A review committee at Minnesota’s Anoka High School agreed last week to retain Rainbow Rowell’s lauded young adult novel Eleanor & Park (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013) in its school library, despite a complaint from a parent who had partnered with the conservative Parents Action League to challenge the book, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
The book—a sensitive love story that deals with difficult themes like bullying, poverty, racism, and abuse—was reviewed by Anoka High School’s librarian, parents, faculty, the principal, and one student, the Tribune reported. The novel has garnered numerous positive reviews and awards; it has been named an SLJ Best Book, a Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Book, and the winner of the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Best Fiction.
“We did acknowledge some of the language is rough, but it fits the situation and the characters,” Principal Mike Farley told the Tribune. “I did enjoy the book. I deal with this stuff every day working in the school with students. Did I think the language was rough? Yes,” Farley said. “There is some tough stuff in there, but a lot of the stuff our kids are dealing with is tough.”
Earlier this year, the book had been selected by the school librarians of the Anoka-Hennepin district as well as the librarians at the Anoka County Public Libraries for the joint Rock the Book Summer Read Program, during which many teens in the community, a Minneapolis suburb, had read the work.
Rowell was set to speak to students in the district at both the school and the public library during Banned Books Week (September 22–28), but her invite was rescinded amidst the book’s challenge.
Rowell was reinvited to the region a month later—this time for speaking engagements in St. Paul, co-sponsored by the St. Paul Public Library and Metropolitan State University. Notably, the staff at the St. Paul Library has chosen the novel for its 2014 Read Brave community read program, during which teens and adults will read the same book and meet to discuss it.
Under district policy, a parent who challenges a book can appeal the review committee’s decision to the district, but this has not occurred yet, district spokeswoman Mary Olson told the Tribune.