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Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activitsts are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth ...

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Neal Barton just wants to read in peace. Unluckily for him, some local Christian activitsts are trying to get his favorite fantasy series banned from the Americus public library on grounds of immoral content and heresy. Something has to be done, and it looks like quiet, shy Neal is going to have to do it. With youth services librarian Charlotte Murphy at his back, Neal finds himself leading the charge to defend the mega-bestselling fantasy series that makes his life worth living.

This funny, gripping, and relatable tale of life and local politics in middle America is currently being serialized online at

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - BriAnne Baxley MLIS
For Neal Barton reading is a way to find adventure and to escape the small town of Americus. When controversy arises over his favorite fantasy series threatening the series to be banned from the library and causing his only friend to get sent to military school, Neal sets out on an adventure of his own. With the support of his local librarian, Neal begins to learn what it means to stand up for the things that matter the most in his own life. With cartoon like graphics and clearly defined characters this graphic novel illustrates such a powerful message. Highlighting aspects of the battle of banning and challenging materials from all, prospective readers are able to gain a well-rounded insight to what it means to take book/materials off the shelf. Creatively M.K. Reed incorporates pages of the series that is being challenged in Americus to show the connection between what the protagonists goes through and the journey that Neal is finding himself on. Reviewer: BriAnne Baxley, MLIS
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In small-town Americus, Neil Barton leaves middle school and enters the trials of high school. A quiet, bookish boy who has never fit in, he misses his friend Danny and finds solace in the fantasy series "Ravenchilde." Neil finds not only escape, but also parallels in his own life as he reads of the heroine Apathea's adventures. These fantasies, which appear to be coincidentally interwoven into his daily life, give him the courage to face personal obstacles. Unfortunately, his treasured series has been challenged by a radical group of community members, led by Danny's mother. Meanwhile, Neil begins working as a page at his local library. With the support of the librarian, he takes a public stand in favor of the series and speaks before the governing board, offering an impassioned plea for inclusion of the "Ravenchilde" books on the library's shelves: "after I read them, I feel like the impossible becomes possible." The heart of this tale is that stories have the power to illuminate lives. Reciprocally, stories are enriched by the reader's experiences. Although this intricate relationship between a story and a life is suggested, it is overshadowed by the book's very prominent message about the importance of including controversial titles in library collections. Simple black-line drawings on a stark white background introduce readers to the town of Americus. Appropriately, the artist portrays the fantasy world of Ravenchilde in multiple shades of gray, eloquently reinforcing the book's overarching theme.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY
Publishers Weekly
In this charming tale, Reed and Hill offer a lovely valentine to readers and, especially, to librarians. Neil Barton is an outcast about to enter high school in the conservative small town of Americus. His life is made bearable by books—especially the fantasy series the Chronicles of Apathea Ravenchilde, the Huntress Witch—and the young adult librarian, Charlotte, who gives him a job and someone to talk to. Even those pleasures are threatened when some vocal members of the community begin a campaign to ban the Ravenchilde series, arguing they promote witchcraft and other illicit behavior. Soon all of Americus is involved in the battle, lining up on one side or the other, with Charlotte leading the charge for intellectual freedom. As Neil develops confidence through the fight, he also finds a circle of friends. Woven throughout are excerpts from the Ravenchilde story, echoing the theme of the struggle in Americus. Hill's black and white illustrations, full of clean, bold lines, fill the tale with a sense of drama and action, even when the characters are reading silently. Americus is ultimately a reminder of the small miracles a good book can conjure up, in individual lives and across communities. (Aug.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596436015
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publication date: 8/30/2011
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 782,485
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Indie comics writer and illustrator MK Reed lives in Brooklyn. She’s an old hand at the self publishing scene but this is her first go-round with a big publisher.

Jonathan Hill has a degree in sequential art from the Savannah College of Art & Design. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works at Powell’s Books. Americus will be his first graphic novel.

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Reading Group Guide

For Discussion:

is a graphic novel, a story told in words and pictures. How do you think this

story would be told differently if it was a novel, with only words? How would it be

different if it was a movie, with just pictures?

Go talk to your school librarian and public librarian. Have they ever had books from

their libraries challenged? Do they have a policy in place to deal with challenges?

Banned Books Week is a celebration and awareness-raising week at the end of

September every year. Do you do anything to celebrate? What could you do?

Is your high school experience like Neal's? What do you think he could do to

improve his situation?

Why do you think that people try to ban books? Can there be good (or at least wellmeaning)

attempts to get books banned? Are there any books you think should be

banned? Entirely or just for certain people (like children)? Why?

Does the way religion is portrayed in this book match your own experiences with

religion? What's the same? What's different?

The real world of Americus and the fantastical world of Apathea Ravenchilde in this

book are in two different art styles. What effect does this have on the story?

Where do you think Neal's story goes after this? What about Danny's?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2013

    I enjoyed reading this story every time I read it. The artwork i

    I enjoyed reading this story every time I read it. The artwork is simple, the story believable, adding to the book's charm. I recommend it for anyone who enjoys realistic fiction, or just fiction in genera.

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  • Posted January 26, 2012

    Very captivating!

    I picked this up on a whim to possibly read to kill some time, and was captured by the story. So many elements of the story resonated for me either by actual experiences (maybe not as dramatic) or what has made the news with many other books (think of ... dare I mention "Harry Potter"?). It was very spot on regarding some people's bat sh*t crazy and misguided attacks on authors, subjects, and stories that they oppose. Growing up in a house of books (my mother was a librarian!) and trying to provide the same for my children, it struck a chord for me. The artwork was very good as well and fit with the story. My biggest question for the authors/artists; is there a sequal or series in mind? A large number of open continuations are there, just waiting to be expanded! Neil still has three plus years of school to go. I would love to read more with these characters and see Neil continue to grow. Give it a read! I think most, if not all, will enjoy it. It is cataloged or displayed as a "young adult" book, but I feel that it goes beyond that as well quite easily. Would certainly check out more from the author/artists!

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