Thursday, May 13, 2010

Banning Ghosts and Ghoulies?

The Nashua Telegraph reports that a parent at the Pennichuck Middle School in Nashua, New Hampshire, has challenged the availability of Wait Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story, a Young Adult novel written by Mary Downing Hahn.  Online reviews indicate that many adults fondly remember this as one of their favorite scary books when they were kids. The news article says:

"The parent, whose name was not released, is objecting to the book’s themes of talking to the dead, spiritualism and 'the belief that a part of the body survives after death and that you can communicate with it,' according to the School District."

This is a refreshingly honest challenge, since no exaggerated or invented claims are being made about profane language or sexual content. A challenge like this is unlikely to succeed, though, since a difference of religious beliefs is simply not a valid reason for removing or restricting books in any public context.  The newspaper says the district will form a seven-member review committee to consider the challenge.  While it is laudable that the district has a challenge procedure and is following it, this all seems rather a waste of time, given the nature of the challenge.  It is a foregone conclusion that the book will be retained, since there is no legally supportable basis for doing otherwise.

The Nashua Telegraph did a good job in reporting on the challenge. They had the presence of mind to contact the American Library Association to find out about previous challenges.  The ALA spokesperson found that the book has been challenged, but not frequently, the last previously known challenge having taken place 14 years ago.  That, of course, is based on the challenges that are reported to the ALA, and that there might have been other, undocumented challenges.

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