This morning I read my daughter Dan Yaccarino's new picture book I Am A Story (formal review to come), about the ways that people have shared stories across history. She liked the book very much. She was especially pleased when she noted parallels to the Spaceship Earth ride at Disney's Epcot park (that ride is about the history of communication). But the page spread that really struck her was one about censorship, book banning, and book burning.
The censorship segment shows a book with certain words blacked out. I explained why people might do this, and that banning the book is when people try to keep others from reading the book altogether. The image of people burning books she found shocking,though she was relieved to see a girl reading aloud from a book on the next page. Not all of the books were burned. She got it into her head that the girl had rescued that one book from the book burners, and was sharing it with a crowd.
After we closed the book she continued to think about these issues. She remarked: "Crossing out some of the words would make the story not make sense." I agreed that this was true, and would be a shame. When my husband came downstairs the first thing she said to him was: "Daddy, did you know that people used to burn books? And they cross out words sometimes?" He admitted that he did know.
I asked her if there were books that she would protect if people were trying to burn them, and she said: "I would just have a library with a million books." She was, I think, relieved when we explained that today there are so many copies of books all around the world that no one could burn all of them, and that the stories would survive.
And then we sent her off to school. I will not be surprised if I learn later that she asked her first grade teacher or her librarian about censorship and book banning today. This is what good picture books do. They engage kids, while giving them the opportunity to learn about difficult concepts.
I Am A Story would be a great choice for a home, classroom, or library read aloud during Banned Books Week. It certainly sparked interesting discussion in our house today.