Thursday, October 1, 2009

Children's writer Philip Pullman ranked second on US banned books list

Author of His Dark Materials trilogy included on American Library Association's 2008 list

by Ed Pilkington

His Dark Materials trilogy, by Philip Pullman.

The novelist and children's writer Philip Pullman has been showered with awards that include a CBE, a Carnegie Medal and several honorary professorships. This week he notched up a new distinction: he is ranked second in the top 10 books that people have tried to ban across America.

Pullman's fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, has leapt to the top of the target list of would-be censors in the new rankings issued this week by the American Library Association. It tracks cases where individuals or groups have attempted to have books stripped from bookshelves in schools and libraries across the US.

Its newly released rankings for 2008 recorded 513 cases where books were targeted for censorship, of which 74 were successfully banned or restricted. Pullman's trilogy was the second most commonly attacked, a result, the ALA believes, of an organised campaign that the anti-defamation group the Catholic League launched against the film version of The Golden Compass.

Several schools across America faced requests from parents to remove the book. One challenge at a school in Winchester, Kentucky was made on the grounds that the book's main character drinks wine and eats poppy with her meals. Another school in Oshkosh, Wisconsin pulled the trilogy because of its "anti-Christian message".

Reached by the Guardian, Pullman quipped that he was "very glad to be back in the top 10 banned books". But he added: "Of course it's a worry when anybody takes it upon themselves to dictate what people should or should not read. The power of organised religion is very strong in the US, and getting stronger because of the internet."

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