MATINICUS ISLAND, Maine — There’s an “Island of Misfit Toys” in the popular holiday classic. Now there’s an island for unwanted and banned books, too.
The tiny library on Matinicus Island 22 miles off the Maine coast is on a mission to fill its shelves with books that have fallen out of favor elsewhere.
From “And Tango Makes Three,” the story of two male penguins that raised a chick together, to classics like “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood and “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck, all books are welcome including those that are being banned or canceled in other parts of the country.
Eva Murray recently returned from a trip to the mainland with a bunch of books including “And Tango Makes Three,” which the American Library Association says is one of the most banned books in the country.
“We are buying banned books in order to publicly push back against the impetus to ban books. To say, ‘If you don’t want it in your library, we want it in ours,’” Murray told the Bangor Daily News.
For years, islanders just traded books among themselves, but they decided to create a grassroots library in 2016 in a donated storage shed. It expanded in 2020 to add a second shed for a children’s library with help from a grant from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation.
There’s no librarian. Patrons borrow books using the honor system. Books are checked out by writing the book’s name in a notebook.
As the library grew, the island started to become the bookish equivalent of the “Island of Misfit Toys,” the place where unwanted toys reside in the Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
The emphasis on banned books does not seem to be controversial on Matinicus, the state’s most remote and isolated community.
With only 100 year-round residents, a live-and-let-live tolerance and appreciation for differences is essential.
“We are in a privileged position to say, ‘We don’t ban books,’ and that we welcome people’s suggestions for books,” Murray said.