A parent in Knightdale, North Carolina is calling for the removal of Amityville: Jr. Graphic Ghost Stories from all Wake County schools after her first grade son checked the book out of the Lake Myra Elementary School library earlier this week. Parent Kay Walker feels that the graphic novel, which retells the infamous story of the Amityville horror house in Long Island, New York, and the paranormal events that occurred there in the early 1970s, is inappropriate and should not be accessible to students of any age.
Distributed by Rosen Publishing, Amityville is part of a series of six books retelling famous ghost stories adapted into graphic novels for young readers. Developed specifically for school libraries, according to the publisher’s website, the books are written for a grade level of 2-3 but an interest level of 3-6, meaning they’re intended to appeal to struggling or reluctant upper elementary readers. The books are presented in a graphic format that “lends itself perfectly to these intriguing tales of ghostly maidens, ghost ships, hauntings, and the headless horseman.” From The Flying Dutchman and The White Lady Ghost to Sleepy Hollow and The Ghosts of Civil War Soldiers, each book provides a brief context for each legend as well as summaries of similar stories from around the world in a way that is meant to be “inviting to struggling readers.”
Kay Walker, however, does not see the subject matter presented in Amityville to be appropriate for any student regardless of how the story is adapted. “It was talking about a man who murders his family and shows a man walking with his shotgun going to his parents and his sister and brother,” said Walker. “I couldn’t imagine a teacher pulling this book off the library and sitting in front of her kindergarten or first grade class reading it to them.”
Walker’s son came across the book because it was in the graphic novel section of the library at Lake Myra Elementary, which serves grades K-5. When she confronted school officials about the book, they told her that the book had already been pulled. Walker is now submitting a complaint to the larger Wake County School Board to attempt to have the book pulled from all libraries. According to WNCN, Walker is also planning to write a letter to the book’s author, John Perritano, to “inquire why he would write such a story for such a young audience.”
However, if the book has already been pulled from Lake Myra’s library as Walker claims she has been told, the school may face a larger issue of violating school policy for handling challenged books. Although the School Board acknowledged to WNCN that a committee would be formed to review the book in question once a formal complaint had been issued, according to the policy 5410.4: Consideration of Challenged Material:
D. The challenged material will continue to be used until the consideration process is completed; however, the use of the material(s) for that particular student shall be suspended, if requested by the parent(s).
This policy and appropriately handling challenged books shouldn’t be news to Wake County School district. In 2014, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye was banned from East Wake High School’s curriculum after a review committee decided that the book had less literary value in how it portrayed issues of sexual assault and violence.
Although it is unclear if the policy has been violated in the case of Amityville, without a doubt the answer to handling materials one person might find personally upsetting isn’t to have it taken away from all students.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!