West Virginia Book Festival

A West Virginia connection to Banned Books Week

This week is the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, the American Library Association’s annual “celebration of the freedom to read.” The group tracks hundreds of challenges to books in libraries every year (while noting that many more go unreported), and among the most challenged authors this year is one on whom West Virginia has some claim.

Phyllis Reynolds Naylor‘s “Alice” series — which Booklist called “a road map for a girl growing up today” — ranks sixth on the ALA’s top ten list of most challenged books. The reasons the books are challenged, according to the ALA: nudity, offensive language and “religious viewpoint.” Naylor has said the Alice series will end next year with “Always Alice”; that’ll make a total of 28 books in the series, including three prequels.

Naylor lives in Maryland, and the Alice books are set there. But perhaps her best-known work, the Newbery Award-winning “Shiloh,” is set in West Virginia — specifically, the area around Friendly, an Ohio River town in Tyler County. The title character, a beagle, is named for a community a few miles southeast of Friendly. Two Shiloh sequels are set in the same place, and Naylor has also set books in Hinton, Webster Springs and Buckhannon, among other places.

As for Banned Books Week, libraries around the country, including the Kanawha County Public Library, are taking part in the commemoration. The ALA has even set up a YouTube channel with people reading from books that other people have tried to get removed from libraries.