The Bonny Eagle school district voted to temporarily remove eight books from district libraries on Monday night after community members said the books contained inappropriate content and asked the board to remove them.

The move is unusual because school districts, including the Buxton-based Bonny Eagle district, typically keep books being challenged or reviewed in libraries until the process is complete. But in this case, the Maine School Administrative District board voted 7-3 to remove the books while the superintendent reviews them, bypassing its own policy. Paul Welch, Ellen DeCotiis and Erika Creutz voted against removal.

The books include “Juliet Takes a Breath,” by Gabby Rivera, a story about a gay, Puerto Rican college student from the Bronx trying to find her identity; “Choke,” by Chuck Palahniuk, a book about a sex addict who resorts to being a con artist to support himself; and “Push,” a book by Sapphire about an illiterate 16-year-old who is raped and impregnated by her father and beaten by her mother but with the help of a devoted teacher learns to write and pursues an education and learns to tell her own story.

In Maine and around the nation book challenges have surged in recent years. Historically, fewer than one book was challenged per year in the state, according to the Maine Library Association’s intellectual freedom chair and private librarian Samantha Duckworth. But last year there were at least 12 challenges, and in the first two months of 2023 there were eight.

Nationally, there were 681 book challenges involving 1,651 titles in the first eight months of 2022, according to the American Library Association. In 2000, the first year the association started tracking the issue, 378 books were challenged. Many of the books that have been targeted in recent challenges cover topics of racism, addiction, gender and sexuality.

On Monday night in Buxton, around a dozen parents and grandparents stood up and read graphic passages from books in an apparent effort to show school board members why they should be removed.


“I don’t want my granddaughter to be able to pull out this book. I would very much like it to be removed from the library. It’s disgusting,” said Vicki Shane, who has a grandchild in the district, after reading a graphic passage from “The Art of Racing in the Rain,” a bestselling book by Garth Stein that includes multiple sex scenes.

The other books that were temporarily removed include “The Boy Toy” by Nicola March, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl ” by Jesse Andrew, “Later Gator” by Jana DeLeon and “Lucky” by Alice Sebold. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” and “Lucky” were on several lists of the most banned books in 2022 and in the 2021-2022 school year.

Discussion of book reviews or removals was not initially on the agenda, but after hearing from public commenters, the board voted to discuss removing the books at the end of its meeting.

Although the temporary removal prevailed, board members shared a range of opinions about the removals, with some clearly concerned about the content and strongly in favor of removal, while others were concerned about bypassing their usual review policy.

“I’m uncomfortable with the board taking action in this manner. We have a policy and I understand the board has the ability to suspend its own policy to move things forward but to what end?” Creutz said. “I think that at least some of the books that were brought forth tonight by the audience certainly are worthy of a second look but I think they should go through the proper channels.”

The Bonny Eagle board followed that policy last fall, when it voted 10-1 to keep “It’s Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing up, Sex, Gender and Sexual Health” by Robie H. Harris on the shelves of the middle school library after it had been reviewed following an appeal from parents who argued that some of its contents were pornographic and inappropriate for that age group.


On Monday, Creutz also noted that the passages read by public commenters were cherry-picked and that the books shouldn’t be removed based on passages read out of context.

But board member Lyndsey Atkinson responded that the books should be immediately removed. “This is a safety issue and I have no problem pulling them for now to review them,” Atkinson said. “Just based on some of the graphic verbiage that was used whether it was out of context or not, I think it warrants a pivot for now to at least review them.”

Superintendent Clay Gleason doesn’t expect the review to be complete until the end of the school year.

Bonny Eagle is one of the largest school districts in the state, serving 3,500 students from Buxton, Hollis, Limington, Standish and Frye Island.

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