Banned Books Week

When I read Holly's 5 Books On My TBR post I was surprised by how many previously banned books are aimed at children. I guess it does make sense because overprotective parents are often the reason why a book is banned, but it's funny to see how many 'dangerous' books were given to me as a gift when I was little!

Sunday was the first day of Banned Books Week, an annual campaign spearheaded by the American Library Association as a way to raise awareness of censorship and to celebrate the freedom to read. The American Library Association receives about 300 calls a year from people complaining about books or wanting them banned from libraries or school. While that may seem like a low number, it's believed the figure is a vast underestimate, with many 'people taking action on their own and libraries don't always report when such books go missing... Each book taken out of a library represents X number of readers. If it's a city library, that's hundreds of people who have lost access to that title.'

These are just the children's books from my living room bookcase which have been banned because of censorship. I thought it would be interesting to share the reasons why some of these books have been banned. You can read the full list for these books - and many, many more - on the American Library Association Website.

The Chronicles of Narnia was banned in 1990 for depicting graphic violence, mysticism and gore. The series came under attack again in Florida in 2005 when protesters fought for its removal from schools because Aslan can be interpreted as a Christ-like figure and offend non-Christian students.

While you might think the hookah puffing caterpillar or 'magic' cakes would be the reason behind Alice's Adventures in Wonderland being banned, it was actually banned in China and other parts of the world because people objected to the talking animals! It was considered 'disastrous' to put animals and humans on the same level.

Award-winning novel Charlotte's Web was banned in 2006 for the same reason, with some parents in a Kansas school district arguing that talking animals are 'blasphemous and unnatural'. 

The same group of Kansas parents argued that the talking animals of Hundred Acre Wood in Winnie the Pooh are an insult to God and pushed to have the novel banned. Did you know beloved Winnie the Pooh was also banned from being the mascot of a Polish play area because he doesn't wear any trousers?!

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been the subject of criticism and cries for censorship since it was first published in 1990. Of all the complaints, my personal favourites include the novel's 'depiction of benevolent witches' and for portraying women in strong leadership roles. Oh, the horror!

On a similar note, Little Women was challenged because it was considered 'too radical' for insinuating women can choose what they want to do with their lives. Interestingly - particularly as author Louisa May Alcott was a feminist and supporter of women's suffrage - Little Women is criticised by many readers today for its limited portrayal of traditional gender roles.

Bank Street Book Store in New York are hosting their own events this week to mark the importance of the freedom to read. I think owner Andy Laties sums up exactly why Banned Books Week is important when he says 'When you ban a book, you shut down a conversation. By shutting down these conversations, you're shutting down the opportunity for a child to develop critical thinking and to learn about the world.'

Little happy days

If creative inspiration was a tangible thing - which you could reach out to touch, squeeze and hug - what do you think it would look like? I like to imagine a big, squishy blob - stuffed full of silver glitter, shimmering with luminous shades of purple, blue and green, crackling with energy and creative ideas.

If you see mine, can you please pop it back to me in the post?

September has not been a good month for feeling inspired. As well as my interest in blogging taking a serious knock (it feels alien to have my fingers tap-tap-tapping away on here again), I've not had the energy to create, well, anything. Other than a few doodles from my adorable new book, I've felt pretty flat over the past four weeks. Whether it's down to a cold which has plagued me for weeks, some rubbish life complications or just an imagination dry spell, I've missed feeling inspired.

The silver lining of not wanting to stay inside and be creative has been the opportunity to go outdoors and make the most of the last handful of sunny days this summer. A few weeks ago an unexpected burst of sunshine and blue skies spelled an impromptu trip to Loch Lomond to visit the aquarium. Set on the beautiful banks of Loch Lomond, the aquarium is home to tropical fish, green turtles, starfish, white tip reef and black tip reef sharks, stingrays... I would be here all day if I listed all of the creatures who live there! 

We also coincidentally decided to visit on the same weekend as the Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival. The banks of the loch were lined with stalls selling cheese, pizza, chocolate, burgers, olive oil, seafood, dumplings, tacos - to name just a handful! We had a wander around the stalls, soaking up all of the noise and smells, before we visited the aquarium. I love eating alfresco, so I really can't think of a better location for a food and drink festival than with the stunning scenery of Loch Lomond as a backdrop.

After a couple of hours oohing and aahing over all of the little sea beasties (i.e. taking so many photographs of the clownfish and not having to be asked twice if I wanted to touch a starfish), we found a picnic table and had a little feast while soaking up the sunshine - it was much too nice a day to sit indoors for lunch!

The afternoon was topped off by renting a peddle boat to get out on the water, before treating ourselves to a couple of bottles of Thistly Cross Cider to sip while the water lapped round our feet. It was such a happy, relaxing afternoon - and, despite being only a 30 minute drive from Glasgow, I felt a million miles away from the worries which have distracted me this month.

While I'm looking forward to autumn - hooray for golden leaves, crisp mornings and Halloween! - I will miss these perfect late summer days. I can only hope that, while sunshine might be on shorter supply, October will serve up great, big dollops of creative inspiration instead.

Feel Good Friday #22

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know I'm no stranger to a little bit of animal rescuing. I've given the Scottish SPCA a bell to help rescue three different birds over the years and I wouldn't hesitate to stop and help again (even if you do get some funny looks wrapping your jacket around a seagull to move them off a busy road). I have a confession to make though: ever since I was little I've wanted to rescue a cat or dog. I must have read too many Puppy Patrol books because I can't help but think finding and rescuing (and subsequently keeping) a puppy or kitten would be the greatest thing.



The story of Pat Doody and Party Cat is like a rock 'n' roll edition of Puppy Patrol. Pat was riding back from the Born Free Motorcycle Show in California when he found an abandoned and badly burned kitten at a gas station. Pat scooped him up, tucked him inside his vest and continued on his journey to New Jersey. Named Party Cat, this little ginger tomcat was nursed back to health on the road, eating tuna fish out of dry-foil packs and sleeping in Pat's tent at night. 




Now back at home Party Cat has been given the all clear by the vet and taken up full time residence at Pat's house. Despite his name, Pat says he 'has never met a cat so calm'. I love this story because not only did Pat do something extraordinary and kind, it proves you can't judge anyone by appearances - whether that's heavily bearded biker guys or scrappy little alley cats. 

Adopting a rescue cat

Did you know that Monday kicked off Scottish Animal Week? Between Monday 31st August and Saturday 5th September, volunteers are encouraged to do their bit to raise money and awareness of the Scottish SPCA, Scotland's animal welfare charity. I'm a huge fan of the Scottish SPCA (I've gushed about them on my blog before) but I'd actually never adopted an animal through their rescue and rehoming centres before - until a month ago!

When me and Sam bought our own place last year we both joked that it was 'only a matter of time' before we adopted a cat or a dog. As big animal lovers, with no parents or landlords to stand in our way, we knew the temptation to have our very own four legged friend padding around the flat would be too strong to resist. While I didn't want to rush into anything 'just because', I did keep an eye on the Scottish SPCA rehoming pages in case a suitable furry friend popped up...

When 'Magic' appeared on the website back at the beginning of August, I immediately thought 'She's the one!'. Around a year old, she was described as playful and 'not at all shy', with interests including happily greeting any visitors to her pen, and balancing toys on her paws. With cat loving parents, I've been lucky enough to have a few pet cats over the years, so I have experience of what it's like to own an affectionate, clingy cat versus an aloof, independent cat. While I do love both types - I swear! - I knew this time I'd ideally like a friendly cat (I'll admit it - cat cuddles were a top priority!).

After spotting her on the website on a Thursday night, we went through to the rescue and rehoming centre that Saturday to meet her face-to-face. It was love at first cuddle and we reserved her there and then to bring home the next week. I don't know if all animal charities are the same, but the Scottish SPCA require you to complete a rehoming survey to guarantee your suitability before you're allowed to adopt a new pet, which covers simple checks including if you've kept a pet before, how many hours you're out of the house every day, if you're able to cover the cost of any possible vet bills, etc. You're also required to pay a donation fee which varies from animal to animal - for example, we paid £50, but I imagine it would be more for a dog and less for a hamster! This fee goes towards the cost of the Scottish SPCA keeping the animal and also their veterinary expenses (particularly dogs and cats, because, as long as they're old enough, all are neutered or spayed before they can go to their new home). After a handful of impatient days spent buying cat toys and thinking of names, we were able to go collect our new addition.

Nearly a month later and the newly renamed Sorcha has slotted into our little family perfectly. Inquisitive, greedy and prone to sudden explosions of energy, she happily spends her days napping, watching the world go by while lying on a windowsill, and manically playing with her favourite toys (usually while we're trying to sleep). Even though we've only had her for a few short weeks, I now can't imagine a Saturday morning without a cup of tea and a play session on the living room carpet (she loves all of her toy mice, so naturally she has to viciously kill them any chance she gets). If you're considering getting a new pet, I really do recommend a rescue animal - they're every bit as cute, lovable, and weird! 

If you fancy, you can join the Scottish SPCA for as little as £1 a week, or donate a little something-something for Scottish Animal Week.
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