We are currently in the midst of what the American Library Association condemned in November as “a dramatic uptick” in efforts to challenge or remove certain books from libraries and schools. Many of these censorship efforts have been led by conservative Christians and conservative politicians who are concerned these books will dissuade their kids from embracing what they call “Judeo-Christian values.” But as Ryan Duncan explained, Christians are deluding themselves if they believe banning stories about gender, race, or sex will halt their kids’ curiosity. Ban ’em or burn ’em, these books will not disappear and kids will continue to seek out resources on these topics — to some parents’ chagrin.
Other parents will encourage their kids to read these books, talk with their peers and adults about the contents within, and imagine how these books might impact their own religious convictions as well as their neighborly responsibilities. Sojourners reached out to some of these parents to ask if their kids, ages 5 to 17, would be interested in offering a brief review of a banned book from this list.
We asked each young reviewer to respond to three questions: What did you like about the book? Why do you want other people to read this book? How did this book teach you to love God and love your neighbor? Reading these responses reminded me that nothing can stand in the way of a kid’s curiosity.
Some responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reviewed by Eden, grade 12 (Michigan)
I really liked this book because it addressed more serious topics that often get pushed aside.
I highly recommend this book to readers who are looking for a book that opens a conversation about heavier topics such as LGBTQ matters, familial abuse, underage drinking, and the stressful nature of high school.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower taught me that no matter what happens in life, God will always be there even when you can't see it. This book illustrated how God is evident in the people around you, even during the hardest of times.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Reviewed by Malachi, grade 4 (Pennsylvania)
I liked that it showed microaggressions because most people don’t know how minor racist comments or actions secretly hurt Black kids. I also liked the perspective of the main character and I thought the art illustration was cool.
I want people to learn about microaggressions.
It taught me about another person’s perspective and how to see microaggressions when they happen. After reading this book, I can love my neighbor better by realizing that people of color are dealing with racism and try to help stop it.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Reviewed by Scarlett, grade 2 (Texas)
They’re setting up a play within a play. I like plays and setting them up. (Spoiler!) They were going to make a cannonball with confetti, but it didn’t work.
If you like plays, you should read it.
A boyfriend and girlfriend break up with each other two times in the story. In the second one, it was before they were supposed to kiss in the play. Most of the characters treated each other kindly.
I am Jazz by Jessica Herthel
Reviewed by Lauren, grade 10 (Pennsylvania)
This book helped me discover my identity as a genderfluid person. It also helped me to better understand other people around me. Jazz’s family is also incredibly supportive of her, which helped me come out. I was empowered to inspire change after reading about Jazz and her amazing story.
I want other people to read this book so they can help educate themselves and others about why it is important to embrace our differences and identities. We can’t do that without understanding each other. This book also highlights the perspective of a trans kid which is not a perspective many people will experience for themselves. Because of this, it is crucial that this perspective is understood and acknowledged by people around the world.
Although I am not religious myself, this book could definitely be used to show the unity and love that religion encourages. This book chronicles the struggles and successes of a transgender woman which should inspire people around the world to love their neighbor, regardless of their background. Since reading this book, I have done my best to be less judgmental of others and help them through hurdles in life, just like Jazz’s family did for Jazz.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Reviewed by Bella, grade 11 (California)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower helps shine a light on mental health and offers a realistic perspective on mental illnesses including post-traumatic stress, anxiety, and borderline personality disorder. The novel expresses what it feels like to be a “wallflower” or an outsider, while also emphasizing the importance of staying in the present day and living in the moment. I love that this book truly represents the different aspects of adolescence and teen years for what they really are.
I want other people to read this book because it is an enlightening coming-of-age story that does not fabricate the realities of struggling with mental health issues and being an outcast. I think it is important that young readers experience the emotional journey of this book because it allows you to feel what it is like to be a teenager, the good and the bad, the thrilling and the painful.
This book teaches me to love God and my neighbor because it highlights the importance of forming bonds, specifically emphasizing the value of friendship and love. As the reader follows Charlie’s story, they can see the many different connections that impact his life, both positive and negative influences, and they come to realize the impact that each and every individual has on the world.
When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball by Mark Andrew Weakland
Reviewed by Eva, grade 3 (Virginia)
I liked that Wilma tried hard to walk even though she had an illness and she was able to accomplish her dream of being a great runner.
I want other people to read the book because it is uplifting and it helps you be more confident about yourself and accomplish your dreams.
It taught me that God loves everyone no matter their abilities and strengths.
George by Alex Gino
Reviewed by Isabella, grade 7 (Texas)
I liked that George had a main character that was queer and I got to read a story about someone who is still young and trying to figure out who they are. I feel like sometimes we think kids are too young to know themselves, but that isn’t true. This book helps us know these are valid and important stories too.
I think it's important for us to see different people represented in fiction books. George can help remind people of how everyone is exploring parts of themselves even when we are young.
George teaches me that everyone is a human who loves and is loved. God loves everyone because we’re all human and we keep learning more about ourselves all the time. All parts of our identity matter and we deserve to be loved for who we really are.
All resources on this list were independently selected by Sojourners’ editors. Sojourners has partnered with Bookshop.org; when you order books through the links on sojo.net, Sojourners earns a small commission and Bookshop.org sends a matching commission to independent bookstores.