Title Poetry Contest Finalists & Winner (!!)

Okay, guys! We have finalists for our Title Poetry Contest! Hope everyone had fun with this.


Finalist #1

On the twelfth night,

Harry Potter (spilled) the goblet of fire

On Dante and caused the inferno of a lifetime,

Which raged on through an eclipse

That happened after twilight

–From Hollie in Fort Wayne




Finalist #2

Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn

Went to Treasure Island

Looking for the Wizard of Oz

And the Merchant of Venice,

Who they found in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

— From Sam in Austin




     Finalist #3



Alice in Wonderland

Went on Gulliver’s Travels

By hitching a ride with the Lord of the Rings

     And teaming up with Harry Potter & his deathly hallows

     To complete the Canterbury Tales on time

   — From Morgan in Dayton, Ohio



Finalist #4

In the Vatican Cellars,

The woman with the Scarlett Letter

Read of Memoirs of a Woman in Pleasure

and imagined the worlds of Grimm’s Fairy Tales

And realized she was not so Wicked, after all.

From Joe in Seattle





And our winner– drumroll, please!


Singing from the well,

The Ginger Man underwent a


From one of the Beautiful Losers

To Lady Chatterly’s Lover

— From Katie in Seattle

Congratulations, Katie! We’ll be in touch about your prize. Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

— Kristen D.

Banned Books Mix + Match Game

Michael Gormon, librarian and former president of the American Library Association, has said that banning books not only hinders tolerance and acceptance, but also limits the information exchange Americans hold dear — so Banned Books Awareness Week is all about upholding that fundamental value. In observance of #BBAW11, we’ve put together a brief (and hopefully fun) literary quiz about banned books. See if you can match the statement about the book with its cover.

1. Published in 1951, this novel, written by a famously reclusive American author, has been repeatedly banned and challenged for reasons such as “profanity,” “sexual references,” and the charge that it “undermines morality.” The novel’s protagonist has become an icon for teenage rebellion. (Hint: the protagonist’s name means “deep valley” and has grown in popularity in recent years.)

2. The movies Shawshank Redemption, Stand by Me, and Apt Pupil were all based on short stories from this book, which was removed from the West Lyon Community School library in Larchwood, Iowa in 1987 because it did not meet the standards of the community. (Hint: This best-selling horror author is famous for pinning his many rejection letters to his wall and has published a popular craft book called On Writing.)

 3. The entire Concord Books catalog was declared “obscene” by U.S. Customs in 1944 because it featured this book by a French novelist and playwright. (Hint: the descriptive word in this title means “Curious or unusual in a way that provokes dry amusement.”)

4. This Newbery Award winner has been removed from classrooms and libraries due to “profanity, disrespect of adults, and an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion.” (Hint: this children’s classic was made into a movie in 1985 and then remade in 2007.)

5. Challenged in the Waterloo, Iowa schools because of profanity and statements defamatory to minorities, God, women and the disabled, this book was also downgraded from “required” to “optional” on the summer reading list for 11th graders in the Upper Moreland, Penn. School District in 2000. (Interesting fact: this dystopian novel was inspired by The Canterbury Tales.)

6. Students at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, California received copies of the book with words deemed to be “offensive” crossed out. Students and parents protested, and after being contacted by the media, school officials agreed to stop using the expurgated copies. Ironically, this book is about the fear of certain books creating too much individualism and independent thought. (Interesting fact: the entire novel was written on a pay typewriter in the basement of UCLA’s Powell Library and was serialized in the 1954 March, April and May editions of Playboy.)

7. This book was banned from a Barnes & Noble store in San Diego, California in 1995 for being “too controversial for the bookstore’s conservative clientele.” (Hint: the title alone makes this book a very obvious lightning rod for religious controversy.)

8. A teacher was fired after purchasing this novel for the classroom, with approval by both the superintendent and the principal of Mascenic Regional High School in New Ipswich, New Hampshire. The book, found to be unsuitable, was banned and seized from students while they were reading it in class. (Hint: the book is about a woman who is attacked for her lesbianism after opening a bookstore for women in Boston.)

9. Prohibited in a Jacksonville, Florida Forrest High School advanced placement English class, this book led to the arrest of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the City Lights bookstore manager, Shigeyoshi Murao, on charges of selling obscene material. A judge found them not guilty. (Hint: the title poem is considered one of the principal works of the Beat Generation.)

10. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel was banned in Amarillo, Texas in 1962 because of “political ideas” and because the author was cited by the House Un-American Activities Committee. (Hint: this novel about a Confederate prisoner-of-war camp won the Pulitzer Prize For Fiction in 1956.)

Thanks so much for staying with us all week through our coverage of Banned Books Awareness Week! Let us know in the comments if you’re able to match all ten titles with their trivia blurbs! (We’ll be proud of you if you can!)

Thanks for reading, everyone — Bill

Staff Picks: Top Five Banned Children’s Storytime Books

Kids have no business reading this….at least that’s what some people think. To kick off our Banned Books Awareness Week, the team at our Mansfield, TX store hosted a story time made up entirely of books that have been banned or challenged in libraries across our great land. Wouldn’t you know it…parents actually brought their kids to listen in! According to our Mansfield bibliomaniacs, here were the top five favorite banned or challenged children’s story time books:

#5 Curious George, H.A. Rey

Challenged for several reasons, from George not being drawn anatomically correct, (note: he has no prehensile tail) to the story having racial undertones. Our Half Pint crew just finds him funny– nay, hilarious– and the little readers we know really seem to identify with him constantly getting into mischief!


#4 Tar Beach, Faith Ringgold

Cassie Lightfoot is a young girl who dreams of being free to go wherever she wants, and she is magically whisked away on a journey through history. Illustrated by intricate painted story quilt designs, this picture book has been challenged for containing stereotypical representations of the African American culture.

 #3 The Giving Tree, Shel Silverstein

This book is the ultimate lesson in give and take. Which is better? Who are givers and who are takers? Sometimes challenged for being “sexist,” the only challenge our little readers see is that it challenges us all to be better people.  

#2 The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

Challenged in California for “criminalizing the forestry industry,” this tongue-twisting tale of a feisty little figure who “speaks for the trees” has been a favorite of our story-timers for years. Nothing gets kids talking like a Q&A after reading The Lorax. Somehow kids get Dr. Suess’ message: Take your part, don’t be greedy, “…which everyone, everyone EVERYONE needs!”

And number one is . . . . .

Drum Roll . . . . . .


Because we are not in the business of thought-control (at least not this week) we’d like YOU to nominate a favorite kids book off the banned/challenged list. Let us know in the comments below. Take a moment this week to have your own Banned Books Week story time– you never know what kind of controversy you’ll stir up!

Let me know your favorite . . .


 “Libraries are places of inclusion rather than exclusion.”
American Library Association

Review of The Ninth Day by Jamie Freveletti

Available at HPB MarketplaceA few weeks ago, our friends over at Harper Collins sent us an advanced copy of The Ninth Day, by Jamie Freveletti, available to the public today (look for it at hpbmarketplace.com!) The Ninth Day is the third book in a series about Emma Caldridge — Running from the Devil is the first and Running Dark is the second.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the small mass market paperback, but once I started this book, I seriously couldn’t put it down.

The novel starts off with Emma Caldridge, a biochemist looking for pharmaceutical plants in Arizona, running from but ultimately held captive by drug merchants in Mexico. After discovering that Emma knows about plants, the drug merchants demand that she determines which disease is making both their marijuana plants and the humans around them sick. After a person starts to show symptoms, they have just nine days before dying a horrible death. If Emma does not find the cure, she will be fed to the armadillos.

I found this book to be a fascinating read. It is full of details and bits of knowledge about plants and diseases. I felt like I was learning as I was reading, and the information was presented in such a way that it made sense. However, The Ninth Day is not for a squeamish reader, as there are many descriptions of the horrible things this mystery disease does to the body, along with lots of violence.

This would be the perfect book to read while hanging out by the pool or during a flight. While this book is the third in a series, I do not feel it is necessary to read them in order. The Ninth Day has enough action to capture your attention and keep it until the very last page.

So, what’s your favorite thriller? Any other Freveletti books you love?

— Kristen B.

Banned Books Posters + T-Shirts Round-Up

Censorship is not a thing of the past. You might be surprised to learn that more than 11,000 books have been banned or challenged since 1982 and 348 reported in 2010. Banned Books Awareness Week (BBAW) is an annual event when we, the community of employees and customers at Half Price Books, celebrate our First Amendment rights. Alongside the American Library Association and booklovers everywhere, we celebrate our freedom to read. As part of this, posters and T-shirts are designed each year. Here’s a round-up of some of our favorites.


Support the imaginative and courageous authors of all books, including those that open our eyes to controversial topics. Exercise your First Amendment rights this week by reading a banned or challenged book. And encourage others to build libraries, not bonfires.

Put on your favorite “Banned Books” T-shirt this week and join us! If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the virtual rally happening online. Make a comment below telling us how you joined the First Amendment Rights Rally before 3 p.m. CST on Thursday, September 29 and enter to win a free HPB Banned Books tee. Winner will be randomly selected.

— Meredith


UPDATE: Congratulations to our random winner, Jackie Fender. You’ve won your very own HPB Banned Books T-Shirt. Drop us a note at besocial@hpb.com to claim your prize! This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who participated.

#BBAW11 Title Poetry CONTEST

We LOVED the Title Poetry contests put on the last few weeks by the incomparable Janet Reid and the adorable Tahereh Mafi, so we were inspired to do our own, with a Banned Books twist! 

Here’s how it will work: 

Make a poem with your *banned* books. You may need to add a word here and there, but each line of the poem must include the title of a *banned* book— children’s or adult.  

How to enter: EMAIL the poem and the jpg to besocial@hpb.com. Poem in the body of the email, jpg attached. The contest will close Wednesday 9/28 at noon (12:00 p.m.) and will open . . .  NOW! We will publish the Top 5 and the winner on Thursday 9/29. 

(UPDATE: We’ve heard that some of you would like more time (understandably) so we’re pushing the deadline back to Thursday 9/29 at noon, with the Top 5 & winner posted on Friday 9/30. Now get to it.)

Don’t have a stack of banned books just laying around? Feel free to go to your nearest Half Price Books — there are plenty sold there (since 1972 :))

We can’t wait to see what you guys come up with!

— Kristen D.  

Banned Books Awareness Week 2011

From our Springhurst store in LouisvilleHi guys! Y’know, just when I think my family and I are your average, ordinary citizens, I find out that, actually, we’re way-out radicals!  The folks at Half Price Books told me this was Banned Books Awareness Week.  Who knew? Huck Finn, the Twilight Series, even The Bible have all been challenged or banned by some group at one time or another.

Well, darned if I hadn’t read most of ‘em!  And my “wild” wife Jenni … she’s read To Kill a Mockingbird and Peyton Place plenty of times. Our youngest loves all the Harry Potter books, but there’re evidently some people out there that aren’t “just wild about Harry.” Yep, he’s on the list too! And The Joy of Sex was banned in 1972 when Half Price Books first opened their doors … thus creating the term “book lovers!”

Guess we just don’t buy into not having the freedom to read what’s out there if we want. We’ll never stop reading these so-called banned books … or shopping our favorite bookstore, Half Price Books. And if you can believe it, the latest radio ad was even banned from certain stations for being too controversial! 

So hurry in and be a way-out radical too! While you’re there, you might see some of these Banned Books Awareness Week displays the stores are putting up. Pretty creative! 

From our North Lamar store in Austin, Texas

From our Springhurst store in Louisville, Kentucky

From our South Lamar store in Austin, Texas

So, what’s your favorite banned book?

— Jim Swayze

Top 5 Young Adult Banned Books

Banned Books Awareness Week begins tomorrow, September 24, and to celebrate this week, here are my top 5 Banned Books for Young Adults. 

First, what is a banned book? A banned book is any book that has ever been removed from the shelves of a library, bookstore or classroom because of its controversial content.  This does not mean that the book has been removed from all libraries, bookstores or classroom, or that it is no longer available to readers. What it does mean is that at one time someone has stopped others in their country, state or community from reading these books.  Although some banned books have been burned or even refused publication, most books are banned because someone has decided that the content of a certain book is not suitable for another person or group of people to read, and they are taken off the shelves of classrooms or school libraries in the area where the book is banned.

1. The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank (first published in English 1952)

This true-life story of a young Jewish girl living in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II explores Anne’s true thoughts and feelings about herself, her family, boys, and the war.  Anne receives a diary for her 13th birthday.  Less than a month later, she and her family are in hiding as the Nazis continue to round up all the Jews in Holland and send them to labor camps. Reading this book, you would assume it was banned because of its difficult subject matter. I mean, how do you explain anti-Semitism or the Holocaust to a young American teen? Another reason you might think this book would be banned is for Anne’s honesty about her feelings toward her changing body and the emotional issues that plague every teen. And though the book has been banned in certain areas because certain passages were considered “sexually offensive,” the most common reason The Diary of a Young Girl has been banned is because it was “a real downer.”  Only happy books for these people it seems.

2The Outsiders, by S. E. Hinton (published 1967)

I have to admit that this novel, which tells the story of a sensitive fourteen-year-old boy from the wrong side of town, was my favorite book when I was twelve and thirteen. The main character, Ponyboy, and his friend Johnny get into a fight with two of the social set, called “Socs.” During this fight, Johnny kills one of the “Socs.”  After that, Ponyboy and Johnny run away to escape persecution. Again, the reasons for banning this book are not always what you would expect.  You would assume the book would be banned because of violence (there is also a big “rumble” at the end of the book), but the actual reasons for banning this book include “drug and alcohol use ” and the fact that “virtually all the characters are from broken homes.”  Ironically, this story was based on a real life situation, as one of Hinton’s friends had been “jumped” for being a “Greaser.” The event upset Hinton so much that she went home and started writing The Outsiders. She was fifteen years old when she wrote the book.

3. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier (published 1974)

Trinity High School, a boys’ Catholic school, sells chocolate every year, but this year the chocolate sales are more important than ever.  The goals have doubled and so has the price. Though the group of school bullies known as the Vigils have promised to support the chocolate sale, they give the assignment to fourteen-year-old Jerry to refuse to sell the chocolates.  And so, Jerry finds himself at war against the biggest bully of them all, his teacher.  The Chocolate War is a book about standing up to bullies and the sometimes futility behind it.  However, according to some critics, the book’s “vulgar language” and “sexual content” seem to overshadow its anti-bullying message. Personally, I thought the anti-bullying message was not overshadowed, and the book adequately portrayed the thoughts and feelings of the bullies as well as the bullied.



4.  ttyl, by Lauren Myracle (published 2004)

This interesting book, the first of three by author Lauren Myracle, is written solely in Instant Messenger and follows the messages of three fifteen-year-old girls as they face the daily struggles of high school.  While Angela (SnowAngel) faces constant boy trouble, and Maddie (mad maddie) is singled out by a mean girl causing total school-wide humiliation, Zoe (zoegirl) gets in over her head with a flirty teacher.  The book’s theme is friendship, and although it does cover topics that some may consider controversial, it never promotes negative behavior as a way to deal with those topics. Lauren Myracle’s entire series has been banned and challenged in many schools because of “sexually explicit content” and “foul language.”  Of course, it doesn’t help that it is “grammatically incorrect.”

5.  The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (published 2008)

Set in the ruins of what was once known as North America, this dystopian novel follows sixteen-year-old Katniss as she is forced to participate in what is known as the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death between twenty-four boys and girls, ages twelve through eighteen.  The games are a way for the Capitol to keep the twelve districts in line by forcing each district to send one boy and one girl to fight to the death each year. When Katniss’ sister is chosen to participate in the game, Katniss volunteers to take her sister’s place. In the games, Katniss’s pride and perseverance, along with her hunting skills, make her a contender, and she and Peeta, her male counterpart, end up breaking the rules and changing the game.  Needless to say the book is banned because of “excessive violence,” and author Suzanne Collins admits the Hunger Game trilogy is violent. “It’s a war trilogy,”  she says. However, it is also banned for “sexual content,” which is odd since although it has a bit of a love story, the most they do is kiss, and though they do share a sleeping bag for a few days, it’s more about keeping warm than anything else. It does make me wonder what the movie is going to make of that scene though.  The Hunger Games movie is scheduled for release in March 2012.

For more about banned books and why they are banned, check out deletecensorship.org.

So what is your favorite banned book, and why is it banned?

— Julie

Hobbit Day: 74 Years of Hobbits

Today is Hobbit Day, as a part of Tolkien Week! According to The One Ring, yesterday marked the 74th anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit. On this day in 1937, publishers Allen & Unwin printed just 1,500 copies, which sold out by December. Since then, Bilbo’s tale of defeating the dragon Smaug and reclaiming the birthright of Thorin has sold up to 100 million copies in 40 different languages.

The One Ring summed up The Hobbit’s importance nicely:

“Numbers alone can’t tell its importance and influence on the fantasy genre. In 1937, heroic fantasy tales involving dwarves and elves barely existed. Taking inspiration from his love of fairy tales and sagas, and the work of proto-fantasists such as William Morris, Tolkien inadvertently developed and legitimised an entire genre of writing.

For, without the famous line ‘In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit,’ there would almost certainly be no Lord of the Rings.

And where would epic fantasy be without Lord of the Rings?

So raise a glass and toast The Hobbit. A most excellent and audacious book. To twist a phrase written by the professor himself: May the binding of its pages never fall out.”

Very well said. To get you in the spirit of the day, try on a hobbit name for size. Mine is Sancho Boffin of Needlehole. Or, whip up hobbit-style recipies for First Breakfast, Second Breakfast and Elevensies. Of course, all Tolkien fans and moviegoers – myself included – are very excited about the upcoming movie The Hobbit. Fellow film buffs will want to check out Peter Jackson’s video diary with behind-the-scenes interviews about the making of the new movie. If you don’t have the extended edition on DVD + Blu-Ray like me, be sure to tune in for The Lord of the Rings movie marathon on TV this weekend. 

Nevermind about no talking during the feature presentation. Enjoy your second breakfast, quote your favorite lines, have a good laugh with friends and clank the half pints of beer all you want. After all, it’s Hobbit Day! Cheers! — Jim