Monday, January 5, 2015

Banned Book Challenge #1

This is not a boy and his dog book.  Call of the Wild by Jack London is a survival of the fittest story at its best.

Buck, the protagonist of the novel, is a St. Bernard shepherd mix who lives a comfortable existence in the home of The Judge and his family.  He is stolen by a gardener's helper in need of extra cash and sold to men who aim to take him to the Yukon to sell as a sled dog.

Buck passes through the hands of several handlers falling victim to various degrees of violence and mistreatment all the while learning to survive and become alpha dog.  When Buck is eventually rescued by John Thornton, Buck is loved and loves in return.  Despite this comfort and satisfaction, Buck develops a yearning for his hereditary roots in the wild.  After a disaster at camp, Buck enters the wild for good earning the reputation as the Ghost Dog.

At first, I was not sure I could imagine why Call of the Wild would be a "banned book."  I research online to see if I could find credible explanations.

1.  It is labeled "inappropriate for targeted age group."  I am sure this is directed at school systems. In the system where I taught high school English, Call of the Wild is identified for grade 9 (14-15 year-olds).  Common Core lexiles also identify it for grade 9.  There is violence directed at the dogs which might upset dog lovers but I believe this age group could grasp the intent of the author.  There is also violence by the dogs, but again, I believe this age group would see it as part of the whole of nature.  The tone is dark but it is an element of literature and should be examined as such.

2.  There are definite elements of Darwinism - Survival of the fittest.  That doesn't affect my religious views (which are fairly conservative) but some might object.  This is where parental guidance could be important in explaining that while some may believe Darwin, we don't.  Let the student or reader see two sides.

3.  This book was banned and burned in Nazi Germany for its  revolutionary ideas.

I wouldn't challenge this book.  It provides excellent fodder for discussion.

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