“The words were dangerous.” For as long as people have been expressing their opinions in writing, there have been those in positions of power who have succeeded in censoring those thoughts—or making sure they were never printed in the first place. In this timely and provocative parable, a book is first subjected to redaction, then removal from a library. From award-winning author Jonah Winter, this provocative tale is subject to increasing amounts of blacked out text from censors, leaving behind a powerful message of the effects of censorship. Award-winning artist Gary Kelley’s moody and powerful art sets a weighty tone, portraying the emotions of the readers, the censors, the indignant librarian, and the questioning students. What becomes of a banned book? Is it good for only landfill fodder in the end? Banned Book will spark discussions with students in middle school and above as they confront a situation that is altogether too common in our own time.
Censor bars gradually fill the pages of this bleak, self-referential exploration of book banning. Following a classic fairy tale opening, a pointed voice recounts the tale of a work—subject redacted—in which “words had been blacked out/ by people who believed the words/ were dangerous.” Unraveling the events of the censorship, the narrator places the blame with a group dubbed “ ‘We Are Right’ (or: ‘WAR’).” The group shows up at a school board meeting, a librarian is silenced, and the book ends up in the trash, to be forgotten for good. Throughout, asterisks point to flimsy justification for the redactions (“These words are not allowed”). Shadows and dusty hues lend Kelley’s chalky geometric artwork an ominous quality that echoes the tone of endangerment summoned by Winter throughout this stark portrayal. Human characters are portrayed with various skin tones.
–Publishers Weekly, 09/08/2023