Americus by M.K. Reed and Jonathan David Hill

Americus

by MK Reed (Author) & Jonathan David Hill (Illustrator)

Americus

  • VOYA Coding: 5Q 4P M G
  • Lexile Level: GN
  • Reading level:Ages 12 and up
  • Paperback:224 pages
  • Publisher:First Second (August 30, 2011)
  • Language:English
  • ISBN-10:1596436018
  • ISBN-13:978-1596436015

In the small town of Americus, Neal Barton is happy just to get by and read his favorite fantasy series.  High school is supposed to be the best days of his life, but Neal knows that he will always be an outcast.  At least he has his best friend and the teen librarian to share his love of reading as well as the latest installment of The Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde to look forward to.  However, all of that changes when his best friend’s mom begins to lead a Christian charge against the library and series in the name of “protecting the children”.  To make matters worse, Donny has been sent to a Christian camp and military school for reading the series and defending it agains this mother’s rants.  Now Neal is starting high school alone and, as the momentum for banning the book grows, is quickly becoming the voice for the Save Apathea series.

Charlotte Murphy, the teen librarian, is a tremendous role model for young adult services.  She is a vocal and professional advocate for reading and reaching young people.  When attacked by the book banning committee, she is both level-headed and relatable.  Her efforts to protect the procedure for calling books into question and the right of her charges to read are true to life.  As the community becomes more embroiled in the controversy, the real issues surrounding the concept of censorship and book banning come to light, and Reed is very careful to present a variety of responses to the situation.  Though her portrayal of the religious response to the books is somewhat extreme, it is not unreasonable or even unprecedented.  Americus is strengthened by the addition of scenes from the series in question (also fictional), and the obvious parallels to the controversy surrounding the Harry Potter series.

I would consider this a must read for any librarian and a great addition to the banned book week canon.  See also the author and illustrator’s website http://www.saveapathea.com for background information regarding Banned Book Week, the graphic novel, and the entire publishing process.

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