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Teen Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Samantha – Hi! I’m a 7th grader and really excited to be blogging. I LOVE to read and write so I’m most likely going to have a lot of posts. I’ll give you the most honest reviews possible. I hope you read them!

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

In the future, in the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, no one reads books (which I can’t imagine), and firemen start fires to burn books instead of stopping them. A fireman named Guy Montag has never really thought about the books he burns, until one night one woman loved her books so much that she told the firemen that if they were going to burn her books they would have to burn her too. That got Montag thinking. What was in these books that caused people to die rather than live without them? He thought about that so much he decided to steal a book and read it. Then he saw what that woman saw in her books.

But then he got caught, in the exact same way. If you decide to read this book and like it as much as I did, you can see the play at Prime Stage Theatre.

I saw the play A Wrinkle In Time there in the spring, and it was really good so I also advise you to see all of the plays they will be showing this year:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Nov 2 – Nov 11, 2012
Directed by Justin Fortunato

His fear in 1953 was that television would kill books. Bradbury imagined a future of giant color sets — flat panels that hung on walls like moving paintings. Televisions “walls” and its actors as “family.”   Has his Science Fiction become our Fact?

The Great Gatsby
Mar 1 – Mar 10, 2013
adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel by Peter Joucla of Tour de Force Theatre, UK.
Directed by Richard Keitel

“This new stage adaptation is filled with live jazz music to recreate the glitz and decadence of the Roaring 20’s. Gatsby’s motives are driven by love and hope, rather than greed. The absorbing drama is fast-paced, visually evocative and highly theatrical.”  Theatre Basil, Switzerland.

Walk Two Moons
May 10 – May 19, 2013
adapted by Tom Arvetis, based on Newbery Award book by Sharon Creech
Directed by Lisa Ann Goldsmith

“Flawlessly adapted, Walk Two Moons challenges audiences to look outward into a world where everyone has the immense power to help one another. Walk Two Moons has a poignant, valuable message for audiences of every age.” – ChicagoBeat.

What’s New in Censorship and Free Speech?

I follow news about censorship and First Amendment issues for a couple of reasons.  First of all,  I find it is useful for my job.  As you know, public libraries have a mandate to provide equal access to all kinds of information.  In fact, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh adopts the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights as a policy.  My favorite amendment is: “A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.” Yay!

Second, I just find it fascinating.   Reading up on things like book challenges and privacy issues in the information age is a good compass for where moral, ethical, and religious tensions lie, and how we as a society are trying to (or not trying to) work through these tensions.

So, without further ado, here are a few recent First Amendment and censorship news stories you may have missed.

  • Last month at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. an exhibit titled Hide/ Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture, attracted the ire of some congress members as well as the Catholic League.   A short film that was part of the exhibit featured ants crawling on a crucifix.  The Smithsonian withdrew the controversial film from the exhibit.  This attracted the ire of free speech advocates, including the Warhol Foundation, which threatened to withdraw funding from the Smithsonian.
  • A new edition of Huckleberry Finn changes Mark Twain’s original text.  This new version replaces the word “n****r” (used 219 times) with the word “slave.”  Huck Finn is always at the top of challenged book lists, precisely because of this racial slur.  The author of the new version is an English Professor at Auburn, and  believed that the book could be taught more often, if only they did away with the offensive term.  Free speech advocates opposed to the change argue that teachers will miss the opportunity to educate students on post-civil war racism.
  • If free speech is one side of the first amendment coin, privacy is the other.  Pennsylvania Homeland Security was in the news this fall, after the office was accused of violating the right to privacy for some PA residents.  Among other things, the office was accused of equating environmental groups with terrorists. “They were tracking down protesters and grilling their parents,” according to reports.  The state office worked with a private corporation to investigate private individuals who were politically active, especially people opposed to natural gas drilling.

If you want to read more about censorship, check out the CLP Teen Banned Books Week web pages. That’s right, the library has books lists, pathfinders to other websites, and links to news about banned books and other censorship issues!



Another day, another challenged book

shocked On Monday, Fox News did a segment on their morning show (Fox & Friends) called “Unfit to Print”.  You can watch it by clicking here.  In it, the hosts interview two moms from Leesburg, Florida and their reasons for objecting to the placement of Gossip Girl books in the young adult section of their public library.  

 One of the mothers had gone to the library with her daughter, who picked books “randomly from the shelves”  for leisure reading on a road trip.  When she leafed through them and found out that they contained “ribald” content she decided to ask the library to move the books to the adult section.  She says she is not a proponent of censorship, just that the books would be moved “so that unsuspecting students and parents wouldn’t go in like we did and have this information.”  The other mother proposes having a shelf that requires parental consent for books to be checked out.

The National Coalition Against Censorship‘s Kids Right to Read Project has written a letter in response to this challenggossipgirle, opposing it.  You can read the letter in full here.  In part, it states that “both titles are recommended for exactly this age group.  While books in the Young Adult section of the library may contain themes that are too mature for some teens, they may be meaningful to others.  The books should be considered on the basis of their merit for the teens they serve, not based on a particular viewpoint, and as entire works, not based on excerpts some find objectionable.”

What do you think?  Do you think it is the job of a librarian to make sure that the young adult section is only full of books that can be grabbed “randomly” off the shelf  and provide clean mother-daughter entertainment, as the two mothers in Leesburg seem to want?  Or do you agree with the NCAC that “parents may be equipped to make choices for their own children, but, no matter how well-intentioned, they simply are not equipped to make decisions for others”?  Do you think that the suggestion of the mothers is censorship, or that moving the books from the young adult section is not censorship?  Let us know in the comments.

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