It seems incredible that books are still subject to witch-hunts, but in the 21st century they most certainly are, particularly when it comes to literature written or recommended for children and young adults. According to the American Library Association, the ten most challenged books or series last year included everything from J.K. Rowling's infamously entertaining Harry Potter saga to the memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou, an esteemed author who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Arts in 2000. The list even includes that great American classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, for heaven's sake. That's why the ALA and numerous other book-related organizations have been promoting Banned Books Week annually for just over twenty years. Participating bookstores and libraries across the nation use the occasion to remind people that their children's intelligence and ability to process information beyond that presented with a moral sugar coating is being challenged every day. At Denver's Tattered Cover Book Store, the reminders will be particularly strong: Owned by Joyce Meskis, a major local proponent of the First Amendment and founder of the Colorado Freedom of Expression Foundation, the T.C. will not only display an array of unthinkably banned and challenged books, but will also sponsor a Banned Books Week Essay Contest for teens.
Typewritten, double-spaced entries of 600 words or less will be accepted through September 27, with awards to be announced at an October 19 reception and reading. For their insights, winners in three age groups will receive cash prizes, as well as $200 store-credit grants for their school libraries. Get the details at www.tatteredcover.com. -- Susan Froyd
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HONK! if you love equality
The title of the Peanut Butter Players' newest production, HONK!, refers not to road rage, but to the voices of waterfowl. A clever adaptation of the "ugly duckling" story, the musical deals with issues surrounding diversity. "It sends a wonderful message about being different and being accepted," says director-producer Jo Anne Lamun.
The characters are ducks, geese and swans, whose feathers are suggested by the bustles and coattails of their Victorian-style costumes. Lamun says the show's humor and silliness appeal to the actors, who are young professionals between the ages of seven and seventeen. But the play has a serious side, too, and the music, originally written for a cast that included adults, is challenging.
HONK! opens today at the Boulder Theater, 2032 14th Street, Boulder, and continues tomorrow and selected Saturdays through November 1. The $8 ticket price includes lunch, which is served after the 11 a.m. performance or before the 2 p.m. showing. Call 303-786-8727 for details and reservations. -- Jonelle Wilkinson Seitz