Hello all...sorry about the lack of contact this week. Being in the field leaves me with no energy to blab endlessly in the evenings.
As you may, or may not know, we are in the midst of Banned Books Week. I decided to celebrate my freedom to read whatever I damn well please by picking up a copy of The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier.
Now, this is decidedly a young adult novel and I think that young boys would particularly enjoy it. Cormier crafts relatable complex characters with ease. The book is particularly easy to read in wonderful and engaging ways.
I dont want to get into complicated plot discussions because i am sure wikipedia up there has a better synopsis than i could come up with. I do want to discuss why this book is number three on the banned book list from 2000-2007.
At first, i thought the book was challenged because the main character "dared to disturb the universe" by refusing to participate in a traditional chocolate sale at his catholic prep high school. I should have known that people who are interested in banning books aren't clever enough to actually get the message of this book.
While Jerry is defying a secret group at school, as well as a cruel teacher, he and the other characters are occupied bullying or being bullied. They are cursing and smoking, ignoring their parents and starting at girls, "Tight sweater, clinging, low-slung jeans. Jesus."
That's the reason these people think the book shouldn't be read. What if a boy reads about bullying and smoking and girls? Well, i hate to break it to these people, but boys already know about bullying. They have probably been bullied for a couple years. If they haven't been bullied then chances are their friends have. Smoking isnt something they learn from books it is something they see on the street and in movies and on tv and possibly at home. And girls? Well, from the stories I have heard from Q and others...it is all they can think about at this age whether or not they read about tight sweaters.
A teen reading this book isnt going to get any crazy ideas. However, he may actually be inspired to stand up to bullies, to stand by his friends in hard times, to think for himself, and to challenge those who choose to do the wrong thing.
We dont give kids enough credit. Now, this may seem strange coming from me...what with my lack of children and poor understanding of the littlest of people...but what i have learned in the last three years is that kids are much smarter, well adjusted, thoughtful, and understanding then most adults give them credit for.
In the struggle to protect children from all the harm in the world, we do the opposite. We teach children that something unsettling should be pushed from our minds and replaced with, oh i dont know-ice cream and pinwheels . We teach children, that everything is wonderful and safe and you are a unique snowflake who will never be harmed ever!
Sadly, life is never that black and white. People die, friends move, kids are mean, and life is hard and complicated. Seems to me that it has been that way for a long long time. Why would a parent want to take away a tool,like Cormier's book, that could give kids hope. A tool that would show them that all these "horrible" things that happen as you grow up have been going on for a while and you can learn from them. You can learn and grow and understand. The world isnt as scary as it may seem when you have people, stories, and characters you can relate to.
"But you don't have to take my word for it..."