The Omaha Public Library wants to help readers find new books — or at least books new to them.
Every month in this space, library employees will recommend reading based on different writing genres, themes or styles. Banned Books Week (Sept. 23-29) begins Sunday, and Omaha Public Library staff have recommended some of their favorite banned or challenged reads.
Books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restriction in libraries and schools. By focusing on efforts across the country to remove or restrict access to books, Banned Books Week draws national attention to the harms of censorship. Find these books and more at your local branch or omahalibrary.org.
Hannah Brandon, library aide at South Omaha Library
- The Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey. These are incredibly fun and easy reads for young readers, and show that imagination and creativity can help save the day. I love how Captain Underpants is not a conventional superhero; he’s creative, but not necessarily brilliant. Kids don’t need to be brilliant to become “superheroes” in the real world. All they need is a little imagination.
- “Goosebumps” series by R.L. Stine. These books are vastly intriguing. The book’s endings often surprise, much like in the television series “The Twilight Zone.” It’s a great series to show kids how not everything is what it seems.
- “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,” by Mildred D. Taylor. This is a compelling story about an African-American girl and her family during the Great Depression. It is a powerful read demonstrating racism at that time.
- “Speak,” by Laurie Halse Anderson. This impactful book is about a teenage girl and how she deals with her life after a traumatic event. This book can help show survivors of abuse that they do not have to be silenced, nor do they need to hide their pain out of fear.
- “Scary Stories” series by Alvin Schwartz. This is a classic collection of horror stories and tales. To this day, I remember the cover of the book vividly and how it kept me up at night when I was younger. It is an exceptional choice for people who love horror tales.
Eleanor Dynek, library aide at South Omaha Library
- “And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. This is a beautiful book about the love between two male penguins, and then a family of three.
- “Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. This vividly drawn graphic novel portrays the experiences of one girl growing up in Iran during the tumultuous war and violence in the 1980s.
Michelle Carlson, collection processing specialist for Omaha Public Library
- “George,” by Alex Gino. George longs to play Charlotte in the school play, but is told that she cannot even audition for the part because she is a boy. George knows that she is a girl and wants more than anything for the rest of the world to see it. The story is sad and eye-opening, partly because of the bullying George endures, but even more so because of her loving mom’s inability to understand. While this could easily be a depressing book, it is ultimately a heartwarming tale about learning to accept who you are. It also tells other Georges out there that they are not alone and there is a support network available.
Annika Ellefson, library aide at W. Dale Clark Library
- “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie. This is one of my favorite books and it has been on and off the banned books list since it was published in 2007. It addresses poverty, racism, alcoholism, bullying, eating disorders, sexuality and more.
- “Fun Home” by Alison Bechdel. This graphic novel is a fascinating autobiographical account of Bechdel’s young life, focusing mostly on her father. This book has been challenged for violence and “graphic imagery.”
Theresa Jehlik, strategy and business intelligence manager for Omaha Public Library
- “Jubilee” by Margaret Walker. This novel, published in 1966, is based on the life of Margaret Duggans Ware Brown, the author’s grandmother. Vyry is the child of a slave and her master, who doesn’t acknowledge his daughter. Set in Georgia and Alabama, Vyry’s eventful life encompasses the Antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction periods. It was banned by the Ku Klux Klan in 1977 for producing “racial strife and hatred,” and by a Jacksonville, Florida, pastor in 2010 for being “offensive” and “trashy.”
Deirdre Routt, collection development manager for Omaha Public Library
- “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison. Morrison’s works are hard to read, as they often deal with horrible situations; but her stories are important to read because they deal with horrible situations, are beautifully written and teach us to be better people. Characters are at the heart of her novels. In “The Bluest Eye,” the main character is an African-American girl who wants blue eyes, as they are the most beautiful. Being beautiful means that you are more important and that everything will be better. Morrison’s works can help one begin to understand an unfamiliar life, one that is hard to read about, and harder still to live.
Lynn Sullivan, library specialist at W. Dale Clark Library
- “Snow Falling on Cedars” by David Guterson. The writing was poetic. The subject matter dealt with the prejudices a Japanese family endured in the Pacific Northwest.
- “The Accusation: Forbidden Stories from Inside North Korea” by Bandi. Bandi’s short stories focus on how North Korea uses propaganda to humiliate and degrade its citizens.