"The Lovely Bones" Challenged in CT
December 19, 2006
A parent has asked for the removal of The Lovely Bones, a novel by Alice Sebold, from a middle school library in Connecticut. The web site Westport Now has the details.
A parent has asked for the removal of The Lovely Bones, a novel by Alice Sebold, from a middle school library in Connecticut. The web site Westport Now has the details.
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I actually don't think "The Lovely Bones" should be in a middle school library myself. It's pretty graphic and disturbing.
Posted by: MotherReader | December 19, 2006 at 11:35 PM
Hmmm. I think there is a big difference between a 6th grader and an 8th grader. It might be appropriate for some 8th graders. I guess the thing that concerns me about this one is that it is in the library. Her daughter doesn't have to read it. I remember reading Flowers in the Attic when I was in 8th and 9th grades. I know I wouldn't want my high schooler reading it, but it seemed okay for me at the time. I just worry about books being taken out of the library. A parent complaint about a book required for class is a different story. But taking it off the shelf in a library is frightening.
Posted by: Franki | December 20, 2006 at 08:35 AM
I had no idea that The Lovely Bones was so popular among teenagers until a friend of mine's then 8th-grader was talking about how she and all her friends were reading it. I was surprised.
Children, especially younger ones (like 6th graders), do need guidance, I feel, when selecting their books, but removing it from everyone's grasp is another matter.
Posted by: Susan | December 20, 2006 at 09:05 AM
I can't get the Westport Now site to load, but I'm going to assume it's happening in that town, right? This is shocking. Westport is a bastion of progressivism. It's an affluent, well-educated town in a solidly blue state. Westporters pride themselves on their support for the arts. Numerous artists, writers and actors make their homes there, (most famously Paul Newman). Ivy League admissions officers refer to the area as the "gold coast" for the high level of competitiveness among applicants.
If this can happen in Westport, it can truly happen anywhere. How frightening.
Posted by: Anne | December 20, 2006 at 12:56 PM
Yes, Anne, it's in Westport. My guess is that, wherever the town, usually these challenges don't get reported, but this one did. Two thumbs up for Westport Now.
Posted by: Susan | December 20, 2006 at 01:52 PM
I'm with MotherReader on this one. It's not like we're talking about removing it from the city public library. It's a middle-school library. Seems fair to me that parents might have issues with that.
Posted by: Nancy | December 20, 2006 at 09:45 PM
Just in mini-research, I popped on a few online catalogs of middle schools and The Lovely Bones was not often in the collections. Which says to me that it's not a standard purchase, like say Harry Potter. So, while a parent may object to "witchcraft" in HP, it is easy enough to say that the book is written for kids and is an expected purchase for a library. In the case of The Lovely Bones, the book is an adult book and I'm not sure why it was purchased for a middle school library in the first place. Yes, a librarian is a professional in establishing a library collection, but she could be, well, wrong. I'd love to hear what middle school librarians would say/are saying about the issue.
Posted by: MotherReader | December 20, 2006 at 10:43 PM
MR, theoretically couldn't it have been purchased because of a high demand for the novel? (I don't know the specifics in the case here.) Digging around a little, I found the book on an 8th grade summer reading list in the Buffalo area. I'd like to hear from a middle-school librarian, too.
Harry Potter and Eragon are standard elementary-school purchases, too, aren't they? (Except, possibly, in the Bible Belt?)
Posted by: Susan | December 20, 2006 at 11:33 PM
The purchasing choice could have been made based on high demand, but then I'd ask what if the high demand had been for Silence of the Lambs? I'm curious what the selection criteria is for a middle school library in looking at adult books for their collection. My rich, large, DC-suburbs county doesn't carry the book in its middle schools, high schools yes. And of course it's available in the public library, as I'm sure it is in Westport.
Posted by: MotherReader | December 21, 2006 at 09:27 AM
Junior high libraries are often the battleground for KNBBNs because of the differences of maturity levels between a 6th grader and an 8th grader. Tailoring a collection that only meets the needs of 6th graders would be like limiting an elementary library to books that are only accessible to first graders. (These parents often wail, "but what if my 6th grader read this book?" --Well, tell them NOT to!
I am still searching for evidence that a library book can cause damage by just sitting quietly on the shelf. In my years as a librarian I have never seen a book drag a kid over to the circulation desk and force them to check it out. If parents want to direct their kids' reading selections,(and I say good for them) then they should make the ground rules clear to little Horatio or Hortense.
I suspect there are 8th graders in that jr. high who have seen (with THESE parents' permission) R rated movies and listen to music on their MP3 players that would turn my gray hair, white!
I'm not defending Lovely Bones specifically because I have not read it but I am just tired of these BBKNNs.
Posted by: Camille | December 27, 2006 at 02:22 PM
Thank you, Camille. It's good to get a school librarian's perspective.
I love your idea, "I am still searching for evidence that a library book can cause damage by just sitting quietly on the shelf. In my years as a librarian I have never seen a book drag a kid over to the circulation desk and force them to check it out."
Posted by: Susan | December 27, 2006 at 03:51 PM
I have read the book and I found it very disturbing. This is not a book I would recommend for any young person. I am an elementary school librarian. We are not in the business of having every book available on our shelves. We don't have the money and there are public libraries where people can get any book they like. Although I agree that the parents can ask their children not to check it out, to a middle schooler that would be like saying you must read this book. I don't believe that adult fiction has a place on a school library's shelves. What about the A List and Gossip Girls series which are YA titles and deal with drugs, alcohol, and sex? My daughter read these in 8th grade and I read them with her and we discussed the issues. These were not found in her school library but at the public library and bookstore. I am concerned that in our quest for free access that we are losing site of appropriateness.
Posted by: Lori | December 30, 2006 at 10:00 AM
Hi, Lori. Thanks for stopping by. I like hearing librarians' perspectives on this issue. I agree with you that The Lovely Bones brings up very disturbing issues. I'd have no problem recommending it to adults because I thought it was well-written and beautiful. Teenagers do read it, however, just as they read The Gossip Girls. (And I'm curious what middle-school libraries do with that series, now that you mention it.) But whether or not I personally recommend a book is not relevant to what a library offers to its patrons. I loathed Pale Fire, for example, but I would never tell anyone not to read it, much less petition to pull it off the library shelves. I would want to talk about discuss the novel with someone, though! (Thank goodness for blogs.)
Posted by: Susan | December 30, 2006 at 02:04 PM
My son is 15 years old in freshmen honors reading. I read this book years ago and was alarmed it was being read out loud in the classroom. I have a meeting with the reading teacher and dept. chair tomorrow. It is too late for my son, but I think there are many books out there they could have picked and saved this subject for seniors or adults.
Posted by: Nancy | January 31, 2007 at 03:59 PM
My 10th grader who is 14 had this book as assigned reading at school. I read it and was very surprised that it would be an assigned book! I don't really have a problem with my daughter reading it, but wow... I'm surprised it's being allowed.
Posted by: way2 | September 20, 2007 at 05:34 PM
The Lovely Bones is a well-written novel about a very disturbing subject. I agree with you that it's a surprising choice for required reading, but when I was in high school (lo, those many years ago), required reading was more along the lines of The Great Gatsby and The Old Man and the Sea--neither of which meant much to me at 15.
Posted by: Susan | September 21, 2007 at 12:02 PM
I am a liberal woman who strongly supports academic freedom and I usually disagree with efforts to restrict young people's access to literature. However, I just found out that Lovely Bones is required for a 6-8th grade honors english class at my daughter's school, and I was shocked. This is a book I have specifically chosen to avoid reading because I have heard the content is disturbing. I can't imagine asking my 10-year-old, 6th grade daughter to read it. I know there is a wealth of young adult literature out there - old and new. I can't believe there aren't plenty of developmentally appropriate and otherwise great choices for middle schoolers. I have to ask, however, since i have not read the book, "What is the academic appeal? Why WOULD a middle school teacher or librarian recommend this book? Is it just the shock value that has appeal or is there something worthwhile for a 10-13 y.o to get from the book?"
Posted by: Lynn Northrop | September 28, 2007 at 06:57 PM
The Lovely Bones is a beautifully written book. I read it several years ago, and found it very moving. Granted, I'm an adult, and I believe that adults are its intended audience.
That said, I do not know why the novel is required reading in some classes. My suggestion: read the book and see if you think it is appropriate for your child. If not, then talk to the teacher in a polite and constructive way about an alternative for your child.
My son's reading is still along the lines of Beverly Cleary and I'm not a teacher so I can't explain why this book is required reading in some classes.
As I said before, I, too, think it's an unusual choice, especially for younger children. However, I doubt that teachers are choosing the book for shock value. Maybe he or she is even trying to be helpful. Assume the best and go from there.
Word of mouth, more than recommendations from adults, seems to be what spread this book's popularity among teens.
Posted by: Susan | September 28, 2007 at 09:28 PM
I was very surprised by Lovely Bones. I purchased this book for my 12 year old for Christmas, but within the first 12 pages, ( as she told me,) she was disgusted. It was an excellent plot, but I agree the graphics were much too vivid.
Posted by: ktaylor | December 26, 2007 at 11:25 PM
I have taught book to high school seniors, and always have had a great reaction, even when I was teaching in the inner city.
Students, both boys and girls, love this book, but I would never think of trying to teach it to my freshmen classes, let alone in a middle school setting. That being said, my 8th grade niece read it recently and loved it. Her parents have always allowed her to read what she likes, and the books she choses are mostly from the adult section of the library.
I'm sure this book gets passed from girl to girl in the 8th grade, but I don't think that's a bad thing. At that age I was reading Wifey and Flowers In the Attic, neither of which had any redeeming literary value.
Posted by: Lulu | April 16, 2008 at 02:49 AM
Lulu, thanks for writing and sharing your opinions on The Lovely Bones. This post continues to draw hits a year and a half after it was first published!
Posted by: Susan T. | April 16, 2008 at 10:23 AM
I have just about had it with the summer reading lists from our school system. Since I am with the kids when I am driving them around, I know they are not thinking about gritty subjects and yet every year that has been the assignment for them to read. When parents expressed shock and dismay at Meet the Teacher night, the teachers looked so surprised at everyone's disgust. I mean there was definitely angry grumbling agreement with every parent that had the nerve to speak. The happy meeting was turning into an angry mob! I found out later that my daughter's Lit teacher hadn't read most of the books so wasn't even aware of the age inappropriate subjects and last year's teacher hadn't read any on the list. So who at the school is picking these lists for the children to read? The rape passage in The Lovely Bones is the last straw. These girls have barely seen fleeting normal sex in movies yet twice have been assigned books where rape has been the graphic subject, rape and murder in The Lovely Bones which goes on for several informative pages between a 14 year old girl and a creepy neighbor man. If it was a movie it would be rated R, not seen below age 17 without parental permission. I do see where it is inspirational later in the book, but that doesn't erase the adult subject matter at the start of the book. As for it being on Middle School shelves, there isn't any way for parents to monitor what their kids take out from the school library like you can with the public library where it's on the computer. This book wasn't written for the average child, they shouldn't bump into it on middle school shelves, they shouldn't be forced to read it in 10th grade.
Posted by: Chrissy | June 17, 2008 at 04:12 AM
As an 11th grader I completely diagree with the removal of The Lovely Bones in any library. If anyone has read this book they will realize that although it has some disturbing topics, it's an incredible book. It's very emotional and touching and every time I re-read it I bawl my eyes out. It has great underlying messages of family, grief, hope, heaven, love, joy, etc. I also do not think that it's innaproptiate for middle school children. There are far worse things in the media these days then reading about rape and a murder in a novel. As a younger person I wish that adults would put themselves in a child's shoes. They don't understand how a book like this can actually help a child deal with grief and mourning. I strongly suggest that parent's get over this issue. It's just a book! And a very good one at that.
Posted by: Cassie | January 08, 2009 at 05:34 PM
I am a 9th grader and I have just read this book as an outside reading book on a list of 100 or so. Rape and murder happen everyday and this book tell about it, its not like it is saying to go around raping and murdering 14 year old girls. In my middle school they have sex-ed books and gossip girls and books about sex and drugs everywhere, this book is much better than all of those. I'm sure middle school kids have seen, read, and heard much more graphic things than this book has. I think it is absolutely ridiculous to take this out of a library just for that reason.
Posted by: Jenny | January 11, 2009 at 04:07 PM
I also agree with Jenny's statement. I am a ninth grader too.
Posted by: Megan | February 22, 2009 at 07:03 PM
Hello, I am a 10th grader, and i feel that it is unnecessary to ban "The Lovely Bones". It may have some disturbing topics. But, you can learn a lot. Also, if parents really don't want their children to read these books. Then they should be able to talk to their own children and control that themselves. Instead of eliminating these sources for other children.
Posted by: Anonymous Reader | March 11, 2009 at 01:10 PM
I'm a 9th grader and I completely agree with Anonymous Reader. I had to read this book for a Banned Book project in school and found the book insanely uplifting. Although its very graphic and disturbing, I think that the message overall is amazing. After I was done with this book, I began to look at life in a whole new way. Everything I did, was effected by what I learned in the book. I feel that lots of teens my age should be able to feel after I did after I read this book because I was very inspired.
Posted by: Ali | January 06, 2010 at 08:58 AM
I am the mother of a sixth-grade girl in suburban Denver, Colorado. I am highly disturbed to know that this book is on the shelves of our local middle-school library (with a long wait list due to the recent hype from the movie, I might add). I advised my daughter that she was too young to read this kind of material, but she checked it out from school and was halfway through it before I even knew she had access to it. I can punish her for disobeying me, but it won't undo the fact that she's already read the most disturbing parts (the first chapter). She told me a friend her age who's read it has nightmares. I can't believe this book belongs on a middle school shelf, and any sixth grader can just check it out.
Posted by: Mommy x 4 | January 31, 2010 at 12:32 PM
My daughter's 8th grade English class is reading this book right now. They are even reading it outloud. I think it is very inappropriate for 8th grade. I am an English teacher and think it is an excellent book, but my daughter thinks some of the scenes are TMI, especially when being read outloud in coed classes. I could see this being read in an upper high school honors class, but only with parental permission.
Posted by: Songbird | February 06, 2010 at 10:44 PM
I found this site while i was doing a banned-book report in my 11th grade, econ and gov class. i have taken in to consideration everything that has been said through out all comments. the assignment i have been assigned is to pick books off of the 2000-2010 top 100 banned list. what i am supposed to be finding is where/who/why/ what the decision is about the challenge.
1. i agree with the other highschoolers who have stated their opinions; "Hello, I am a 10th grader, and i feel that it is unnecessary to ban "The Lovely Bones". It may have some disturbing topics. But, you can learn a lot. Also, if parents really don't want their children to read these books. Then they should be able to talk to their own children and control that themselves. Instead of eliminating these sources for other children." - A. reader.
He/She stated every word correctly.
Parents if you do not want your child exploring and discovering such content,dont allow them to. talk through with them why it is not appropriate for age or whatever the reason be.
BUT please dont punish other students from expanding and developing an openmindedness about the world around them.
personally i would not allow for my child, if i had one, to read any book with this content until the approriate age, or maturity. I have read and watched the movie. i have researched many many things about this book.
The point of reading literature in school is to learn to identify and evaluate such ideas within a book.
Posted by: Stated | April 13, 2010 at 11:41 AM
Restriction of free thought and free speech
is the most dangerous of all subversions. It
is the one un–American act that could most
easily defeat us.”
– William O. Douglas
Posted by: Stated | April 13, 2010 at 11:48 AM
Stated, thanks for chiming in! I especially appreciate all the student viewpoints here.
For the record, the book remained in the school library. If I'm remembering correctly, the reviewing committee's decision was unanimous to keep it in the collection.
Posted by: Susan (Chicken Spaghetti) | April 13, 2010 at 09:00 PM
The Lovely Bones does show some graphical content, but what is the problem with kids or teens learning about it? The book is about a young girl(Susie)who faces a tragic death...but learns to deal with it. In my point of view, The Lovely bones just shows on why you should stay away from strangers. In only the first chapter, it says she is killed by someone she knew,..but it also describes of how she felt uncomfortable..sorry to say but Susie should have known better. Even though this book is inapropiate for some readers, kids as young as 10 are bound to learn about this kind of stuff some time,..why not now? Why not now so kids can start being safer? *i am a 9th grader and i knew about this kind of stuff since i was in 5th grade.*
Posted by: Laura Martinez ^_^ | November 28, 2010 at 08:14 PM