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5 Books to Read for Banned Books Week

5 Books to Read for Banned Books Week

Happy Banned Books Week!

Last year I wrote this post for Banned Books Week and it continues to be one of my best performing posts. So I'm happy to be celebrating Banned Books Week again this year with 5 new books to consider reading. All 5 of these books appeared on 2017's TOP TEN list of most challenged books. In total, there were 416 books challenged last year. For each book I've included the publisher's description and resources for talking about the reasons each book was challenged. Banning books is not the answer, we need to read MORE and talk MORE about the themes in these books.

1. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher | Challenged for discussing suicide

Visit the National Suicide Prevention Hotline website for tools to help yourself or others. Or dial 1-800-273-8255.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.jpg
Thirteen Reasons Why
By Jay Asher

From the publisher:

You can’t stop the future. 
You can’t rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret . . . is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker—his classmate and crush—who committed suicide two weeks earlier. Hannah's voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why. 
Clay spends the night crisscrossing his town with Hannah as his guide. He becomes a firsthand witness to Hannah's pain, and as he follows Hannah’s recorded words throughout his town, what he discovers changes his life forever.

2. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini | Challenged for sexual violence and "promoting Islam"

Visit for information on how to help survivors of sexual violence, educating the public, and improving public policy.

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The Kite Runner
By Khaled Hosseini

From the publisher:

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, caught in the tragic sweep of history, The Kite Runner transports readers to Afghanistan at a tense and crucial moment of change and destruction. A powerful story of friendship, it is also about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.
Since its publication in 2003 Kite Runner has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic of contemporary literature, touching millions of readers, and launching the career of one of America's most treasured writers.

3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas | Challenged for drug use, profanity and offensive language

Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for information and treatment referrals for substance abuse. Or call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.jpg
The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas

From the publisher:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie | Challenged for profanity and sexual content

Visit and Advocates for Youth for information on sex education.

From the publisher: 

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author's own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character's art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

With a foreword by Markus Zusak, interviews with Sherman Alexie and Ellen Forney, and four-color interior art throughout, this edition is perfect for fans and collectors alike. 

5. I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas | Challenged for addressing gender identity

Visit for information and resources on gender identity.

I Am Jazz written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings.jpg
I Am Jazz
By Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings

From the publisher:

The story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere

"This is an essential tool for parents and teachers to share with children whether those kids identify as trans or not. I wish I had had a book like this when I was a kid struggling with gender identity questions. I found it deeply moving in its simplicity and honesty."—Laverne Cox (who plays Sophia in “Orange Is the New Black”)

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz's story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.

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