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banned books

Live dangerously — read a book Freedom to Read Week, Feb. 22 to March 1 By Chris Woodall Little Red Riding Hood is a dangerous story. Between 1990 and 1992, the story of a brave girl's attempt to fend off a big bad wolf was the 23rd most banned book in the U.S. Maybe the red cloak Ms. Hood wore was seen as a metaphor for the triumph of communism over the free-enterprise oppressors of the masses. Or not. "It's certainly a violent book," admits Whistler Public Library chief librarian Joan Richoz. The library is showcasing a selection of "banned" books as it celebrates Freedom to Read Week, Feb. 22 to March 1. There are also lists of what books have been banned, or have been the subject of attempted bans, over the years. "When they see the banned books, it amazes people," Richoz says of the books that are on most bibliophile's classic reading list. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl — these are but a few of scores of books that have been acclaimed around the world but were attacked as immoral, smutty, anti-Christian, or too violent. Canadian authors have felt the whip of censorship, too. The Handmaid's Tale, Surfacing and The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood have been challenged or banned. La Guerre, Yes Sir! by Roch Carriere, Cabbagetown by Hugh Garner, The Diviners by Margaret Lawrence, and yes, even W.O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind have all been under attack. Schools and school boards have been the most common battlegrounds. "Public libraries have more freedom in the books they include in their collections," Richoz says. Authors of children’s books are under the tightest scrutiny these days, Richoz says. "It's hard for children’s authors to get published, particularly for books that could be in a school curriculum. They have to be so politically correct," the librarian says. There has only been one official complaint about a Whistler library book. It came in the second year of operation. "It was 'Headhunter' by three Vancouver lawyers," Richoz recalls. "By the look of the book you'd get the idea it was quite violent. "The person who complained hadn't read the whole book and misquoted it in the complaint. The person thought the book wasn't promoting good Christian values," Richoz says. As with any complaints the library might get, there is a form to fill out that goes to the library board. "There was some violence, but the plot was pretty good," Richoz says of the decision to keep the book. Richoz chooses all the books. She has a policy to guide her choices and relies on public input, a selection of book reviews, Quill & Quire magazine and other periodicals. "With children’s books, I'm looking for quality with an emphasis on Canadian books," Richoz says. Whistler is a fairly liberal community in the range of books that catch its fancy, Richoz says. The selection mirrors the community the library serves. "You would see different selections of books in Squamish or Pemberton," the chief librarian says. "Everyone has different tastes.