SLJ's Reviews of the 5 Most Challenged Books of 2016

In anticipation of the Top 10 Challenged Books for 2017 announcement on Monday, April 9, we've compiled the reviews of last year's most challenged titles.
In anticipation of the Top 10 Challenged Books for 2017 announcement on Monday, April 9, we've compiled the reviews of last year's most challenged titles. All five titles were not only written for the children's or young adult audience but they were also cited for their "LGBTQ content" or for being "sexually explicit." Most of these works have also received multiple awards and both critical and public acclaim.

redstarTamaki, Mariko. This One Summer. illus. by Jillian Tamaki. 320p. First Second. May 2014. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781626720947; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781596437746.

Gr 8 Up–Every summer, Rose and her parents vacation at a lakeside cottage. The rest of the world fades away as Rose reunites with her friend Windy and delves into leisurely games of MASH, swimming, and the joy of digging giant holes in the sand—but this summer is different. Rose is on the cusp of adolescence; she’s not ready to leave childhood behind but is fascinated by the drama of the local teens who are only a few years older, yet a universe apart in terms of experience. They drink, they smoke, they swear. As Rose and Windy dip their toes into the mysterious waters of teen life by experimenting with new vocabulary (“sluts!”) and renting horror movies, her parents struggle with their own tensions that seem incomprehensible to Rose. Layers of story unfurl gradually as the narrative falls into the dreamlike rhythm of summer. Slice-of-life scenes are gracefully juxtaposed with a complex exploration of the fragile family dynamic after loss and Rose’s ambivalence toward growing up. The mood throughout is thoughtful, quiet, almost meditative. The muted tones of the monochromatic blue-on-white illustrations are perfectly suited to the contemplative timbre, and the writing and images deserve multiple reads to absorb their subtleties. This captivating graphic novel presents a fully realized picture of a particular time in a young girl’s life, an in-between summer filled with yearning and a sense of ephemerality. The story resolves with imperfect hope and will linger in readers’ mind through changing seasons.–Allison Tran, Mission Viejo Library, CA

”SchoolTELGEMEIER, Raina. Drama. illus. by author. 238p. bibliog. Scholastic Graphix. 2012. Tr $23.99. ISBN 978-0-545-32698-8; pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-545-32699-5. LC 2011040748. Gr 5-8–Callie has ambitious plans for her school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. She has more to contend with than the logistics of building a working stage cannon, though, including the tension between stage crew and actors and her confusion about her new friend, Jesse. Does he like her, or is he gay like his twin brother? Telgemeier deftly portrays the ambiguity of sexual identity in the middle-school years in a story that simultaneously appeals to that audience. Callie is a strong character, confident in her ability as an artist and warm and friendly to her peers. She and her fellow students grin frequently, to the point of seeming unrealistically well adjusted. More often, however, Telgemeier is just showing the best side of teens. “Keep it professional,” the stage crew head tells the group, and they do. The full-color cartoon-style illustrations are graceful, assured, and, along with the twists and turns of the plot, guarantee an entertaining and enlightening read.–Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library

Gino- GeorgeGINO, Alex. George. 240p. Scholastic. Sept. 2015. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780545812542; ebk. $16.99. ISBN 9780545812580. Gr 4-6–Before her mother and older brother Scott come home, George has a few, treasured moments to experience life as she’s always wanted to live it. She looks in the mirror and calls herself Melissa, combs her hair over her forehead to mimic the appearance of bangs, and reads glossy magazines full of ads for lipstick, perfume, and tampons. Once her mom and brother come home, however, the magazines must go back to their secret hiding place. While George has no doubt she’s a girl, her family relates to her as they always have: as a boy. George hopes that if she can secure the role of Charlotte in her class’s upcoming production of Charlotte’s Web, her mom will finally see her as a girl and be able to come to terms with the fact that George is transgender. With the help of her closest ally, Kelly, George attempts to get the rest of the world to accept her as she is. While children can have a sense of their gender identity as early as the age of three, children’s literature is shockingly bereft of trans* protagonists, especially where middle grade literature is concerned. George offers more than the novelty of an LGBTQ coming-out story, however. Here, what is most remarkable is the use of pronouns: While the world interacts with George as if she is a boy, the narrator only refers to her with female pronouns, which gives her girl-ness a stronger sense of validation. In addition, George comments on the fact that, in past years, gays and lesbians have achieved a certain amount of visibility and acceptance, while the trans* community is still largely ignored and misunderstood. George’s mother remarks that while she can handle having a gay child, she simply can’t accept her as “that kind of gay.” For George, as is the case for many LGBTQ youth, coming out is a process that she must repeat until she is properly recognized. There is pain in George, but not without the promise of a better tomorrow, even if tomorrow doesn’t arrive as soon as it should. VERDICT A required purchase for any collection that serves a middle grade population.–Ingrid Abrams, Brooklyn Public Library, NY HERTHEL, Jessica & Jazz Jennings. I Am Jazz. illus. by Shelagh McNicholas. 32p. Dial. Sept. 2014. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780803741072. Gr 1–3–This enlightening autobiographical picture book tells the story of a transgender child who knew from the time she was two that despite her physical body she wasn't really a boy. Young Jazz was passionate about her love of mermaids, dancing, dress-up, and pop stars, as well as her conviction that her gender identity was female. Readers are taken through her journey with upbeat, pink-hued watercolor illustrations that are a good complement to the cheerful tone and positive message of the story ("I don't mind being different. Different is special! I think what matters most is what a person is like inside."). Joining the ranks of new books targeted at young children that examine gender roles, such as Ian and Sarah Hoffman's Jacob's New Dress (Albert Whitman, 2014), this title highlights a topic that has not been well represented in children's literature in an uplifting and empowering way. Jazz's explanation of what transgender means ("I have a girl brain but a boy body") is somewhat simplified. However, for those looking to introduce the concept to young readers or those seeking books that value differences, this illustrated memoir is a solid choice.–Megan Egbert, Meridian Library District, ID LEVITHAN, David. Two Boys Kissing. 208p. Knopf. 2013. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780307931900. Gr 7 Up—Narrated by an often heavy-handed Greek chorus of men who died of AIDS, this novel features the stories of one transgender and several gay teens. It focuses on Harry and Craig, friends and ex-boyfriends who have set out to beat the Guinness World Record for kissing. Harry's parents accept that he is gay and are there as witnesses, while Craig's parents find out that he's gay after his mother is told about their record-breaking attempt. Other characters include Tariq, the victim of a hate crime; boyfriends Neil and Peter; and female-to-male (FTM) transgender teen Avery and his love interest, Ryan. Finally, there is isolated, angry, and disaffected Cooper. He spends his nights trolling sex sites online and runs away from home when confronted by his furious parents. Although Levithan has a tendency toward didacticism, his characters are likable, with some more developed than others. The story will engage readers, both female and male. The author's note discusses the true events that inspired this story. Despite its flaws, this title is recommended based on subject need.–Nancy Silverrod, San Francisco Public Library  

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