In recreating a conversation from memory, for instance, or in attempting to recreate a real event with particular verbs and adjectives that carry particular connotations, is it possible to say that creative nonfiction can be 100% objective anyhow?

If it’s not evident by now, I am of the bibliophile camp that remains skeptical of the nonfiction novel’s existence.  While I am a big fan of creative nonfiction, I think it is silly to believe that any piece of creative writing can be completely factually accurate.  I think it is even sillier to slap together a word as inherently self-contradicting as the nonfiction novel, given that a novel must, by definition, be fictional. 

To play devil’s advocate for a moment, however, the word novel is increasingly being used as a term for any book, whether fiction or nonfiction (http://tinyurl.com/mmcpb3b).  Language can and does change over time, so perhaps I should stop being such a traditionalist and not get too hung up on the fact that the term novel used to refer to a fiction work of a certain length, but might mean something else nowadays (or be on its way to meaning something else).  And I can also understand the impulse to distinguish works of nonfiction written in a more literary style from those texts that deliver information in a clean-cut manner, such as college textbooks or traditional journalism.  But I still have a hard time understanding the need to break a perfectly legitimate genre (creative nonfiction) into increasingly smaller bits.

calvin

In any case, I hope that this post has served as a good introduction to the controversy over nonfiction novels, because my time at Beaufort is officially over. While I’m sad to leave this place behind, I’m glad to leave with great memories of the past and great hopes for my future in publishing.  

And, after all, tomorrow is another day.

All the best,

Scarlett Beau’Hara

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Adapting Books for the Stage

November 17th, 2014

Good afternoon, dear readers,

It is time that I make a confession: I am not only a book junkie.  I am also a theatre junkie.  And so it always makes me very happy when these two loves of mine are merged.

I’ve been thinking lately about the choice to adapt a book for the stage, and what kinds of books (if, indeed, there is a particular kind) are more suitable for a theatrical adaptation.  I haven’t reached any grand conclusions  on this topic, but I thought it’d be worthwhile to discuss some recent theatrical adaptations of books regardless (and if any of you reach a grand conclusion of some sort, please do share it with me!).

When I first learned that Alison Bechdel’s graphic memoir Fun Home was in the works to be turned into a musical, I was torn between delight and terror.  Such sentiments are probably understandable to anyone who has ever heard that one of their favorite books is going to be adapted to another form.  On the one hand, I was thrilled by the mere idea of seeing this beyond fantastic book come to life.  On the other hand, I was petrified at the thought that the musical would butcher the original material.  The narrative is certainly not “traditional” musical material: the book frankly discusses homosexuality, is told in a nonlinear manner, and contains tons of literary allusions.  My trepidation, however, could not win out over my intense desire to see the show.  So, last fall, I purchased a ticket to see Fun Home.  One month later, I purchased another ticket for Fun Home.  A month after that, I purchased a third ticket to Fun Home.

If it’s not clear by now, I love the show to bits.

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What struck me as I watched the show (and then watched it again, and then watched it again . . .) was how perfectly suited Fun Home actually was for a musical.  Handling challenging/”not-discussed” subject matters through song made perfect sense; songs are, after all, all about those moments and emotions when words or music alone fail.  And the non-linear format of the book lent itself beautifully to a musical format, given that (at least for this musical) so much hinged upon emotional currents rather than linear time, a narrative style that does not always work in film.  I can’t write much more without getting incoherently fan-girl-esque and gushing all over this blog post.  Suffice to say that this the show was, and remains, one of the best live shows I have ever seen, and I am already eagerly anticipating its transfer to Broadway this spring.

Speaking of Broadway, another of my favorite books can currently be found in theatrical form in New York’s theatre district: Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.  This novel tells the story of Christopher Boone, a fifteen-year-old boy living in England, who decides to investigate the murder of his neighbor’s dog after he is initially accused of the crime.  Although Haddon never states it explicitly in the book, critics and readers (as well as the book’s blurbs) say that Christopher has high-functioning autism.  This autism presents Christopher with unique challenges, such as not understanding social cues or being able to empathize in a traditional manner, but it also gives him a novel way of seeing the world.

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Christopher’s individual perspective is brought fully to life by the theatrical adaptation.  Christopher is both the narrator of his own play and a character within it, able to both position his fellow characters and be himself positioned.  The set design functions as a sort of mirror of Christopher’s mind. The floor, ceiling, and walls of the stage are composed of cubes.  These cubes can open up like panels, be used by the actors to either walk in geometrical patterns or break those patterns, and can be either physically drawn upon or used to depict digital images (as shown in the photo).  This apt scenic design gives us access to how things look from his individual perspective just as the novel does, while simultaneously retaining a barrier between him and us (his audience).  This sort of set design would be harder to pull off in film or television, as it is not particularly realistic.  In theatre, however, such notions of reality are already more easily broken down. This play also comes with my soaring recommendation.

Unfortunately, I am unable to tell you to see the last book-to-theatre adaptation I want to discuss, as it is no longer running.  But this  play nonetheless deserves discussing because it is another instance that I believe reveals much about the choice to adapt a book into a theatrical work.  This past summer, Book-It Repertory Theatre in Seattle adapted Michael Chabon’s beautiful Pulitzer-Prize winning novel: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  The novel tells the story of Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, cousins who become successful figures in the comic book industry in the ’30s-’50s.  Although I initially had no idea how this novel could become a play — this novel that spans a dozen years, covers events in multiple countries, contains interludes of stories from the cousins’ comic books, and is riddled with dense prose and literary allusions — I was immensely curious to see what Book-It would do with this material.  I was even more curious when I learned that Book-It was adapting this 700-page novel into a 4-hour play.  That might sound like something of a nightmare to sit through at first, but luckily, every adapted minute was worth watching.

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Once more, the very things I’d worried about ended up being the play’s greatest strengths.  The entire stage became one of Kavalier & Clay’s comic books, filled with cartoonish moving set pieces and comic-book-style sound effect bubbles with onomatopoeia.  The characters also now and then narrated their lives as though they were characters inside of a comic book, e.g. “Joe felt very foolish” or “Sam did not know what to say.”  Such devises both heightened the presence of the main characters’ comic books while also empathizing thematically the narratives these characters used to construct their own lives, their fictions and various self-portrayals.

I still have yet to reach any grand thesis regarding the decision to turn a particular book into a theatrical piece.  I do think it worth noting, however, that in these examples, the choice to dramatize a book seems inherently linked to the book’s material rather than an arbitrary decision.

Until next time, dear readers,

Scarlett Beau’Hara

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Readinspiration

November 7th, 2014

Hello readers,
Have you found your #fridayreads inspiration yet? Maybe these strangers can help. Here are the top recommendations that I received 
over the past two weeks:

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The first is Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria KonnikovaDescribed by its reader as a fascinating, and most importantly, easy-to-read psychology/ literary analysis book that is along the same vein as Malcolm Gladwell’s work, Mastermind opens your eyes to a world of reflection and observation. While there are mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, most of the dissenters seem to be die-hard Sherlock Holmes fans who have the examples presented in Konnikova’s work written to memory, while praise is given from those interested in Sherlock Holmes and why his character has remained popular for so many years.

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The second recommendation is The Rising by Brian Keene. Described by its reader as amazing zombie-cult fiction, this novel has been the inspiration for many apocalyptic story-lines from novels to movies and even TV. While Keene’s novel debuted in 2003, it has recently been re-released in uncut form. While Keene’s novel also received mixed reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, this was mostly to do with typos in the original version, which according to newer reviews are not contained in the newest edition.

 

Your feelings and opinions toward any book can change depending on when you read them and what is going on in your world at that time–even our own recommendations are subjective to us in a particular moment in time.

“People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for”–To Kill a Mockingbird

BEAU Radley

 

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Banned and Challenged Books

November 6th, 2014

banned

In my Young Adult Literature class, we read The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. In this novel, it depicts themes of sexuality, violence, bullying, deaths, and a heavy use of profanity. Due to these issues, the novel has been banned from schools and libraries. Many parents did not want their children to be exposed to these topics. However, these are real issues that society deals with whether it’s the drunk father or the exploration of sexuality – these are situations children and teenagers encounter while growing up.

There are many books that are challenged but are not banned. The difference being that anyone can challenge a book. A parent, a teacher, or your next door neighbor can challenge a book they think is “inappropriate” due to its explicit content of violence, offensive language, homosexuality, and etc. But the American Library Association is actually the one who gets to decide if the books should be banned. In order for the challenge to be successful, the ALA must declare the material as proper to be censored from libraries and school systems.

Here are some of the top books that have been challenged in 2013:

  • Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
  • The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison
  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
  • Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
    The Perks of being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  • Bones by Jeff Smith

These books and series are frequently challenged due to their themes of drugs, violence, offensive language, and relitumblr_lzytnv84sk1qzlicjo1_500_largegious and political view points. Popular books in cultures that many people read regardless of its contradictory standpoints such as the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and Twilight by Stephenie Meyers are also challenged. Yet, children and teenagers will continue to pick up these novels on the bookshelves if it inte01.06.10 - 6/365rests them. Why should one group of people decide on what children should and should not read?

So the question arises – should we protect the younger generation from their exposure to these themes by getting rid of these books? Or is it better to let them pick the books they want to read and allow them to look into these topics themselves?

 

 

Until next time,

Daisy BEAUchanan

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