Trading cards celebrate 'controversial' books

Books have the power to change lives on the individual and societal level. They’re portals to magical lands and guides for navigating life’s most gruesome struggles. Because of this, the freedom to access information through books has been highly contested since the birth of the written word.

The American Library Association has reported that there are roughly 500 requests to challenge or ban books from schools and libraries each year. Thus, Banned Books Week was created.

The first Banned Books Week began in 1982 as a celebration that called attention to the dangers of stifling creative expression and access to books. Banned Books Week focuses on readers’ freedom and open access to information, and also acts as a thank you to the librarians, teachers, students and community members who have fought for these freedoms.

Although books have been banned and challenged around the world, there have been a few specific cases that have hit closer to home. Young-adult novel “Annie on My Mind,” for example, was banned in 1993 by the Olathe school system on the grounds that the book “portrays lesbian love and sex as normal” (heaven forbid!). A federal ruling overturned the ban, and as a result, several copies of the book were burned outside of the Kansas City school district headquarters. (On a personal note, this award-winning book is lovely and has come highly recommended by my friends and mentors.)

Farther west, the Newberry Award-winning book “The Witches of Worm” was challenged at the Hays public library for the possibility of “lead(ing) young readers to embrace Satanism.” Most recently, in 2009, beloved picture book “And Tango Makes Three” was challenged in North Kansas City for attempting to indoctrinate children into homosexuality acceptance. Thankfully, the school board voted 3-2 to keep the adorable book on the shelves.

Here at LPL, aside from proudly carrying tons of “controversial” books, we have used Banned Book Trading Cards to increase awareness of the freedom to read and have access to a variety of books and perspectives. Since 2012, we have asked local artists of all ages and experience levels to contribute an original design that represents a banned or challenged book.

Event coordinator Kristin Soper reports that there have been roughly 230 submissions over the years, ranging from banned books such as “The Giver” (unsuitability for children) to “To Kill a Mockingbird” (offensive language and racism) to “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” (sexual explicitness and violent imagery). Each submission gives a statement about the artwork as well as a bit of background on the book’s banning.

These cards have been so beloved that they’ve been featured on Book Riot, Huffington Post, and have become available for sale on the library’s website. This program was made possible not only by the book-lovin’ town of Lawrence but also by the Freedom to Read Foundation, which awarded us the Judith Krug Memorial Fund Grant in 2012 to begin this project.

This year, the winners were announced on Sept. 25 on the grand staircase in the library. The winners included illustrations of classics such as “Catch-22,” as well as a couple of my own personal favorite books such as “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Persepolis.” Below is a list of this year’s fabulous winners, and a new card will be distributed each day of Banned Books Week, Sept. 27 through Oct. 3, at the library, 707 Vermont St.

Artist: Rosey Anderson
Book: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Artist: Rosey Anderson Book: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

1. Artist: Rosey Anderson

Book: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle

Artist: Barry Fitzgerald
Book: “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

Artist: Barry Fitzgerald Book: “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

2. Artist: Barry Fitzgerald

Book: “Catch-22” by Joseph Heller

Artist: Lana Grove
Book: “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

Artist: Lana Grove Book: “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

3. Artist: Lana Grove

Book: “American Psycho” by Bret Easton Ellis

Artist: Emmi Murao
Book: “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

Artist: Emmi Murao Book: “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

4. Artist: Emmi Murao

Book: “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd

Artist: Aidan Rothrock
Book: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

Artist: Aidan Rothrock Book: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

5. Artist: Aidan Rothrock

Book: “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi

Artist: Alexandra Simmons
Book: “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

Artist: Alexandra Simmons Book: “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

6. Artist: Alexandra Simmons

Book: “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

Artist: Larissa Wilson
Book: “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

Artist: Larissa Wilson Book: “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

7. Artist: Larissa Wilson

Book: “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck

Congratulations to the winners and huge thanks to all 60 people who contributed this year! I’m constantly blown away by the talent and care that my fellow Lawrencians put into this community and its programs, and the trading cards are no exception to this. Please stop by the library this week to pick up a packet of this year’s winning cards!

— Kate Gramlich is a Readers’ Services Assistant at Lawrence Public Library and a member of LPL’s Book Squad. Kate enjoys literary fiction, feminist narratives, stories with diverse protagonists, and funny memoirs. Books, cats and cheese are pretty much a three-way tie on her interests list.

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