Banned Books Week 2021:  Books Unite Us

Books Unite Us logoBanned Books Week is September 26th through October 2nd.  It is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and spotlights current and historical attempts to censor books in libraries and schools. It brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

From The Banned Books Week Coalition:

The Banned Books Week Coalition is proud to announce that Jason Reynolds has been named the inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week 2021. The New York Times bestselling author will headline the annual celebration of the right to read

Reynolds is the author of more than a dozen books for young people, including:

  •  All American Boys (with Brendan Kiely) DB83370
  • Ghost (book 1 of the Track series) DB85921
  • Long Way Down  DB89688
  • Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks  DB97796
  • Stamped (with Ibram X. Kendi)  DB98926

 A multiple National Book Award finalist, Reynolds has also received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor, an NAACP Image Award, and several Coretta Scott King Award honors. He is currently serving a two-year term as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for the Library of Congress.

As an advocate for storytelling and an outspoken critic of censorship, Reynolds is the perfect person to headline Banned Books Week 2021, which has the theme, “Books Unite Us. Censorship Divides Us.” For young people in particular, books offer both shared and differently lived experiences that help them develop empathy and understand themselves and their world. In turn, censorship isolates us from each other by narrowing our view of the world.

“I’m excited about being the inaugural Honorary Chair for Banned Books Week,” says Reynolds. “More importantly, I’m excited about this year’s theme, which is so simple, yet so powerful. What does it mean when we say, ‘Books unite us?’ It means that books are the tethers that connect us culturally. Stories ground us in our humanity; they convince us that we’re not actually that different and that the things that are actually different about us should be celebrated because they are what make up this tapestry of life.”

For more about author Jason Reynolds and Banned Books Week check out


Iowa Center for the Book: Great Reads from Great Places

Grasshopper Jungle book coverThe Iowa Center for the Book (ICB) is a program of the State Library of Iowa and an affiliate of the Library of Congress Center for the Book. Founded in 2002, ICB’s mission is to stimulate public interest in books, reading, literacy, and libraries. Bookmark this page and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  The Iowa Center for the Book is funded in part with a federal grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

From the Iowa Center for the Book

The Iowa Center for the Book has selected Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith (DB80786) as the 2021 title for the Great Reads from Great Places program. Great Reads from Great Places is a program from the Library of Congress Center for the Book to showcase the literary heritage of the nation’s states and territories. Each book is selected annually by the Center for the Book affiliates and highlighted during the National Book Festival. The books may be written by authors from the state, take place in the state, or celebrate the state’s culture and heritage. 

About the Book 

Austin and Robby didn’t exactly mean to start the end of the world here in Ealing, Iowa but that’s what happens when they unleash an army of six-foot-tall praying mantises and now this is the truth, this is history … and nobody knows anything about it. 

Funny, intense, complex, and brave, Grasshopper Jungle brilliantly weaves together everything from testicle-dissolving genetically modified corn to the struggles of recession-era, small-town America in this groundbreaking coming-of-age stunner. 

About the Author 

Andrew Smith is the award-winning author of several Young Adult novels, including the critically acclaimed Grasshopper Jungle (2015 Michael L. Printz Honor, 2014 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award, Carnegie Medal Longlist) and Winger. He is a native-born Californian who spent most of his formative years traveling the world. His university studies focused on Political Science, Journalism, and Literature. He has published numerous short stories and articles. The Alex Crow, a starred novel by KirkusPublishers Weekly, and Booklist, is his ninth novel. He lives in Southern California. Find out more at

See what titles other States chose for their Great Reads from Great Places 

Library Chat Podcast: September 2021

In September’s Library Chat library staff discuss Banned Books Week and more.  We also discuss two podcasts focusing on banned books.

Library Chat Podcasts:  September 2021

Library Chat Booklist:  September 2021

Top 10 Most Challenged Books of 2020

  1. George by Alex Gino DB82273 
    It was challenged, banned, and restricted for LGBTQIA+ content, conflicting with a religious viewpoint, and not reflecting “the values of our community” 
  2. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds DB98926 and BR23102 
    It was banned and challenged because of the author’s public statements, and because of claims that the book contains “selective storytelling incidents” and does not encompass racism against all people 
  3. All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely  DB83370 
    It was banned and challenged for profanity, drug use, and alcoholism, and because it was thought to promote anti-police views, contain divisive topics, and be “too much of a sensitive matter right now” 
  4. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson DB49958 and BRN27713 
    It was banned, challenged, and restricted because it was thought to contain a political viewpoint and it was claimed to be biased against male students, and for the novel’s inclusion of rape and profanity 
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie DB65403 and BR21549 
    It was banned and challenged for profanity, sexual references, and allegations of sexual misconduct by the author 
  6. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin DB100015 
    It was challenged for “divisive language” and because it was thought to promote anti-police views 
  7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee DB77672BR12850 and LT10965 
    It was banned and challenged for racial slurs and their negative effect on students, featuring a “white savior” character, and its perception of the Black experience 
  8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck DB48515, BRN19107 and LT4820 
    It was banned and challenged for racial slurs and racist stereotypes, and their negative effect on students 
  9. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison DB49914BR12618 and LT5895 
    It was banned and challenged because it was considered sexually explicit and depicts child sexual abuse 
  10. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas DB101117BR21874 and YA LT Tho 
    It was challenged for profanity, and it was thought to promote an anti-police message

Every year the Office for Intellectual Freedom, a part of the American Library Association, compiles a list of the 10 most challenged books of the previous year. 

Recap: September Makerspace Monday

Image of particpants creating a bowl and a flower using clay.On September 13th we were joined by smiles and abounding laugher at our Makerspace Pottery workshop. Chunks of clay were passed around and imaginations were dancing all throughout the air. Clay coils were created, cinnamon roll bowls of shapes and textures twisted, and were designed by Sam herself. Amunique designed a beautiful clay rose, heart shape pinch pottery, and Emoni got started right away by creating a two-tier designer pottery bowl. We were also joined by Luis, who by the way, was up to his knuckles in clay. Luis made a pottery bowl with ocean waves to remind all of us to just “go with the flow,” right Luis?

Next month, we will be joined by guest “Artful Connections” as we mix and create personalized scented essential oil blends. This evening will be a time simply dedicated to you. You will learn how to relinquish feeling fantastic and being calm in crazy stressful times.

Coming up:  October Makerspace Monday
Time: 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Date: Monday, October 11th
Ages: All Ages
Activity: Lava Beads and Essential Oil Blends with Special Guest!
Location: Iowa Department for the Blind, 524 Fourth Street, Des Moines, IA 50309
Online Registration

If you are unable to join in person, no problem, just complete the online registration form and choose “mail activity kit and video link” directly to your preferred address.

Please contact Denise Bean at or 515-452-1338

Book Reviews from Deena

Heart shape filled with books on shelvesCheck out these book reviews from Deena.  Deena was a member of the Library’s Patron Service Team who recently retired.  She has generously continued to share book reviews with us.  Thank you, Deena!

Let us know if you would like any titles added to your booklist or head over to BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) to download the titles now.  Need more information about BARD?  See our BARD Page.

When We Were Sisters by Emilie Richards  DB98713

Cecilia and Robin were foster sisters.  Robin went on to marry and have children.  Cecilia became a singer, who made it big.  Cecilia is making a film about foster care and asked Robin to talk about their shared experiences.  The two women uncover long-buried secrets about their lives when they were in foster care.

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes  DB33245

Charley, a mentally handicapped young man is given experimental surgery to improve his intelligence by a recommendation of his teacher.  At the same time a mouse, Algernon is given the same surgery.  To gauge his mental ability, he “races” the mouse in a maze.  Before his operation, the mouse almost always wins. After the surgery, Charley becomes a genius.  He realizes how he was taunted and made fun of by other people before his surgery.  After a while, Algernon goes back to the way he was originally and Charley realizes it will happen to him too.  This book is what I would classify as a modern classic.  This story has been made into a movie twice.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica  DB92975

Quinn’s roommate, Esther, is missing.  As Quinn investigates she comes to believe Esther was trying to kill her.  Meanwhile, Alex living in another state meets a mysterious girl, who won’t tell him much about herself.  The parallel stories finally converge and Esther is found with the help of Quinn’s friend. This is an interesting psychological thriller with a surprise ending.

2021 Library of Congress National Book Festival – Create Your Own Festival

Open a book, open the world logoFrom The Library of Congress: 

The 2021 Library of Congress National Book Festival will invite audiences to create their own festival experiences from programs in a range of formats and an expanded schedule over 10 days from Sept. 17 through Sept. 26. The spectacular lineup includes authors, poets, and illustrators from America and around the world. 

“This year, we are inviting Americans to create their own National Book Festival experiences by offering free, high quality programs in a variety of formats that they can mix and match according to their interests and schedules,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. “Our stellar cast of authors, conversations on timely topics, and new ways to engage will allow everyone to enjoy a personalized National Book Festival how, when and where they want to experience it.” 

The theme of this year’s festival, “Open a Book, Open the World,” will be the starting point for many conversations with authors, often discussing how their own books open up new worlds for their readers. 

“Open a Book, Open the World: The Library of Congress National Book Festival,” hosted by LeVar Burton, will premiere Sunday, Sept. 12, at 6 p.m. ET (check local listings) on PBS,, and the PBS Video app. The program will offer a timely celebration of the power of books and discussions on some of the big topics of the day. 

For the first time this year, NPR will be producing and distributing a series of podcast interviews with festival authors. The Library is also collaborating with PBS Books, a national programming initiative produced by Detroit Public Television, to create a national public television special during the festival. More details about the podcast and broadcast lineups and dates will be announced soon. 

There is so much happening this year!  Check out the National Book Festival Page