The Associated Press is reporting that “The Hunger Games’’ is among the most challenged books by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. The association defines a challenge as “a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.”
“In last year’s list, when just the title book of the trilogy was in the top 10, complaints included “sexually explicit” and “unsuited to age group and violence.” Collins herself acknowledged her dystopian stories were not for everyone, telling The Associated Press at the time that she had heard “people were concerned about the level of violence in the books. That’s not unreasonable. They are violent. It’s a war trilogy.”
“For the new study, which also included “Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay,” the objections were more varied, and harsher, including “Anti-ethnic; anti-family; insensitivity; offensive language; occult/satanic; violence.”
“Barbara Jones, director of the ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, thinks anticipation for the “Hunger Games” film led to closer criticism of the books.”
“For instance, there was complaining about the choice of actors for the film,” Jones says. “You had people saying someone was dark-skinned in the book, but not in the film, or dark-skinned in the film and not in the book. In general, a lot more people were aware of the books and that led to more kinds of complaints…”
“Collins’ million-selling novels ranked No. 3 on the association’s list, rising from No. 5 last year.”
The most challenged works were Lauren Myracle’s tween novels “ttyl,” ”ttfn,” ”l8r” and “g8r,” cited for being sexually explicit and “unsuited to age group.” Kim Dong Hwa’s “The Color of Earth” series was second, challenged for “nudity,” ‘’sex education,” being sexually explicit and unsuited to age group.
The library association reported 326 challenges total, a slight drop from 348 the year before, although the ALA believes that for every complaint filed several others are unrecorded. The association did not have a number for how many books were actually pulled.
The list included such classics as Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” (”insensitivity, nudity, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit”) and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” (”offensive language, racism”). Also cited were Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” (”offensive language, racism, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group”), Cecily von Ziegesar’s “Gossip Girl” series (”drugs, offensive language, sexually explicit”) and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s “Alice” series (nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint”).
“Others mentioned were Sonya Sones’ “What My Mother Doesn’t Know” (”nudity; offensive language; sexually explicit”) and “My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy,” by Dori Hillestad Butler (”nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group”).”
“The biggest surprise was the absence of “And Tango Makes Three,” the picture story by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell about two male penguins who raise a baby penguin. “Tango” had topped the list four out of the five previous years.”
“I’d like to think people are getting more tolerant of the theme of homosexuality,” Jones said. “But maybe other books are just getting more attention. Young adult novels are the big thing right now and we’re getting a lot more feedback about them.”
A few weeks ago we discussed the age-appropriateness of the movie, but what do you think about the book? Should it be in school libraries – particularly elementary libraries? And some high school English departments are adding it to their literature studies curricula. Is that appropriate?
I was reamed so much for asking questions about it without reading it the last time that I am currently reading the book. I am on page 223. I will see the movie after I read the book.
I looked up the data on the reading levels for the book and here is what I found on Scholastic.com:
“Interest Level: Grade 6 – Grade 8
Grade Level Equivalent: 5.3
Lexile® measure: 810L
Guided Reading: Z
Book Type: Chapter Book
- Science Fiction
- Families and Social Structures
- Homelessness and Poverty
I agree that the reading level seems equivalent to about fifth grade. The sentence structure isn’t overly complicated and the vocabulary isn’t particularly high level.
While there are deaths and killings on the playing field, I am surprised by how un-graphic they are – at least so far. (My neighbor said the movie was definitely more graphic than the book.)
I haven’t gotten to the end yet so I don’t know how violent or graphic the final deaths will be for the lead characters that we care about. (I am hoping they can all be spared. Wishful thinking?)
But I do contend the themes are very upsetting and the concept of children being sent each year to kill each other is pretty harsh.
I am fine with high schools reading it, and I think even using it in the curriculum is appropriate. (There are lots of good discussions there including some for social studies.) But I wouldn’t use it in curriculum for middle school or below. And I wouldn’t let my elementary students read it.
So what do you think about parents filing complaints about “The Hunger Games?” Do the second and third ones get more violent? What would the questionable material be in there? What grade level would you let read? Would you approve it for curriculum?
What about the other books that received complaints? Do any surprise you?