Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Property of the Rebel Librarian
First sentence: You're going to read a lot about me and the things I've done. Most of it's true. I can't help that, not that I'd want to. I would do the exact same thing all over again if I had the chance.
Premise/plot: June Harper loves, loves, loves to read, but when her parents catch her reading her latest check out from the school library, The Makings of a Witch, her worst nightmare begins. What is her worst nightmare? It's not that she's grounded, though that does happen a lot in this one. No, it's the fact that her parents strip her room of every single book, and not satisfied with that proceed to strip the school library of every single book as well.
June Harper a book glutton finds herself cut off from every source. But that won't stay the case. She discovers a free little library on her walk to school. She takes books...and shares them with other students. Thus becoming the REBEL LIBRARIAN.
My thoughts: I think a perfect ending for Property of the Rebel Librarian would have been her sitting with her parents at breakfast and saying I HAD THE CRAZIEST DREAM LAST NIGHT AND YOU BOTH WERE IN IT! IT WAS THE WEIRDEST THING. ALL BOOKS BECAME BANNED OVERNIGHT AND READING BECAME A CRIMINAL OFFENSE. IT WAS SO SCARY AND I COULDN'T FORCE MYSELF TO WAKE UP! THE WORST PART OF THE DREAM IS WHEN YOU RIPPED OUT PAGES FROM MY BOOKS.
It had all the makings of a great TWILIGHT ZONE episode. It was an eery alternate reality.
Unfortunately, that's not the ending. June Harper's reality is supposed to be believable to readers. It wasn't. Not even slightly. Her parents weren't just following their own convictions and practicing their parental rights. They were EVIL. And they were good at it--surprisingly good at it. Somehow convincing the principal, the school board, the PTA, the rest of the staff, and a good percentage of the student body that BOOKS WERE BAD and that the LIBRARY needed to be closed indefinitely because it was SUPER-DANGEROUS. No one apparently argued against June's parents. They were powerfully persuasive it seems! The whole community was united in a goal to make sure that their kids never opened a book unless it was a textbook.
A more thoughtful, more complex approach to the topic would have been a welcome read. Do people find books offensive at times? Yes. From all walks of life. Liberals. Conservatives. Atheists. Christians. Every shade of person in between. Though it may be tempting to paint one stereotype of a "book banner" lunatic, it wouldn't be fair or realistic. There is also a HUGE difference in my opinion between a book being assigned reading within a classroom AND a book being available--on the shelf--in the school library. On the one hand, every student would have to read a book, and on the other hand any book read would be completely voluntary. Some books circulate a lot. Some books not at all.
June's parents are generically opposed to books; if there's an inner motivation behind their objection readers remain clueless. They seek the removal of EVERY SINGLE BOOK in the school library so that the books can be evaluated for content. No profanity, no drugs, no violence, no rock/rap music, no witchcraft, no drinking, no smoking, no rebellion of any kind. The list is generic but incomplete. Did you notice what isn't included? Sex or sexuality. It seems odd that these two would have a vendetta against rock or rap music but be okay with the other. And they're not consistently strict. They care what June READS but not what she watches on TV.
The book also fails to be believable in another way. There seems to be no standards, guidelines, rules and procedures in place to deal with conflict and challenges. I'd be surprised at a library not having a collection development policy. And the school and school board should have clear, written-down procedures in place for what happens when a parent--or concerned citizen--objects to a book either a) in the school library in general b) in the classroom as an assigned reading. It is plausible that a parent could object to ONE book being in the library collection and have it successfully removed. At least temporarily removed until the conflict can be resolved and the book reevaluated. But the idea that a parent could have every single library book removed from the library altogether and have the books boxed up and shipped out is beyond ridiculous.
A book written that thoughtfully reflects a child's struggle in a difficult position would have been a great addition. A child who loves, loves, loves to read and welcomes words like she does oxygen. A child who loves her parents BUT doesn't understand their rules. There is no genuine struggle for June. Her parents are presented as that extremely evil. You might as well hang a sign over their front door saying ABANDON ALL HOPE YE WHO ENTER HERE.
© 2018 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews