A few years back, I read a YA novel called Crank by Ellen Hopkins. It’s the story of a teen who becomes addicted to crystal meth. There’s rape, unwanted pregnancy, all sorts of drug use, and you guessed it, it’s banned in many places. It’s also required reading in high schools across the country. When my kids are old enough, it will be required reading in the Christopher house, too. One of the most amazing aspects of reading – to me, at least – is the ability to wear someone else’s skin around for 300 pages or so. Living vicariously (good or bad) through the main character, we learn about choices and their aftermath. Controversial books spark conversations, and that’s never a bad thing, in my opinion.
Today, as I was reading about frequently banned books on the American Library Association’s site, my teeth about fell out of my head to learn that the Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey is on the list. My son adores these books. His fourth grade classroom has the whole series (you go, Aspen Creek Elementary!). Last week, Sam brought home the newest one, Captain Underpants and the Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers. He went straight up to his room and didn’t surface for two hours. When I called him down for dinner, he had the biggest smile on his face, and said, “I LOVE to read!” Just a few days earlier he’d said, “I HATE to read!” when forced to do his homework. We’re no strangers to drama around here.
Captain Underpants is all about potty humor. I’ve never found potty humor amusing, not even when I was a kid. But then again, I’ve never been a fourth grade boy. Honestly, I find the books a little on the crude side, but if you hang around a pack of fourth grade boys, crudeness is kind of their modus operandi. Sam thinks these books are hysterical. He shares his favorite parts with me, howling with laughter. The fact that he’s sharing what he reads makes me happy. The fact that he gets so much joy out of reading makes me unspeakably happy. So, while I may not necessarily enjoy you, Captain Underpants, I thank you and I even respect you, for making my son a better reader.
Check out this list of the top 100 banned books of the last decade. Guess what was at the top of the list? The Harry Potter series. Seriously, who are these people? So many life-changing books for me are on this list… A Prayer for Owen Meany, The Handmaid’s Tale, A Wrinkle in Time, Julie of the Wolves, Bridge to Terabithia. It makes me nauseous to think that some kids won’t ever experience these remarkable books because of censorship. I’m beyond grateful that my parents let me read whatever I wanted. I’m thankful for my school, where I read Catcher in the Rye, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Of Mice and Men, and Catch 22. And I’m especially thankful that my son’s elementary school allows Captain Underpants to grace their hallowed halls.
Are there any books on these lists that surprised you?