By Alan Gratz
Word Count: 45,952
AR Level: 4.5
AR Points: 7.0
In this story, a brave fourth grader takes on her school and some overreaching parents to preserve the books that she loves so dearly. In Ban This Book, Alan Gratz helps young people understand both the reasons and the dangers behind what is, frankly, happening in schools today.
Why banning books is trouble
I have been talking to parents and posting on social media about the state of banned books. One of the reasons I was upset is that I noticed that Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys was on one of our lists of books banned or under review. This young adult novel was paradigm-shifting for both me and my middle grade reader, and I hated to think others might not have access to this beautiful story. Was it an unfornate title issue (you know, how close the title is to that other book that was clearly written for adults), or did someone actually think our young people can’t handle the struggles of a teen girl in WWII-era Lithuania?
Why this story resonates with readers
But I digress from Gratz’s wonderful novel. In Ban This Book, Amy Anne must defend the books she loves so dearly. But how does a fourth-grader do that? By hiding these books in her locker of course. This is not a story about defying authority or doing something sneaky (which, I guess, could get this book banned, too!). This is a story about reason and the love of reading. This is a story about courage and free thinking.
What writers should know
If you are using this story to inspire your own writing or looking at it as a comp, keep in mind a few items. Gratz is writing a character outside of his own lived experience–but I do feel he has done his research (as he has in so many books) and written an engaging story. However, if you lack his writing resume, this can be a risky move for you. What you do want to think about is the way Gratz doesn’t talk down to his audience. He endows young characters with the brains and critical thinking that I have found evident in my own kids. Kids appreciate this!