Amy's Reviews > Flowers for Algernon

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
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's review
Jan 10, 13

it was amazing
bookshelves: read-multiple-times, own

I first read this book in 8th grade, in my english class. I remembered enjoying it, being fascinated in how the author painted the picture that I really was reading Charlie's journal by use of spelling, grammar and punctuation related to the level Charlie was at when writing the entries. What I didn't know at the time was the people who created the text book I used felt it was okay to chop whole chapters out of the middle of the book. They felt pulling out whole sections was okay in the name of protecting children from "bad" concepts like sex, alcohol, and violence. They didn't consider that perhaps leaving the story intact and waiting for the children to mature before handing them this story was a better route.

I discovered this injustice when I was in a used bookstore, and remembered this story I read in class I enjoyed, so I dug up a copy and bought it. When I got home, I jumped right in and started to reread it, only to get a shock in the middle of the book where suddenly there were whole chapters about this neighbor Charlie gets involved with that I didn't remember. When I reread the book more recently, there were more things that I realized would have been chopped out of a version intended for 8th grade students to read, and I just hadn't noticed as much the first time reading the complete copy because they were tucked in with the more mundane things towards the beginning of Charlies developments.

All ranting aside, I find this book to be a fascinating look at human nature, personality and development. It's well written, and does a good job placing you into Charlie's head as he goes up and down through this experiment. If you read it in school like I first did, do yourself a favor and buy or borrow a complete copy of the book to read. The lessons learned by all characters in the book certainly give you lots of think about your own behavior and that of others.

EDIT: There have been a few comments pointing out that the story was a short story first, likely the version I read in my school textbook, that was later expanded into the novel. I only wanted to add this note to my review, as it seems some people comment without reading the other comments left, so I'm seeing both comments informing me of this fact and comments of outrage that the book was censored.
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Reading Progress

02/02 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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message 1: by ein (new) - rated it 3 stars

ein Leichter Don't feel cheated. You probably just read the original short story. It wasn't until later that the author expanded it in to a full length novel.

message 2: by Miles (last edited Mar 22, 2008 02:21PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Miles I first read Flowers for Algernon as one of my picks for the Scholatic Book Club order when I was in the 7th or 8th grade. Our young 23-ish female English teacher had a "Beatles bowl shaped haircut," and as I recall had a severely acne pockmarked face- and the heart of a real life Angel to put up with our inner-city kid antics. She was definately one of the people who was piviotal in helping me get Hooked On Books. For this I truely thank her, and especially love her for her un-stoppable devotion- to even the most unruly of students.

Many, many years later, when I too was a middle school teacher in one of LA'a roughest neighborhoods, I again picked up Flowers For Algernon. I began our Grammar Lesson that day with asking my kids to "Find page number 36 in your Grammar books, and look for the section labeled Commas." As soon as they arrived at "the correct page," their bored noises and voices permeated the classroom, I quickly added-before we even started, "Now close your Grammar books, put them back under your desk, and pass back this new Hand-out for you to keep. Flowers for Algernon" --- It was a 3-4 page teacher photocopy of the first couple of pages, and also the page dealing with Puncuation- [page 26 wasn't it?:]

Anyway, after getting the kids hooked on the the story as I read to them first few paragraphs of the begining of the story, in a brisk manner as though it was all just like normal writing. I then asked for Volunteers to read the next page, (the one about where to put commas). I reminded them and made each volunteer promise to take a breath, or pause, when then they came to each comma. If they began laughing, or couldn't read it--- I told them, "Your turn will be over." Then I let the kids turn the page and had the first one try to read that particular section... As soon as the chosen out-loud reader began laughing, " Ahhhech! Next reader..." And so it it went... The kids all began laughed so hard I thought it could be heard in the Principals office... I am betting they, the students(now in their early twenties), all still remember reading Charlie Gorden telling about how to use Commas and remember being told to always to "take a breath, or pause, when seeing a comma while reading..."

Mr. Miles Cobbett

Adrianna When I was reading the book, I felt like I had read it before while in grade school too. I can't be sure, though, because lots of parts were unfamiliar. I wonder if I read the short story version.

Sara Busbee I remember reading this in elementary school or middle school, too (can't remember exactly when). I liked it a lot so I went and read the whole book, and I couldn't agree with you more. To cut out the middle of a novel like this is so wasteful. They should have waited until the kids were old enough to handle it and let them read the whole book. The book is really just too incredible to only read some passages.

Adrianna Sara wrote: "I remember reading this in elementary school or middle school, too (can't remember exactly when). I liked it a lot so I went and read the whole book, and I couldn't agree with you more. To cut out ..."

I agree. I don't think its fair to censor part of the book. We should have read it in a different grade if need be.

Ariel The exact same thing happened to me.
i read the story in 8th grade and found it really touching.
Then in my 11th grade year i really wanted to read it and found it online.
talk about a shocker. I was like where did this come from.
its truly a shame they butcher the story to make it more "appropriate".

Adrianna Yeah, it's like the book is a completely different story. This is why I try to avoid abridged books. The really annoying thing is that the teachers don't tell you it's abridged, at least mine didn't.

message 8: by Camila (last edited Sep 11, 2010 09:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Camila It wasn't abridged. Daniel Keyes originally wrote Flowers for Algernon as a short story, and he only later expanded it into a novel.

There is no reason for hurt feelings that the book was censored for anyone reading it in school. When I read the story in eight grade--drug and sex plots aside-- I still found the book extremely dark and morally disturbing. It was a very thought provoking read even as a short story.

And I do love the novel--the development of the characters is given much more time and everything weaves together so well. But I don't think anyone should criticize their school or teacher or the publisher or whomever because they ONLY gave them the short story. It is a beautiful story no matter what the length, and a very important one for everybody to read and think about.

Christy You all are saying you read it in elementary or middle school? LOL my class just read it, in gr.11

Adrianna C wrote: "You all are saying you read it in elementary or middle school? LOL my class just read it, in gr.11"

Better to read it at some point than not at all. I think the education setting was helpful in understanding the book. :)

message 11: by Rita (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rita This story was originally written and published as a short story. It was only later that Daniel Keys turned it into a years later (

message 12: by Darren (new)

Darren Redacting novels,how uniquely much for "the land of the free;" more like the land of "1984."

message 13: by Tina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tina John This is one of the only books assigned in school that I actually read all the way through, I really liked it. I liked to read but at the time I tended to rebel against assigned books. I too later re read the whole book, it didn't bother me that part of it had been left out.

Sammi Aurox Is Mine It was so sad at the end...I hardly ever cry in books..and this book made me cry :'(

Avynne We read the full book in 8th grade but I remember that by the time my younger sister got to the 8th grade they'd chopped it down and put it in the regular text book. I was very shocked at some of the things in this book when I was in the 8th grade, but chopping it up wasn't the right answer and I agree that maybe it could've waited until 9th or 10th grade maybe.

Michelle I had a very similar experience when I reread Flowers for Algernon. While I found the story very interesting after I read the "Safe" in school version, it did not have nearly the same impact it did when I read the full version post high-school.

Tammy I'm writing this as a mother of a 7th grader. I just read the book for the first time and would love my daughter to read it too; but, I would not be comfortable to have her read some of the parts that you are all saying were cut out. So, i do understand why the shorter version may be good for kids. I think its an important lesson for her to get now, rather than wait until i feel she is ready.
Just throwing my 'mom' 2 cents in!

Avynne Tammy wrote: "I'm writing this as a mother of a 7th grader. I just read the book for the first time and would love my daughter to read it too; but, I would not be comfortable to have her read some of the parts ..." That's a good point. I have three small boys myself and it seems that I have "forever" until they get to middle school, so I hadn't even thought how I would feel about them reading it. But I'm sure middle school will get here way too fast! I'm wanting to bawl my eyes out every time I think about signing them up for pre-K this year!

Tammy Yes, it does come very fast! My 'baby' is now 10 and daughter is 13! Seems like yesterday they were in pre-k. Not fair how fast that fun stuff goes! My daughter is a huge reader, she reads all sorts of books; so, in reality, she has probably read stuff about these subjects that i am trying to hide. But, in this book (just read for my bookclub) i guess coming from the 'boys' point of view is what is throwing me. I was telling her about it and she was intrigued. Although i also loved a tree grows in brooklyn, got it for her, and she just can't get through it. I think given the chance she would love it though! Good look with your boys!
It is tough though i have to say trying to 'shield' your kids from all the sex, violence, drugs ect that is on tv everyday. Get's weird as a parent to watch them start to get it all.......

message 20: by Christopher (new) - added it

Christopher Partin Although I am not a parent (and even if I was I would have no place in telling other people that "my" version of parenting is "better" than anyone elses), and I understand the conflict many people have, I don't really agree with censorship regardless of the situation. My only thing is that kids (teens especially) have so many distractions and things forcing their attention, and it's easy for them to gain less productive hobbies than reading. If your teenager loves to read, is willing to read, personally I think I would much rather them learn about certain things in books, than say television or their fellow classmates.

That being said, you as a parent just have to know when the time comes to cut the cord loose and understand that they will learn and hear about these things in daily life anyway, and when they won't. I just don't advocate cutting things out just to make something "more appropriate." It's this sort of thinking that makes people want to butcher Huck Finn.

 Tara ♪ As an eighth grader, just wanted to pop in and say that some schools still use the full version. Also, great review. :) I loved this book SOOOO much.

Philip Daniel Keyes originally wrote the book as a short story but then *** just kidding.

I thought it would be funny to start commenting on the review as if I not only hadn't read the other comments, but hadn't read your entire review. Heh. ...yeah...

Probably a good move putting that edit on the end.

Nice review either way. :)

Shannon just finished reading this and read your update and some comments. yes, it was a short story first, but it was still in the 60s when it expanded, and therefore teachers still only showed us the short version, because they're uncomfortable with the subject matter. high school was such a long time ago for me, so I don't actually remember much of the story at all, but I'm sure my teacher would not have been comfortable reading and talking about the sex scenes.

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