Thursday, November 9, 2017

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz Review

Book Nerd Review by Olivia

An inspiring tale of a fourth-grader who fights back when her favorite book is banned from the school library--by starting her own illegal locker library!

It all started the day Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favorite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That's when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favorite book was banned! All because a classmate's mom thought the book wasn't appropriate for kids to read.

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned books library out of her locker. Soon, she finds herself on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what she and her fellow students can read.

Reminiscent of the classic novel Frindle by Andrew Clements for its inspiring message, Ban This Book is a love letter to the written word and its power to give kids a voice.

Ponies and Pink Tutus

Our two huge rottweilers, Flotsam and Jetsam, met us at the door to lick my face. They were so tall they came up to my armpits.

“Off. Off,” I said, trying to pet them so they knew I had said hello. They barked and wagged their tails, squirming around in front of us so much I couldn’t move. I had to follow my mother like she was an icebreaker ship, pushing past the dogs into the kitchen. Dad was there stirring two pots on the stove and baking something in the oven and making a salad. Dad was tall and thin, with skin as dark as mine and muscular arms from laying bricks all day. He had his opera music playing loud again, some Italian lady singing like somebody was shaking her by the shoulders the whole time.

“Spaghetti in fifteen minutes,” he told us. “Alexis!” he yelled. “Come set the table! I’ve asked her three times.”

“I can’t!” Alexis called from our room down the hall. “I’m changing for ballet!”

“Amy Anne, will you do it, honey?” Dad asked.

“No. Alexis always has some excuse not to do what she’s told. Make her do it.” That’s what I wanted to say. But I knew from experience it didn’t make any sense to argue. It never had. It was easier for everybody concerned if I just went ahead and did it. I dumped my backpack on the floor and went to the cabinet for the plates. Mom disappeared down the hall to change out of her work clothes.

“How was chess club?” Dad asked me, and I cringed a little. I took the late bus home every day because I told my parents I was staying late for different clubs, but I wasn’t really in the chess club, or the anime club, or the robotics club. I wasn’t in any club. I just sat in my favorite corner of the library and read books until I had to leave. It was the only time I ever got any peace and quiet.

“Fine,” I lied.

Angelina, my youngest sister, came galloping into the kitchen on all fours. She was a pudgy five-year-old with Mom’s dimples, Dad’s darker skin, and her hair pulled back into a fuzzy ponytail on the back of her head. Angelina had decided she was going to grow up to be a pony, and for the past few weeks she’d been practicing all day. She made a pbpbpbpb sound with her lips and nudged me with her head.

“Hello, Angelina,” I said.

“Rainbow Sparkle!” she told me. Rainbow Sparkle was her pony name. I was definitely not calling her Rainbow Sparkle.

The dogs thought Angelina was playing with them, and they started hopping around and barking at her right where I was walking. I had to hold the plates up high not to drop them as I squeezed back and forth. Angelina and the dogs got under Dad’s feet, and he stepped back from the stove with a scowl.

“Okay, I need all ponies and dogs out of the kitchen while I finish dinner,” Dad said. “Amy Anne, can you do something with them?”

“Why am I supposed to do something with them? I’m not the one crawling around on the floor getting them all riled up!” That’s what I wanted to say, but of course I didn’t. I just grabbed Roller Girl out of my backpack, led Angelina into the hall by her imaginary lead, and called Flotsam and Jetsam to follow me to the room I shared with Alexis.

Alexis’s clothes were all over the floor of the bedroom—even on my side of the room—and she was holding onto the corner of my bed to practice arabesques in her pink tutu. Alexis, the middle sister, was a pretty brown color somewhere between Mom and Dad, and had her pink-highlighted hair cut short and straightened. A pop song blasted from her CD player.

I kicked her clothes across the imaginary line that separated the two sides of our room. “Use your own bed!” I told her for the thousandth time.

“I can’t!” she told me for the thousandth time. “Your bedpost is exactly the same height as the ballet barre!”

“Too bad,” I said, but she didn’t let go. I punched the eject button on her CD player, nabbed the CD, and jumped up on my bed.

Alexis scrambled after me, reaching for the CD. “Mom! Mom, Amy Anne took my music again!” Alexis yelled.

“It’s my room too, and I want to read!” I told her.

“Amy Anne,” Mom called. “Amy Anne! Give your sister back her CD.”

“Why? It’s half my room too,” I wanted to say, “and I don’t want to listen to Taylor Swift while I read!” But I knew it wouldn’t do any good. Alexis always got to practice her ballet whenever she wanted to. I tossed the CD like a Frisbee onto Alexis’s bed, and she dove across the room for it. I called the dogs, and they followed me as I stomped into the hall. Mom had changed clothes and was headed to the kitchen when her phone rang.

“Don’t answer that!” Dad yelled.

Mom took her phone out of her pocket and looked at it. “It’s the office.”

“Definitely don’t answer that!” Dad yelled.

Mom answered it. “Hello? Yes? You’re kidding. Redo the presentation? Really? Before the end of the day tomorrow? But it’s not due until—no—I’m home already. About to sit down with my family and—” She covered the phone with her hand and called out to my dad. “Jamal, can you please turn that music down?”

“Told you not to answer it!” Dad said. He didn’t turn down the crazy opera singer.

Flotsam and Jetsam tried to run into the kitchen again to mooch for food, and I had to drag them with me into the living room. But I couldn’t even hide out there. Angelina had pulled all the cushions off the furniture to make a barn for herself, and she’d used Mom’s paper shredder again to slice up paper to make fake hay. Today she’d found something to build a fence out of too.

“My books!” I said. The few books I owned were all propped up against each other in a half circle outside her “barn,” the spines twisting out of shape. I started to snatch them up, and Angelina wailed.

“No! No! I need those! I need those!” She tried to grab them back from me. “You’re not using them!” 

“Well, you’re not using your room,” I told her. “How about I just go in there and read?”

Alexis and I shared a room because five years ago Mom and Dad decided our house wasn’t crazy enough and they needed another kid. So Angelina got a room all to herself because she was the baby and had a different bedtime. I would have been happy to go to bed at eight o’clock every night and read if it meant I could have my own room, but I knew there was no way Alexis and Angelina would share a room together.

I marched toward Angelina’s room with my armful of books.

“No! No! That’s my room! You can’t!” Angelina screamed.

Mom stuck her head in the room. “Girls, please. I’m on the phone with work.”

Angelina wrapped herself around my leg. “Amy Anne took my fence, and now she’s going in my room!” she wailed.

“Amy Anne, I need you to be the mature one here,” Mom said.


Mom mean-frowned at me. “Fix this,” she said, and went back to her phone call.

So I had to give Alexis’s CD back, but Angelina didn’t have to give me my books back? How fair was that? And Mom didn’t understand why I wanted to run away.

I turned away from Angelina’s room and shoved the books back at her. “Here. And if you bend any of the pages or covers, you’re a dead horsey. Understand?”

“Pony,” Angelina said, arranging the books back into a fence.

“Amy Anne?” Dad called. “I thought I asked you to keep these dogs out of the kitchen! They’re licking the floor again!”

I drooped. The dogs had slipped away from me while I was arguing with Angelina.

“Flotsam! Jetsam! Come!” I yelled.

In the hall, Mom put a finger to her other ear and frowned. “I’m sorry, can you say that again?”

I led the dogs into the bathroom and shut the door. It was the only place left where I could get away from everyone. I sat down on the closed toilet seat with a huff and pulled Jet and Flot to me, hugging them. They were the only ones who ever really listened to me. With everybody else, I’d just stopped trying.

“I don’t suppose you guys have found a magical rabbit hole I can fall down or dug up an enchanted amulet in the backyard that leads to another world, have you?”

Flotsam and Jetsam licked my face and wagged their stubby tails, which I took as a no.

“At least we can hide out in here until dinner,” I told them.

The door rattled. “Mom! Mom!” Alexis yelled. “Amy Anne is hogging the bathroom and I have to pee!”
Copyright © 2017 by Alan Grantz
Reader’s guide copyright © 2017 by Tor Books

Ban this Book is about a girl named Amy Anne who gets her favorite book banned from her school library. Her favorite book got banned by a woman named Mrs. Spencer who thinks certain books are inappropriate or teaches kids to learn bad habits. Amy Anne thinks this is not right because after reading her favorite book, she still didn’t pick up any bad habits. Soon after, Mrs. Spencer bans these books, and she bans more after looking through them.

Amy Anne is a good girl when she thinks something is wrong. She wants to argue with people over a disagreement, but she keeps it in her head and just does what she is told. At the next school board meeting, Amy Anne plans to talk but doesn’t say anything so the next group of books gets banned. Amy Anne has to find a clever way to do something about the book ban. Amy Anne and her friends, Trey, Rebecca, and Danny have to find a plan to unban these books and not get caught.

My favorite character in this book is Rebecca because she is a kind friend to Amy Anne. Her dream someday is to be a lawyer like her parents. She is always acting like a leader when it comes to her banned book club. I couldn’t stop reading it once I started it, and I even took it to school. I think Alan Gratz did a great job on this book because it is my favorite book now.
You can purchase Ban This Book at the following Retailers:

Photo Credit: Wes Stitt

Alan Gratz‘s first novel, Samurai Shortstop, was named one of the ALA’s 2007 Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults. His second novel, Something Rotten, was a 2008 ALA Quick Pick for Young Adult Readers, and was followed by a sequel, Something Wicked, in October 2008. His first middle grade novel, The Brooklyn Nine, was one of the ALA’s Top Ten Sports Books for Youth and Top Ten Historical Books for Youth, and his middle grade Holocaust novel Prisoner B-3087 was one of YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Readers and has won seven state awards. His latest novels are the YA thriller Code of Honor, a YALSA 2016 Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, and The Monster War, the third book in his middle grade steampunk League of Seven trilogy.

Alan’s short fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, online at, and in the anthologies Half-Minute Horrors and Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction, which benefitted victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

As the first Artist in Residence at the American School in Japan in 2010, Alan spent six weeks teaching historical fiction-writing to middle school students in Tokyo, and he was the Thurber House Children’s Writer in Residence in 2011, living and writing in James Thurber’s attic for a month while working with young writers from all around the Columbus, Ohio area.

In addition to writing plays, magazine articles, and a few episodes of A&E’s City Confidential, Alan has taught catapult-building to middle-schoolers, written more than 6,000 radio commercials, sold other people’s books, lectured at a Czech university, and traveled the galaxy as a space ranger. (One of these, it should be pointed out, is not true.)
Alan was born and raised in Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the 1982 World’s Fair. After a carefree but humid childhood, Alan attended the University of Tennessee, where he earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing, and, later, a Master’s degree in English education. He now lives with his wife Wendi and his daughter Jo in the high country of Western North Carolina, where he enjoys playing games, eating pizza, and, perhaps not too surprisingly, reading books.


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