by Barbara D'Amato
I don't know how you all feel about evolution. I like it as well as anyone else does; I just don't think it's gone far enough yet.
One of the best books on the subject is THE FEATHERED ONION, subtitled Creation of Life in the Universe, by Clive Trotman [John Wiley & Sons, 2004].
Ever since Archbishop James Ussher calculated that Creation happened on October 22nd [or 23rd] 4004 B.C., the probable time of the creation of the earth has been pushed back, and back, and back. THE FEATHERED ONION is particularly good at describing the process leading to the changes of dates and the current evidence for the age of the universe--possibly 13 billion years.
Trotman is also wonderful on the [to me at least] surprising complexity of unicellular life.
There is a good deal of math in Trotman's book, but it's well explained and the writing is clear and lively. This is a book that is truly mind-expanding.
And the other stories I mentioned above?
As you surely are aware, this is Banned Books Week. Banned Books Week began in 1982. The American Library Association has compiled a list of the ten most challenged titles in 2009. Here they are:
ttyl, l8r,g8r and so forth--the series by Lauren Myracle
AND TANGO MAKES THREE by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER by Stephen Chbosky
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper lee
TWILIGHT the series by Stephanie Meyer
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J. D. Salinger
MY SISTER'S KEEPER by Jodi Picoult
THE EARTH, MY BUTT, AND OTHER BIG ROUND THINGS by Carolyn Mackler
THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker
THE CHOCOLATE WAR by Robert Cormier
So, for Banned Book Week, buy a banned book.
For my granddaughter, I think I'll buy TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and THE COLOR PURPLE. She has already read all the TWILIGHT series, which does not seem to have damaged her, and anyway I don't think Stephanie Meyer really needs my help.
For my grandson, TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN. They didn't make the list this year, but they often have in the past.
Besides the Mark Twains, others often challenged are 1984 and ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell, A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC by Shel Silverstein, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut, A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle, BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley, and such all-time faves as CANDIDE by Voltaire and JUSTINE by the Marquis de Sade.
Because I have a few friends with new children or grandchildren, I will also buy JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH by Madeline Holler, one also not on this year's list, but frequently challenged. There are a few iffy words in it, and some unfortunate characterizations of people by their body builds, but most children don't notice or care, and if they do, it's an opportunity for discussion.
Buy a banned book. They make great birthday presents.