Friday, February 16, 2007

Deborah Ellis to Take the Banned Book Challenge

Canadian author Deborah Ellis, recipient of the Order of Ontario for 2006 and the Governor General's Award for Looking for X has faced challenges to her books. When contacted about this "Banned Book Challenge," she promised to give it a go.

What a great idea! I can't promise, but I will try.

Paper Tigers
recently interviewed Ellis.
Your books are often controversial - not least in your native Canada. In particular, Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak has been both promoted and removed from reading lists in Ontario. What are your views on book censorship, particularly of children's and young adults' books?

I think all topics should be available in children's and YA novels, but not all writers have the talent to write about all topics in a way that is accessible to children. We put children in all sorts of situations around the world - prostitution, drug abuse, slavery, incest, etc - and it takes special talent to write about those things in a way that is respectful. There are topics that I won't touch because I know I don't have the talent to do them properly.

A Canadian challenged book list has the following information about the recent banning of Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak
2006—In Ontario, the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) urged public school boards to deny access to this children’s non-fiction book about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to students in the elementary grades.
Cause of objection—The CJC said that Ellis had provided a flawed historical introduction to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CJC also said that some children in the book portrayed Israeli soldiers as brutal, expressed ethnic hatred and glorified suicide bombing. The effect on young student readers, the CJC said, was “toxic.”
Update—Although the Ontario Library Association (OLA) had recommended Three Wishes to schools as part of its acclaimed Silver Birch reading program, and although schoolchildren were not required to read the book, at least five school boards in Ontario set restrictions on the text:
a) The District School Board of Niagara encouraged librarians to steer students in Grades 4–6 away from Three Wishes and to tell parents that their children had asked for the book.
b) The Greater Essex County District School Board restricted access to the book to students in Grade 7 or higher.
c) The Toronto District School Board restricted access to the book to students in grade 7 or higher and withdrew the book from school library shelves.
d) The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board refused to stock the book and refused to provide copies to students who asked for it.
e) In 2005, before the CJC made its views about Three Wishes public, the York Regional District School Board also withdrew the book from the Silver Birch program.
Protests by the OLA, The Writers’ Union of Canada, PEN Canada and the Association of Canadian Publishers failed to persuade the school boards to repeal their restrictions.

Sarah Elton wrote this article for the Globe and Mail in the wake of the controversy.

I am embarrassed to tell this blog's readers that I live within the boundaries of the District School Board of Niagara and at one time taught for them. I have read this book and find it to be a fair and balanced view of the conflict. It is powerful because it is in the words of the children themselves and it challenges the adults in their lives and even as far away as Canada to put a stop to the horrow. Our JT Book Club (ages 11-15) is reading Three Wishes this month.

Take the "Banned Book Challenge" yourself and let us know what your goal is.

1 comment:

Sara Abu Obaid said...

I read this book three times. it is such a great book and i cant believe that someone would want to ban that book.