Connecticut Residents Seek to Ban Two Newbery Medal Winners from School

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

In Cromwell, Connecticut, two residents want a pair of Newbery Medal-winning novels removed from the Cromwell middle school's curriculum. The pair allege that the books, The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, promote witchcraft and violence and have filed a petition asking school officials to remove them, as reported by the Hartford Courant.

Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond is set in 1687 and tells the story of a young girl, Kit, who is forced to leave the Caribbean for a colony in Connecticut. There, in a stern Puritan community, Kit feels like a caged bird. She befriends an old Quaker woman known as the Witch of Blackbird Pond and, as a result, is accused of witchcraft.

Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia is the story of the friendship between two fifth-graders, a boy and a girl, Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke. Together, the two create an imaginary kingdom named Terabithia in the woods, where they rule as king and queen, and where the only limit is their imaginations.

Though Bridge to Terabithia has been banned many times in the past (it is ninth on the American Library Association's list of 100 books most commonly banned from schools between the years 1990 - 2000, in this particular case, author Katherine Paterson does not know why residents Bridget Flanagan and Andrea Eigner want the book removed, she told BTW.

As for why the book has been banned in the past, Paterson explained, "Initially, it was challenged because it deals with a boy who lives in rural Virginia, and he uses the word 'Lord' a lot, and it's not in prayer. Then there are more complicated reasons. The children build an imaginary kingdom, and there was the feeling that I was promoting the religion of secular humanism, and then New Age religion." Paterson thinks the latter complaints are ironic since her parents were Christian missionaries, and she is married to a Presbyterian minister.

According to the Hartford Courant, Flanagan's and Eigner's petition urges the school board to "… eliminate the study of materials containing information about witchcraft, magic, evil spells, or related material, now and forever…. We believe this material is satanic, a danger to our children, is being studied excessively and has no place in our schools."

As of yet, school officials have made no decision regarding the two books and are reviewing the residents' petition, the Courant reported. The Cromwell school board meets August 27. --David Grogan