Florida school pulls Cory Doctorow’s book, he sends it to students


Note to principals interested in quietly removing books from summer reading programs: Don’t target novels written by one of the editors of BoingBoing.

Upon hearing his young adult novel “Little Brother” had been pulled from the summer reading program of Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, Fla., author Cory Doctorow sounded the alarm on BoingBoing, the popular blog.

He also recorded a video message directly for the school’s students. He arranged for his publisher, Tor, to send 200 copies of “Little Brother” to the Booker T. Washington High School students after all.


So much for making the book go away.

Originally, all of Booker T. Washington High School’s students were going to read “Little Brother” over the summer for a One Book/One School program. When they returned to school, there would be formal discussions of the book and its contents.

“Little Brother” was selected for the program by a school librarian and an English teacher, and was subsequently approved by school administration.

However, when the school’s principal learned of the title, he intervened -- and this summer’s One Book/One School program was canceled. The principal’s complaints included that “Little Brother” endorsed hacker culture and questioned authority, according to Doctorow.

The book is about teenagers whose ability to navigate their school’s computer system is a game until there is a terrorist attack, and they are swept up by the Department of Homeland Security. When they are released, they face a frightening surveillance state.

“Little Brother” is not completely banned from the school; it remains an optional summer read for advanced 11th grade students.

When the book was published in 2008, Neil Gaiman wrote he would recommend it to teens “over pretty much every book I’d read this year.... Because I think it’ll change lives. Because some kids, maybe just a few, won’t be the same after they’ve read it. Maybe they’ll change politically, maybe technologically. Maybe it’ll just be the first book they loved or that spoke to their inner geek. Maybe they’ll want to argue about it and disagree with it. Maybe they’ll want to open their computer and see what’s in there. I don’t know. It made me want to be 13 again right now and reading it for the first time, and then go out and make the world better or stranger or odder.”


On BoingBoing, Doctorow writes, “The school faculty who worked so hard on this asked for our help fighting back against censorship.” The 200 copies of the book should help.

And students with even a modicum of computer savvy will be able to figure out Doctorow has made “Little Brother” available for free download.