I Am Jazz (Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings)

Banned Books Week Day 7: Hello, everyone! Tonight, we wrap up Banned Books Week with I Am Jazz, written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, the true story of a very special girl and her journey to being her true self.

Jazz is a little girl who loves pink, mermaids, and playing with her friends. Jazz is different though; she was born with a girl brain, but a boy body. For much of her childhood, her family and friends would dress her as and call her a boy. Jazz didn’t like it, because pretending to be a boy felt like lying. One day, her parents took her to a doctor and found out that Jazz was transgender. Her parents told her that they didn’t care if she was a girl or boy; they loved her no matter what. So Jazz began to live as the girl she is inside, and while some people are confused or tease her, she’s much happier being who she truly is.

I Am Jazz was released last year, and immediately shot to the #3 position of the most banned and challenged books in the US. It was removed from schools due to complaints of “promoting homosexuality, discussing sexual education, offending religious viewpoints, being unsuitable for age group, and being inaccurate.”

This reception is tragic, because it is such a wonderful book. It’s written from the viewpoint of an actual transgender youth, giving it an authenticity that other books on the subject lack. Having a resource for children that can help them answer questions about themselves or others who are struggling with their gender identity is essential, and this book provides that.

In addition, I Am Jazz is a sweet story that is fun to read and beautifully illustrated. The length might be pushing it for some baby bookworms, but JJ sat through it happily, so I would definitely recommend giving this important book a read. Baby Bookworm approved!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? (Bill Martin Jr. & Eric Carle)

Banned Books Week Day 6: Hello, friends! Today, our banned book is another favorite from our own library, the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. This fun and educational staple that explores colors and animals using repetition and rhyme has been a favorite of baby bookworms since it was released in 1967, including JJ. She adores Carle’s simple and colorful illustrations, and the text is fun and easy to read, plus the length is perfect for babies her age.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear definitely has the most ridiculous reason for being banned: in 2010, the book was removed from Texas public schools after a ban had been placed on the books of Bill Martin, who had written a philosophical examination of Marxism. Because a state board member had failed to do proper research on the fact that Bill Martin and Bill Martin Jr. were TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PEOPLE, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, which has frequently been cited by early education experts as being one of the best books to teach speech and literacy to young readers, was denied to children in the entire state of Texas.

This story is a perfect example of why banning books is so problematic: the opinions and preferences of a small group of people can deprive readers of books that can be essential to their development. The gut-reaction of the Texas School Board members, and the failure to do basic research into the authors and books that were being banned, deprived young children of an American classic.

So, exercise your right to read a banned book! We can definitely recommend Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for your own little one! Baby Bookworm approved!

The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)

Banned Books Week Day 5: Hello, everyone! We continue Banned Books Week with today’s pick, The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, a classic story about the importance of conservation.

In a dark, industrial wasteland, a small boy finds the Once-ler, an old hermit who tells him the story of when the landscape was filled with clear skies, lively animals and, most wonderful of all, the Truffula trees. The Once-ler came to this place and began chopping down the trees to make “thneeds,” an all-purpose garment, despite the pleas of The Lorax, a creature who speaks for the trees. The Once-ler’s greed and short-sightedness blind him until all the animals must leave, the sky is choked with smog, and lastly, the very last Truffula tree is chopped down. Regretful of his actions, the Once-ler gives the boy he tells his story to a gift, the last Truffula seed, and implores him to care for it and learn from the Once-ler’s mistakes.

The Lorax was banned in 1989 in a California school district because parents felt that it was “unfairly biased against the logging industry.” In fact, a hardwood flooring company authored a rebuttal, The Truax, that was logging-friendly – and universally panned by critics.

The Lorax is a classic tale that is just as poignant today as when it was written. It’s a great cautionary tale with a sad yet hopeful ending that sticks with you, and a must-read for all children. That being said, I would wait until they’re a bit older than JJ: the book is way too long for a baby bookworm, and while she loved the brightly-colored illustrations when the forest was healthy, the dark and dismal drawings of the Once-ler’s aftermath did not interest her (funny thing, that). Overall, however, Baby Bookworm approved!

The Story Of Ferdinand (Munro Leaf)

(Due to some technical difficulties, we weren’t able to post our review last night. Sorry for the delay!)

Banned Books Week Day 4: Hello everyone! For today’s Banned Book, we dove into our own library for one of our old favorites, The Story Of Ferdinand, written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. For those who have not heard of this classic, it’s about a bull who wants nothing more than to be himself.

Ferdinand is an unusual bull. While the other bulls love to butt heads and stick each other with their horns, Ferdinand prefers to sit quietly and smell the flowers under his favorite tree. However, due to a misunderstanding, he is chosen for the big bullfight in Madrid, and when he arrives, his gentle demeanor throws everyone for a loop!

The Story Of Ferdinand was released in 1936, and was promptly banned in several countries, including its setting of Spain, due to being labeled as “pacifist propaganda.” It remained banned until 1945 in Germany, and until 1975 in Spain!

Our opinion of the book should be obvious by our choice to include it in our personally library: while the black and white illustrations are not as visually interesting to a 1 year old as others may be, the sweet and calming story about the peaceful bull Ferdinand is fun to read and to listen to. It’s a classic staple that a child of any age can enjoy. Baby Bookworm approved!

And Tango Makes Three (Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell)

Banned Books Week Day 3: Hello, everyone! Today, we read And Tango Makes Three, written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole. This is a sweet true story about a very special family of chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo.

Roy and Silo are not like the other male penguins in the penguin habitat. Instead of wanting to spend time with the girl penguins, they prefer to spend time with each other. They act just like the other penguin couples: they spend all their time together and build a nest that they share. They only thing missing from their family is something the other penguins have: an egg to care for. So their caretaker finds an egg that needs parents and gives it to Roy and Silo, who ecstatically care for their egg together. One day, their egg hatches, and they welcome their daughter Tango, making their family complete.

This adorable story about a same-sex penguin family raising an egg together has the dubious distinction of being the most banned and challenged book from 2006-2008, then again in 2010 (it dropped to second place in 2009) due to its positive portrayal of a same-sex relationship (again, between two PENGUINS). 

So what was our opinion? This is a lovely story about family, and how it doesn’t always have to look traditional to be warm and loving, and an informative book on how penguins find mates and raise families. The illustrations are darling, and JJ loved them. It was a bit long for a one-year-old, but she did okay with it, so older children would definitely love it. Baby Bookworm approved!