April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Ellen Hopkins, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor Honored for Fighting Censorship

Ellen Hopkins

The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) will honor award-winning authors Ellen Hopkins and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor next month for their fight to defend free speech.

Hopkins, who writes about addiction, teen prostitution, and other controversial issues in her “Crank” trilogy (S & S/Margaret K. McElderry Bks.), is no stranger to book banning. In January 2010, she and a handful of other YA authors were scheduled to attend the Humble ISD Libraries’ Teen Lit Festival in Texas, but Hopkins was uninvited when a middle school librarian voiced concern over the author “being in the vicinity of her students.”  In protest, five of the seven other festival authors—Melissa de la Cruz, Matt de la Peña, Pete Hautman, Tera Lynn Childs, and Brian Meehl—withdrew from the event.

Hopkins was also banned from speaking at Whittier Middle School in Norman, OK, in 2009, after a parent asked that her novel, Glass (S & S, 2007), a semiautobiographical account of her daughter’s battle with a crystal meth addiction, be pulled from all district middle school libraries—and that no student be allowed to hear Hopkins speak.

For Banned Books Week in September 2009, Hopkins created a “Manifesto” video, in which she recites an anticensorship poem that chides “you zealots and bigots and false patriots who live in fear of discourse.”

“We’re thrilled to honor Ellen as an author who is courageous for the kinds of stories she writes and her willingness to fight for young people’s right to read them,” says Joan Bertin, NCAC’s executive director.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Reynolds Naylor, a 1992 Newbery Award-winner for Shiloh, has published more than 25 books in the often-challenged “Alice” series, which deals with relationships, sex, friendships, life problems, and God—and landed on the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books for several years, topping the list in 2003. Reynolds Naylor is also founder of the PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, which annually rewards $5,000 to an author of children’s or young-adult fiction of literary merit to complete a work-in-progress.

NCAC has for years honored authors and journalists among defenders of free speech but began recognizing YA authors annually in 2009, when it highlighted the work of Judy Blume, who has served on NCAC’s board since 2000 and is vocal about her battles against censorship.

Lauren Myracle, a New York Times best-selling author of the “IM” series of books, which include ttyl, ttfn, and l8r, g8r, was honored in 2010. Myracle ranked number one on ALA’s top 10 most frequently challenged books list in 2011 and 2009—and also made the list in 2008 and 2007. In 2011, NCAC honored Laurie Halse Anderson, author of the debut novel, Speak, about rape, and Wintergirls, which deals with eating disorders. Both books are often challenged in schools.

Hopkins, Reynolds Naylor, and Chris Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, will be honored November 12 during NCAC’s annual Free Speech Matters ceremony in New York City.

NCAC’s Free Speech Matters celebration is the only annual event to recognize YA writers and children’s book publishers for their contributions to free expression. If you’d like to attend, sponsor, or donate to the event, there’s still time.


About Debra Lau Whelan

Debra Whelan is a former senior editor for news and features at SLJ.



  1. Ellen Hopkins is an inspiration–she absolutely deserves the attention :-)


  1. […] Coalition Against Censorship has wisely tapped Ellen Hopkins and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for fighting closed-minded idiots. I mean people who want to ban books, or authors from […]