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Graeme Base
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 1987, 2012

From the dust jacket, “Celebrate 25 years of this classic alphabet book with this special silver-anniversary edition! More than three million copies of Animalia have been sold worldwide, making Graeme Base’s amazing alliterative alphabet book one of the most beloved titles of the past quarter century! Animalia’s incredible imaginary world intrigues all readers, whether or not they know their ABCs.

“Each page includes hidden objects and ideas: start with “A is for An Armoured Armadillo Avoided an Angry Alligator” and you’ll find aprons, ants, aces, Atom-brand anchovies, and much more. The rest of the alphabet is just as fun!”

This is really a fun and challenging book. You can look for a long time on each page and still see new stuff. There’s also a bit of “Where’s Waldo” with the young boy at the beginning of the book hidden on every letter illustration. Graeme Base is an amazing artist – the amount of detail is, well, amazing! I can’t wait to check out his other books!

Strangely, the book was challenged at a school library in Texas for violence and horror, and at Storm Lake Public Library (IA) in 1992 when “two citizens discovered ‘satanic symbols’ and offensive images inside the book’s artwork.”

As we were unable to find evidence of violence and horror, I’ve included 2 images that might be borderline for some readers: “Horrible hairy hogs hurrying homeward on heavily harnessed horses” and “Kid Kookaburra and Kelly Kangaroo kidnapping Kitty Koala.” As for the other complaint of satanic symbols and offensive images, we found a zodiac calendar on the letter ‘Z’ page; a yin and yang symbol on the ‘Y’ page; a witch on the ‘W’ page; a vampire, a voodoo doll and a bottle of vermouth on the ‘V’ page – shall we go on? Maybe it was the Soviet flag or the swastika that was on the ‘S’ page that offended. As with any thing, if you’re looking for stuff to be offended by, you will most definitely find it. We find it better to let each reader decide for themselves and no one else!

Rating: 5 out of 5 paws for a totally imaginative book with out-of-this-world illustrations. Not to be missed and never duplicated!!



simon-loc   loc jack

Simon & Jack

animalia banimalia e

The Five Chinese Brothers

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The Five Chinese Brothers

Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese
Coward-McCann, Inc., 1938, 1965

Summary: “Five brothers who look just alike outwit the executioner by using their extraordinary individual qualities.”

In the same vein as the pre-Disney-sanitized versions of Grimm’s fairy tales were full of death and triumph, this old Chinese tall tale weaves a fantastic story with a foolish boy losing his life and four brothers who prevent the fifth brother from being executed for murder. There’s a moral lesson to this tale – one that teaches kittens to listen to adults to stay safe (and alive!) and one that teaches adults to not go to extreme measures to prove a point.

Of course this book has been challenged – any time there’s a book with one view there’s a ton more with opposite views. Some readers have taken exception to the illustrations of the book:

The Five Chinese Brothers was banned when parents expressed concern at the Salem Public Library that the book’s “racial stereotypes were demeaning to Chinese People (1990).” The book was also challenged in a California grade school because “it contains descriptions of violent plots to execute five brothers (1998).”” And another blogger had this to say, “Chinese faces carry a yellow-orange hue; the eyes are often reduced to stereotypical slits.  There has been some discussion of the book as an endorsement of capital punishment and a celebration of violence in general.”

Nevermind this classic of children’s literature was published in 1938 and may have been reflecting the general views of the day. Even if those views are not acceptable by today’s standards (i.e., obsessive adherence to political correctness), perhaps the book should be read as a cultural example of ‘days gone by’ and past thoughts and interpretations taken into consideration to be learned from not banned.

Rating 3 out of 5 paws because although it is a classic, we don’t care for stories about cheating and executions.

As we’ve stated before, The Library doesn’t like all banned books and wouldn’t read them – except for the fact that they’ve been banned or challenged. We read to protest censorship and to give a voice to those beleaguered books & authors.

Reviewer: loc jackJack

Its a Book

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It’s a Book

Lane Smith
Roaring Brook Press, 2010

From the back of the book, “Can it text? Blog? Scroll? Wi-Fi? Tweet? No…it’s a book.”

So, here’s this monkey sitting happily reading a book (Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson) with a monkey on his head when a jackass walks in with a laptop. No, this isn’t the beginning of a dirty joke! The jackass is an actual jackass (mule – or is he a donkey?). Anyway, the jackass asks the monkey all these questions about his book – he wants to know what it does. The monkey tries to explain to the jackass that the book does nothing, it’s meant to be read. The jackass doesn’t quite get it, even after he takes the book from the monkey and reads it for about 2-1/2 hours. The monkey gives up when the jackass refuses to give back his book and goes to the library.

Funny, really funny because do you know any kittens (or adults) like this jackass? Ones who would never pick up a book because it doesn’t do anything? Funny and yet, somehow very sad.

I guess you can guess why this book was challenged! That’s right…the word ‘jackass’. Now, the author didn’t use the word as much as I did (I did because I could and it isn’t a curse word – it’s the name of an animal); he only used it twice – once at the beginning and once at the end of the book. Of course, it’s the use at the end of the book where the challenge comes in. Is the mouse being sarcastic and insulting or is he just call the jackass ‘a jackass’ because that’s what he is. Hmmm…a bit controversial. But read it for yourself and see what you think!

Why is this on the banned/challenged book list? Briefly, a couple of Cape Ann (Massachusetts) school districts challenged the book in 2010 because of the ‘jackass’ at the end of the book. “At issue is the last line of the book, which contains a word that some find unsuitable for children. The board explains: The book “aroused the ire of some local parents because of an ending in which a character says, ‘It’s a book, Jackass,’ to a technology-loving donkey who just doesn’t get it.”
The board responded, “the “objections of some shouldn’t prevent altogether the dissemination of the book and its important message.” Bravo!!!

Click on the link to read the full story in the Boston Globe.

Rating: 5 out of 5 paws because its’ really, really funny and kittens will get a kick out of saying a curse word that’s not really a curse word!!!

Reviewer: jack-locJack, the Banned Books Librarian


The Egypt Game

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The Egypt Game

Zilpha Keatley Snyder
Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 1995, 1967

From the dust jacket, “The first time Melanie Ross sees April Hall, with her straggly upswept hair, false eyelashes, and old fur stole, Melanie’s skeptical that they have anything in common. But she soon discovers that they both love anything to do with ancient Egypt. When they stumble upon a deserted storage yard behind the mysterious A-Z Antiques and Curio Shop, Melanie and April decide it’s a perfect spot for the Egypt Game.

“Before long there are six Egyptians instead of two. After school and on weekends they all meet to wear costumes, hold ceremonies, and work on their secret code. Everyone thinks it’s just a game, until strange things begin happening to the players. A murderer is stalking the neighborhood, and an oracle is handing down bizarre predictions. Has the Egypt Game gone too far?”

We very much enjoyed reading this book! It’s all about kids (human children not baby goats) spending their summer having fun with nothing but their imagination and some found props. Also, Melanie and April love to read and visit the library to find out more information about ancient Egypt. It was light-hearted with a little mystery thrown in and just a bit scary close to the end.

Curiously, this book has been challenged/banned in a few school libraries. Parents didn’t like the fact it depicted trespassing, ceremonies and worship of Egyptian gods, lying to parents and the murder of a young girl (not that anything was shown, just parents talking about it amongst themselves). It’s also curious that the challengers didn’t say anything about the copious use of matches to create ceremonial fires and the embalming of a dead parakeet. As all short-sighted people do, they ignored the fact that the children used their imaginations to amuse themselves, they studied about ancient Egypt on their own, always looked out for one another, obeyed their parents (for the most part), were respectful and didn’t cause trouble, and ignored their different ethnicities. In other words, they were kids – good kids – that any fair-minded parent would be proud of.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because of all the reason previous listed and because it’s a good book for any middle-schooler to read. It actually might cause them to unplug their electronic devices and use their imagination to have fun.

Reviewer: jack-locJack, Banned Books Librarian

2009-2010, Challenged as part of a reading list in a fourth-grade class at Southern Hills Elementary School in Wichita Falls, Texas. The student’s father said, “I’m not going to stop until it’s banned from the school district. I will not quiet down. I will not back down. I don’t believe any student should be subjected to anything that has to do with evil gods or black magic.” The book had been a part of the optional reading list for years. (I tried to find the results of this challenge but was unsuccessful.)

Ban This Book

ban this book

Ban This Book

Alan Gratz
Starscape, A Tom Doherty Associates Book, 2017

From the dust jacket, “It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That’s when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate’s mom thought the book wasn’t appropriate for kids to read.

“Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned-books library out of her locker. As word spreads Amy Anne’s locker stash quickly grows into a school-wide sensation. Soon, she and her friends find themselves on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what kids can read.”

In the beginning of this wonderful book, Amy Anne is as quiet as a mouse. At nine-years-old she lives with 2 busy parents, 2 younger sisters and 2 Rottweilers – which equals a very chaotic house. She seeks solitary refuge in the school library and books. As the dust jacket blurb relates, the banning of her favorite book (a book about kids running away from home, which she dreams of doing) forces her outside herself to take action. The book is really about two things: one, the arbitrary banning of books; and, two, learning to stand up for what you believe in, even if it makes others (and you) uncomfortable.

This is well-written, thoughtful and a page-turner. It was good to read about Amy Anne struggle to transform herself from mouse to lion and succeed. She is an excellent role model for anyone who wants to do the same. And bravo to the author for including in Amy Anne’s locker library books that have been banned by various libraries across the country.

Rating 5 out of 5 paws for learning to stand-up for yourself and the freedom to read!



A sampling of banned books in Amy Anne’s locker library:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Matilda by Roald Dahl

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

All the June B. Jones books by Barbara Park

All the Captain Underpants books by Dave Pilkey

All the Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine