Monday, September 27, 2010

Banned Book Week

Ahhh, remember The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, BANNED; or, the Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling, BANNED. 

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl, now that was a great one, BANNED. 

Starting to get worried?  Check here to see the list of other great books that have been BANNED.

Who, what, when, where, why and how have these books been BANNED?  If that's not what you're thinking then perhaps you should be. 

From where are they banned?  Libraries and school libraries.  By whom are they banned?  "Libraries, schools, towns, sometimes governments."

Not a lot of people know this about me but here it goes:  From 1997 until roughly 1999 I tried to find the rights to a book called Two Girls and a Mystery by May Hollis Barton.  I wanted to write a screenplay from this book and I needed the screen rights.  I eventually found the rights in possession of Simon and Schuster for $2500.  Fair price but I didn't have the money at the time. 

It's not the rights that bothered me and changed my view of the world, it was what I learned along the way.

May Hollis Barton was a pseudonym for a group of ghost writers that belonged to the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate in Orange, New Jersey.  Not familiar with the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate?  Sure you are, they pumped out the beloved Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series amongst others.  Business was booming for Edward Stratemeyer and his little syndicate but soon his series books fell under the BANNED list.  And one of the big proponents of this banning came from the chief librarian of the Boy Scouts of America when he put out an article entitled, "Blowing Out the Boy's Brains."  Although the Boys Scouts of America didn't begin the ban on Edward Stratemeyer series books, it further fueled the public.  These books were pulled from library shelves around 1927 and didn't make a comeback until the 1960's. 

I mean 1927 and 1960's.  Those are the years I think of when I think about banned and burned books, definitely not 2010.  But it's true.  The list for BANNED books in the United States grows and changes each year.  Baffling to me.

Sure.  You might not want your kid to read a certain book, so don't let them.  But don't prevent others from reading these books.  Your opinion is subjective.  Don't make up my mind for me or my children.

Check out the following links for more information about the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate:

The Mysterious Case of the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate by Carole Kismaric & Marvin Heiferman

The Secret of the Old Clock

Fore more links to blogs who care about banned books go here:

League of Extraordinary Writers

Read a Banned Book

I have to go pick up my kindergartener from half-day kinder now.  Go protest if you get a chance!   Happy Monday!


  1. It really bothers me when books get banned. I mean, there are supposed to be laws for our freedoms in North America... I feel like banning books is so much more than trying to force your opinions on others, I feel like its a violation of my rights too.

  2. Thanks for bit of history regarding the Hardy Boys books. I didn't know any of that. As a teacher I've lobbied to keep books that some thought were controversial in my classroom library.

  3. Well said, Patty! It is absolutely outrageous that the few can make it bad for the many!

  4. There's a difference between a library not choosing to purchase and shelf a book and a book being "banned." Some would say that only a government entity can ban a book.

    There is a popular perception that Franklin K. Mathiews' article in a November issue of Outlook, "Blowing Out the Boys' Brains", referred to the products and methods of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. In fact this is not the case. There is evidence to indicate that FKM did not even know that Stratemeyer was engaged in the form of book production he described. He later learned of it but not by the time that the article was written. He wrote other articles that are not as well known. I covered this in some detail in a conference presentation:

    I wonder what attracted you in particular to the "May Hollis Barton" story Two Girls and a Mystery? Was it the plot or the title?

    It was indeed one of about 1,300 titles produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. In this case the story was ghostwritten from Edward Stratemeyer's outline by Elizabeth M. Duffield Ward, a writer who contributed some 71 books to the Syndicate. Her father, John W. Duffield wrote even more.

    I see from that the 1928 copyright for this story was indeed renewed in 1956. Simon & Schuster bought the Syndicate in 1984 so that is why they are the agency which can license the stories they still own.


  5. Thanks everyone for posting.

    James - Yikes, I'm not sure if I understand whether or not you are acknowledging that books are banned and that Banned Book Week wasn't started by me but yet the ALA. Welcome though, and I'm happy you stopped by. Any expert on the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate is a friend of mine.
    Regardless of whether or not FKM knew what he was doing, I show in my post that it did indeed fuel a fire that was already in motion. I wonder however, if he felt bad about the effects afterward especially since the banning of those series books and the Boy Scouts of America have forever been tied together wrongfully or not.

    Two Girls and a Mystery was handed down to me from my grandmother who received that book as her only birthday present that year, the cost to her parents at the time was only ten cents, but that was a lot to them. When I moved off to Hollywood, CA from Salt Lake City, UT in 1997 to attend The American Academy of Dramatic Arts I didn't have enough money to live on and the only focus I had was geared to my writing, theater and television. Used books handed down to me were all I had to keep my reading mind at ease. The story is what drove my research. I had such a vision of it in my mind every time I read it that I wanted to share it with the world as a visual art. It's a great story, one I hope my own daughter would love to read one day.

    As soon as I have time, and assuming you are not my enemy, I would love to go through your site and read up on what you've done with your research into the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

  6. I didn't know James and the Giant Peach was banned. Looking at the list, the most powerful books are the ones that get banned. I suspect that people find them too powerful. People who want to ban books are afraid of the power of thought and imagination... they might make people ask questions. But any child over the age of seven knows the difference between reality and fiction. And asking questions is what makes us human.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog! I'd love to have a NaNo partner. This will be my first time, too. =)

  7. I'm happy to say that James Keeline, from comments above, and I are not at all enemies. We were able to communicate through email last night and I am very excited for his WIP in regards to Edward Stratemeyer and his syndicate. He seems to have a wealth of information on the subject and for any that are interested please go to his blog and check out what he's been able to accomplish.

  8. Alison - Yay! Another NaNo partner. When you get a chance let me know your username so I can add you to my Writing Buddies on NaNo. My username is PatriciaTimms if you want to find me.

    I also agree with you in regards to powerful books and banning. Luckily, the controversy can promote sales. The problem though, is that in this economy more and more families are relying on their libraries. Banning books that have been around for a long time is silly. There is no proof that the people who read any of those classics as children have behavorial problems associated with having read those stories.

  9. How strange.Those books are completely benign. I don't get it. Like you said...just monitor what your own kids read if you have a reason.