Banned Books Week: Flowers for Algernon and Harry Potter

Tomorrow is the last day of Banned Books Week . . . and I’m getting lazy! Posting every day is tough . . . Sharon, I don’t know how you do it! So no lengthy intro tonight . . . Here are my choices:

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I was 18 or 19 when I read “Flowers for Algernon” after a friend basically said, “WHAT?! You’ve never read ‘Flowers for Algernon’?! Here, take mine and read it!”

The book is about a 32-year-old man, Charley Gordon who is mentally retarded. I have not re-read the book, so I am basing most of this on memory. Please forgive me if I fudge a few details. Charlie is a highly motivated individual with a part-time job and he’s going to school at night to learn how to read. The story is told in first person . . . in journal entry format from Charlie’s perspective.

Chapter 1 begins with “progris riport 1 martch 3”. Charlie is keeping a progress report because he’s participating in an experimental study to increase his IQ. The study has already been successful with Algernon, a laboratory mouse.

It’s an amazing story that I highly recommend if you haven’t read it yet. Have tissues on hand. Charlie’s entire world changes as his IQ increases. And reading this book is like going through the transformation with him.

The book is written on a 7th grade reading level. It’s easy to understand and incredibly touching. The main theme I remember taking from the book was compassion.

So why has this book been challenged?

Because of “distasteful sexual scenes” that honestly, I vaguely remember. It makes sense really – the sexual scenes, not the challenges/removals. Imagine going from a child to an adult in a matter of months. Imagine how confusing your sexual feelings would be. That’s exactly what Charlie goes through.

There is more detail on these so-called “distasteful” scenes here.

Personally, this is a book I *want* on my daughter’s reading list somewhere between middle and high school. I think the lessons are incredibly valuable!

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Ok, this one is no surprise. It’s been discussed all over the place, in large part due to its popularity and that it’s a recent book series. Between 2000 and 2009, the “Harry Potter” books were number 1 on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently challenged/banned books.

Of course we all know why. Harry Potter makes kids want to be become witches and wizards, right? I mean, kids must have lining up all around the world to join whatever coven they could find! We must protect the children!

Oh, and don’t forget that “Harry Potter” teaches children to disobey adults. If you let your child read these books then the next time a troll runs loose in their school, they’re not going to listen to the teachers . . . they’re going to after the troll! And that’s just not safe. We must protect the children!

Really, that’s how logical the arguments to ban “Harry Potter” are.

I don’t think there is really a need to explain what the “Harry Potter” series is all about. I started reading the series in my early 20’s. I think I finished the first four in just over a week. And then I agonized as I waited for the release of the following three books.

I think the “Harry Potter” books are brilliant and as a parent and a former educator, I have the utmost respect for how well they captivate young readers.


13 responses to this post.

  1. i love the last pic 🙂


  2. Yea, it is hard, LOL
    Every once in a while, I will schedule the next day ahead of time, like for Wednesday and Friday posts….or if I go out of town. I also have done so if I have a lot of good ideas in my head and want to write them all done and get them out, but for the most part I do one post a day. It’s hard sometimes but fun.

    Never read “Flowers for Algernon” but it’s on my Goodreads “To Read” list…..along with 150 something other books….ah! I’ll get to it eventually!
    It sounds very interesting!

    I love the Harry Potter books….and it’s interesting how I got into them and how they actually had such an impact on my viewpoint on books and being told what to read.
    At the time they were coming out, I was going to church regularly and our preacher started talking about how evil the books were and had little papers about them. As someone who was always raised in church to believe what the pastor says, I took his word on it and figured there much be something pretty bad in them. Around the same time, one of my best friend’s husbands was really into the books and trying to talk me into reading them. Well, both of us were already huge fans of Stephen King and he had already let me borrow the “Dark Tower” Series by him and I liked that, so I was an adult and I decided for myself that I would borrow the first one, read it and then make my own decision. Even being raised a Christian, my mom also raised me to know what is right and wrong AND to make that decision for myself wisely. So I took it and I read it. I ended up liking it and then I became frustrated with people that considered the books evil. I saw nothing different with the book then I see in fairy tales and Disney movies. It’s just pure fantasy…and then I became really almost angry that it appeared me and others were being told to not read something that I don’t think the people telling me had even checked out for themselves!
    I continued reading the rest and loved them all…From then on, I always make it a point to look into things for myself rather than have someone else force THEIR opinion on me. If a child is raised to know the difference between right and wrong, then why can’t they be trusted to read what they want? It is a parent’s responsibility to teach a kid the difference between reality and fiction, real and make believe, good and evil. If the parents is doing a good job, then the kid can read about whatever and know that this is just a book, it’s not real…..maybe this kid did something bad, that doesn’t mean it’s right for me because my parents taught me to not do that…but this is a book, not a guideline for how I should act. A book is a book! Trust that the parents can make the right decisions for their kids about what they read and trust that adults can make their own decisions about what they themselves read without being “turned” into some evil person…..UGH!
    I actually thanked my mom for instilling this in me in a post from April:
    It’s #5 on there if you want to skip the others


    • *parents ARE…not is…typos!


    • You have to let me know when you read “Flowers for Algernon” and what you think!

      I talked to my Uncle Tom (who is the most devoutly Catholic man I know) about book (and movie) banning once – I think were were actually talking about the movie Dogma – and he told me how silly he thought it all was . . . that fiction is fiction and people should stop taking it so seriously.

      You’re absolutely right . . . you raise children to know right from wrong and they can make decisions for themselves.

      And please – If people really think Harry Potter is going to make people join Wiccan covens, I hope they realize how disappointed those kids are going to be when they realize the the witchcraft and wizardry of Hogwarts have absolutely nothing to do with Wicca! (And that they spells they’ll learn are more like prayers – “prayers with oomph” as a friend once called them – and they won’t learn how to apparate or levitate or turn into animals or . . .. well you get the point!)


  3. LOVED those books!


  4. I love Harry Potter! If I ever have kids, these books are on my to read list for them. 🙂 There are so many great lessons in HP about friendship, loyalty, bravery, love, resourcefulness, why would you not want your kids to read these books?! People just kill me! More people need to take your Uncle Tom’s view. 🙂

    This has been a great series Dayle! I’ve really enjoyed it!


    • I definitely can’t wait till Abby can read Harry Potter. She’s seen the first movie and loved it! The rest are still a little too much for her,

      We’ve started reading “The Spiderwick Chronicles” last year . . . a chapter a night. She enjoyed them, but it was difficult at times to keep her attention through an entire chapter. I’m thinking about trying the “Magic Treehouse” series – shorter, more manageable chapters. And then in another year or two we can start on “Harry Potter” 🙂

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the posts this week. It was a lot of work with research and what not, but it was so much fun to put together 🙂

      Thank you 🙂


  5. […] Flowers for Algernon and Harry Potter […]


  6. Ooh! I *still* haven’t red Flowers for Algernon! Other friends had read it for English class and told me all about it. I think I remember tearing up just hearing about the story. =P

    You know, reading about what people have against Harry Potter makes me think that parents can censor their kids from basically any piece of media. =P We can’t shelter kids from everything. =P I remember my parents randomly banning me from watching the Simpsons when I was young. How irrational when there were plenty of shows that had more questionable content than the Simpsons. =P


    • Please let me know what you think once you read Flowers for Algernon!!

      My aunt banned the Simpsons as well . . . and then later, South Park (well, at least from my cousins – I was over 18, so I was allowed :P). It was odd for me because by the time I was 12 or 13, my mom pretty much let me watch whatever I wanted!


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