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“Get hooked on a banned book.”

September 16, 2007 |  9:09 am

That’s the American Library Assn.’s mantra this year for Banned Books Week, the group’s 26th annual celebration of the freedom to read. The weeklong event begins Sept. 29 at thousands of libraries and bookstores across the nation.

“Part of living in a democracy means respecting each other’s differences and the right of all people to choose for themselves what they and their families read,” Judith F. Krug, director of the library group’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, said in a statement. “We must remain vigilant to assure that would-be censors don’t threaten the very basis of our democracy.”

In 2006, there were 546 reported formal requests, or challenges, to remove certain books from library shelves, most (61%) by parents and most (71%) at school libraries, according to the library group’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has been compiling book challenges made in the United States since 1990. Offensive language, sexual content, violence and mention of drugs are the reasons most often cited.

Topping the 2006 list of books receiving the most challenges to school and public libraries was “And Tango Makes Three,” a tale of two male penguins parenting an egg from a mixed-sex penguin couple that critics decried as anti-family and pro-homosexuality. Toni Morrison’s novels “Beloved” and “The Bluest Eye” made the list, as did Cecily von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” series and Carolyn Mackler’s “The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.”

Off the list this year are the usual targets: “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger, “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain. But the most challenged books of the 21st century remain J.K. Rowling’s enormously popular “Harry Potter” books.
“Not every book is right for every reader,” said Loriene Roy, president of the American Library Assn. “Libraries serve users from a variety of backgrounds — that’s why libraries need, and have — such a wide range of materials. Individuals must have the right to choose what materials are suitable for themselves and their families.”

The theme of Banned Books Week 2007 is “Ahoy! Treasure Your Freedom to Read and Get Hooked on a Banned Book.” Libraries and bookstores around the country are expected to mount exhibits and schedule readings and special events through Oct. 6. Other campaign sponsors are the American Booksellers Assn., the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Assn. of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Assn. of College Stores.

Kristina Lindgren