Think about Stephen King books with disturbing themes and the tale of the Overlook, a malevolent hotel, might come to mind, or Christine, a malevolent Plymouth. As a bestselling horror novelist, King made his bones and his fortune by frightening the wits out of readers. Yet it was his collection of non-horror novellas that was briefly banned this month from a high school outside Sacramento.
"Different Seasons" isn't on the American Library Assn.'s inventory of 100 most frequently challenged books (the Harry Potter series tops the most recent list), but a rape scene in one story led to a complaint from a parent at Rocklin High School. The book wasn't part of any course curriculum; instead, it was available to students in the school library. Two of its stories have been made into movies: "The Shawshank Redemption" and "Stand by Me."
A school committee voted to pull the book from the library shelves, with only 17-year-old senior Amanda Wong dissenting.
Amanda complained to the school board and got results. The superintendent ordered the book placed back on the shelves while a districtwide committee considers the matter. That committee should recommend keeping the book.
Picking tomes for a school library is a sensitive business. Unlike the books at a public library, which must appeal to the broadest spectrum of the community, school librarians usually comply with policies set by individual school districts. Within that policy, as the designated experts on literature, they must choose books that are appropriate in content and difficulty for students at various grade levels. That generally includes books that tie in with the curriculum, books that challenge and uplift as well as those that are simply engaging enough to entice students to read. Books that are part of course work are more tightly controlled because all students must read them. But in the library, students should have a choice.