It’s Middle Grade March and I’ve read some enjoyable middle grade stories! One of the books that I finished was Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. I chose this book because it was about the banning of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler which is one of my favorite childhood stories.
“Good books shouldn’t be hidden away. They should be read by as many people as many times as possible.”
In Ban This Book the main character is a fourth grader named Amy Anne Ollinger who finds that her favorite book of all time has been banned at her elementary school because it “encourages kids to lie, cheat, and run away”. She is devastated when she discovers this and decides to challenge the school’s action. However, Amy Anne is shy and quiet and has rarely, if ever, stood up to authority. Can she find the courage to voice her opinion that banning books in her school’s library is wrong?
Although the story drew me in because the book referenced one of my favorite books in the synopsis, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, I found this book stood on its own merit. Amy Anne and her friends were believable and likeable characters who enhanced the story with their personality and actions. I liked the supporting cast of characters as well and the dynamics of their interaction with the central cast of characters – it felt like a real school with the teasing, stereotyping, and relationships between faculty and students. I also enjoyed reading about the other books mentioned in this book that I was familiar with such as Goosebumps and Harriet the Spy. And there were a few books mentioned that I have never heard of or read which was similarly fun too because it introduced new books to me that I might be interested in reading.
The development of Amy Anne Ollinger was a positive spin of this story that I enjoyed reading. At the beginning of the book she was meek and mild and let others trample on her feelings and opinions, so much so, that she never voiced a contrary thought. She went along with what was asked of her no matter if she agreed or not because it was easier. She felt that being the oldest, it was her job to give in and do what was asked to minimize arguments and drama within her family structure. Amy Anne even responded to others in her head with the things she wished she could say out loud (which I something I still do as an adult…all the time!) This personality trait was one I could relate too since I grew up with the same type of mindset and having this similarity to Amy Anne made the story more relatable to me.
As in all good books, Amy Anne’s character changed as the story progressed. She learned to speak up and to share her ideas and thoughts with those around her. She found her courage and gained self-esteem. This is what made the book a 5-star read for me. I liked how she learned the value of speaking up and she learned the right way to share her thoughts with those in authority over her. These are some great characteristic traits in which kids can learn from reading Ban This Book.
I would recommend this book to any elementary child who loves to cheer for the protagonist. Of course, as with me, I think adults will enjoy this story as well. It’s fun and kind of nostalgic with the books mentioned that I grew up with.
“That’s what libraries were for: to make sure that everybody had the same access to the same books everyone else did.”