Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Banned Book Week: Totally Joe by James Howe

Totally Joe was Challenged and marked for removal (though I do not believe it was removed in the end) in 2012 at a school in Utah.  According to information found on Marshall University Library Website it was in fact removed from an Elementary school in Virginia without formal review.  

Read for: Recent Purchase/ Banned Book

Synopsis: "Meet Joe Bunch. Lovable misfit and celebrity wannabe from Paintbrush Falls, New York. Like his longtime best friends Addie, Skeezie, and Bobby, Joe's been called names all his life. So when he's given the assignment to write his alphabiography -- the story of his life from A to Z -- Joe has his doubts. This whole thing could be serious ammunition for bullying if it falls into the wrong hands.
But Joe discovers there's more to the assignment -- and his life -- than meets the eye. Especially when he gets to the letter C, which stands for Colin Briggs, the coolest guy in the seventh grade (seriously) -- and Joe's secret boyfriend.

By the time Joe gets to the letter Z, he's pretty much bared his soul about everything. And Joe's okay with that because he likes who he is. He's Totally Joe, and that's the best thing for him to be.

Here is an exuberant, funny, totally original story of one boy's coming out -- and coming-of-age."

My Review: I had never heard of this book or series until I was looking on the banned/challenged books list. Joe is definitely a unique character that comes alive on the pages. I like the way this book is written as an assigned journal with lettered entries. The story takes place from October through the school year as Joe comes to terms with who he is and also how that relates to the people around him, and how he is at a stage in his life but others aren't quite there yet. This book not only takes on a coming of age and coming out as a teenager but also bullying and prejudices in school. Middle school is a tough time in general and this book may inspire some young readers to make it a little easier on themselves and those around them.

My Rating: I really enjoyed this book, Joe's voice is so strong throughout the book and he is a fun quirky character to get to know.  It is a book that addresses concerns of so many middle school aged children, not just those who are in the LGBTQ+ world, bullying effects everyone.  I give this one a rating of Four Paws and a Stump Wag!!

Upon reading this book, I didn't find it to be questionable at all, there wasn't anything crude about it.  The main character is gay but that is no reason to ban or even challenge a book, just because it has a different view or belief than you have.  As a mother, once my son is at an age he can read this is a book I would have no problem seeing in his hands, hopefully it will teach him a little compassion and understanding towards those around him and those different from him.


  1. Sounds like a good book that a lot of kids could benefit from.

    1. I would like to think that a lot of kids would benefit from reading this one.

  2. I'm always shocked at the books that get banned. I just don't get it. This one doesn't sound like it should have been banned.

    1. It is so often just because of a difference of opinion and lifestyle, so much for freedom huh?