Banned Books Week: A Quiz

The American Library Association recognizes Banned Books Week — and this year, Banned Books Week is September 26 through October 3.

So, let's test your banned books knowledge.

The quotes below were taken from among the 20 books listed at the end of this entry. Can you match the quote to its book?

Submit your answers by October 5, 2009 via e-mail (see "Contact us," right), and I will choose one person from among those who have submitted the highest number of correct answers.

The winner will receive a banned book from The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books List, 1990-99.

Good luck!

The Quotes
1. How could someone not fit in? The community was so meticulously ordered, the choices so carefully made.

2. It is like the hole in your mouth where a tooth was and you cannot keep your tongue from playing with it.

3. “I believe that love is better than hate. And that there is more nobility in building a chicken coop than destroying a cathedral.”

4. He was seething inside with new emotion. Nothing seemed very important except the Princess. He was single-minded about her. He was enchanted. He was possessed. He was in love

5. I'd soon as go to jail than take that damn relief job.

6. Last night while I lay thinking here
Some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
And pranced and partied all night long
And sang their same old Whatif song:

7. It had been all right as long as they could laugh at me and appear clever at my expense, but now they were feeling inferior to the moron. I began to see that by my astonishing growth I had made them shrink and emphasized their inadequacies.

8. "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corn cribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

9. My first-born. All I can remember of her is how she loved the burned bottom of bread. Can you beat that? Eight children and that's all I remember.

10. "She won't be coming down here with the spray. She'll be coming down here with a shovel. It happened to my brother. Split him right down the middle. Now I have two half-brothers."

11. We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semidarkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren't looking, and touch each other's hands across space. We learned to lipread, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other's mouths. In this way, we exchanged names, from bed to bed: Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June.

12. I expected Daddy to explain everything on the way home—all that stuff Dr. Griffith had been talking about—that I didn't understand. Instead, he and Ma argued about whose fault it was that I have something wrong with my spine until we pulled into the driveway. It was almost as if they'd forgotten I was there.

13. I was getting to where I could see the truth. Someday I'll be brave enough to speak it.

The quotes above were taken from 13 of these challenged books:
  • Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
  • Beloved
  • The Catcher in the Rye
  • The Chocolate War
  • Deenie
  • Flowers for Algernon
  • The Giver
  • The Handmaid's Tale
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • A Light in the Attic
  • Native Son
  • Ordinary People
  • The Outsiders
  • Pillars of the Earth
  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • A Wrinkle in Time


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — Review by Chris

I like a good story. I also like fascinating characters who reveal the story in interesting ways. I got both in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a surprisingly powerful yet compact novel that captured me by the third letter.

Juliet is best known for her wartime columns in London newspapers. As "Izzy," the writer found something light in the dark and shared her own poignant, humorous ponderings. But now the war is over and Juliet wants to leave Izzy in the past. It's time for the Next Thing — only she's not sure what that is. She owes her publisher a new book, but she's stymied on what to write. Nothing feels right, nothing sounds true.

Then she receives a letter from a stranger who has come to own a book that used to belong to her. Could she recommend a reputable bookseller to help him discover Charles Lamb? Thus begins a special correspondence that changes her life.

The letter comes from a resident of Guernsey, an island in the English Channel that, like the other channel islands, were occupied by the Germans. The occupation began in 1940, and the islanders were literally cut off from the rest of the world until the end of the war: no correspondence, no radio, no newspapers, no contact at all. Their food, homes, their every possession became the property of their prison guards. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was borne of this oppression — and the existence of a single pig.

The slim volume unfolds the story in the form of correspondence: letters, cables — and, in one instance, something meant never to be seen by another person, ever. Juliet is the main character, and much of the correspondence is written by or received by her. However, the same situation is, from time to time, witnessed by and described by different people — like the time Juliet throws a teapot at another journalist's head. (He deserved it.)

I love Juliet. Wait, let me reiterate: I. Love. Juliet. She is lively, loving, clever, self-deprecating and wholly unaware of how utterly special she is. In other words, she is human. She writes some of the best, loveliest and wittiest lines of the novel. It is the margin notes in a pamphlet Juliet once owned that draw the original letter-writer to her.

I also loved how the story unfolded, letter by letter. Each letter-writer has a distinct voice that remains true. Each character is essential to the story, which unfolds to me a rich, new aspect of World War II. I was unaware of the occupation of the Channel Islands, or the existence of the Organisation Todt. I knew some urban dwellers sent their children to live in the English countryside with strangers (thanks to C.S. Lewis, I confess), but I didn't know that Channel Islanders also sent their children to the English countryside, then lost contact with them for five long years. I didn't know the first thing of being trapped on an island, subject to the whim of the Third Reich, when Churchill and the Crown considered the islands a necessary sacrifice for the whole of England. Despite all of this learning, never once does this feel like A History Lesson. It is the story of people, and the people are fascinating, even (and especially) the ones readers may not like.

I wholeheartedly recommend this modest tome and hope you enjoy the characters and their story as much as I did.


The Twilight Saga — Review by Chris

Spoiler alert: this review contains spoilers, so if you have not read all of the books and do not wish to know major plot points, stop reading now. Consider yourself warned!


Okay, let's just state the obvious up front: I am not your typical Twilight reader. However, I am certainly not your typical "young adult fiction" reader, and yet I am a fan of the genre.

I also am a fan of Twilight.

I read the saga at the recommendation of my friend Corinne, whose taste in books I admire. She and I have shared similar opinions on many books over the years, so I decided to pick it up. (Maybe then the Facebook Flair would make sense!)

I was not disappointed. It was a riveting series with engrossing storytelling and rather likeable characters.

For those of you who are under the same rock I so recently inhabited, let me sum it up: Bella lives in Forks, a small overcast town in Washington state. She meets Edward, a fellow high school student, and falls madly in love. One problem? He is a little older than she is. Okay, about a century. He's a vampire and will eternally look like a high school senior.

Once he admits he can't live without her, she admits she can't live without him — even though he's a vampire. To complicate matters, so is his entire family (a.k.a. coven). They're not "bad" vamps: they live on the blood of animals, rather than humans.

These are not the only members of the supernatural circus that surround Bella — and thank the heavens for that. Bella isn't the most graceful of characters and finds herself in a few pickles in her time. From threatening would-be attackers to psycho vampire trackers to bratty teen girls, she is not safe around any corner. (This is played up a little too much in the series for my taste, but at least I understand why.) Edward, on the other hand, is rather indestructible, so one can see why he hates to leave Bella to her own devices.

Charlie, Bella's father, is a little clueless for a police chief, but in the end it's possible, just possible, that he might be a little more savvy than readers have been led to believe. After all, I saw the Plot Complications coming, so why didn't Charlie? It is a very unfair, hackneyed characterization of small-town cops and parents.

The saga is told in four books, which I can summarize swiftly: Twilight puts Edward and Bella together, New Moon wrenches them apart, Eclipse puts them back together and Breaking Dawn completely changes everything.

To summarize is quick and about as cold as Edward's chiseled flawless frame. To read is to savor some terrific storytelling with the warmth of Jacob. The characters are richly drawn and complex, the plot twists aren't always the standard fare — and, quite simply, a girl simply must fall in love with Edward.

Oh, I know there's a Team Jacob, and I understand that camp. I, too, adore him and would gladly have chosen him had Edward not returned. However, Carole and I agreed: Bella could put Nessie on Jacob's back with total confidence that she would be safe for all time, but Bella's first, last and enduring thoughts will be her love with Edward Cullen.

I probably could have walked away from the series after Eclipse. The fourth book was weaker than the others. Stephenie Meyer should have split that book into two novels. Breaking Dawn already is longer than the others (which is saying something). Additionally, so much happens so quickly, and the final storyline of the novel is sufficient for a book in itself.

Breaking Dawn was relentless in its storytelling, and the reader deserves the loving treatment s/he experienced with the first three books. I even took a break of two weeks between the third and fourth novels, and it still didn't help. I fear Meyer suffered from the "Thousand Pound Gorilla Syndrome" and the publisher let her do what she wanted because her formula proved successful. (Note to publisher: be as judicious with the final book as with the first, and readers will love you for it.)

Don't get me wrong: Breaking Dawn was enjoyable. It just was too much.

Carole and I also agreed that Bella's self-deprecation was excessive. First, she droned on to the point of "shut up already!" about how she was so clutzy while Edward was perfect. She perceived herself as a stupid sack of meat in comparison to Edward's chiseled marble perfection. Only when she achieved her goal to be like Edward was she satisfied — and then she was unbearable as a perfect immortal. Thank heavens Corinne and her friends do not mirror that absurd thinking. I hope that's the same with other teen girl readers.

Aside from one spoiler from the Washington Post review (thanks a lot!), I walked into the series blind — and I am glad I did. I hope you did, too, and that it allowed you to savor the surprises, the great tale and the magic of a great epic adventure/romance.

I recommend it to every reader. It's a good read and a wonderful story. Just don't try to consume this generous gift at once. Pace yourself, and take your time. Cleanse your palate between books. Trust me: Meyer won't let you loose your place.


Classics, Past and Future

I have been devouring junk food for a while, and that's fine. I can gorge on chocolate as easily as Brussels sprouts, so consuming Stephenie Meyer's novels was very easy.

I do not mean to disparage Twilight, New Moon and Eclipse, all of which I devoured this past weekend. I loved every moment of these books. These novels are second to none in heart-beating romance. I shan't wax on about them now, but suffice it to say that I enjoyed them.

Then I stumbled across a quote from Madame Bovary and skipped over to Wikipedia for a reliable link to the novel. My, oh my, I do believe it could give Twilight a run for its money.

Gustave Flaubert's novel was known as scandalous in its time. When the story originally was published in 1856 (serialized in a magazine), it was put on trial for obscenity. Of course, that guaranteed its bestseller status the following year when it was published as a novel.

In 2007, contemporary authors cited Madame Bovary as one of the two greatest novels ever written.

The greatest novel, according to contemporary authors? Anna Karenina.

I don't know if I can agree because I'm ashamed to admit I have not read Tolstoy's masterpiece, and I am sure Madame Bovary was one of the novels I gave myself permission to skip as an undergraduate.

So, to cleanse my palate before reaching for Breaking Dawn, I will read one of these novels.

Or Janet Evanovich. I haven't decided which.

Hey, if 1800s popular culture can be considered among the best novels of all time, who's to say Stephanie Plum isn't destined to be a romantic heroine in the future?

By the way, Bella Swan's reading of Wuthering Heights in Eclipse apparently has stimulated teen interest in the classic. I am glad to see that good stories never lose their luster.