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“The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier has been the subject of controversy and challenges for the past 50 years. The most intense battle over the novel occurred in Panama City, Florida, in the mid-1980s. English teachers at Mowat Middle School protested against a school-wide ban on several novels, including “The Chocolate War.” The book had long been criticized for its content, leading to harassment and death threats against the teachers.

The teachers faced harassment from pranksters, parents, and even some of their colleagues. A threatening letter was found in the school offices, causing fear and prompting police protection for the teachers. Despite the challenges, Cormier himself supported the teachers and expressed regret over the trouble his words had caused. His letters and essays reflect the impact of his book on his life and the ongoing battle against censorship.

For Robert Cormier, the inspiration for “The Chocolate War” came from a simple incident at his family dining table. His son’s defiance of selling chocolates for a school fundraiser led to the creation of a novel that resonated with young readers. Even though the book was rejected by several editors initially, its relatability and portrayal of adolescent struggles made it a hit among teenagers in the 1970s.

“The Chocolate War” faced numerous attempts at book banning across the country, with objections to its content and themes. Cormier spent time defending his work and engaging with educators and critics about the importance of freedom of expression in literature. The rise of conservative opposition in the late 1980s further fueled the challenges faced by the book and its author.

In Panama City, a controversy surrounding another Cormier novel, “I Am the Cheese,” sparked tensions at Mowat Middle School. Teachers who included Cormier’s books in their curriculum faced backlash from parents and officials. The banning of several titles, including “The Chocolate War,” led to a heated debate and threats against those advocating for the books to be reinstated.

Despite the challenges and threats faced by the teachers and supporters of “The Chocolate War,” Cormier continued to defend his work and the importance of confronting evil. The battle against censorship and book banning continued well into the 1990s and 2000s, highlighting the enduring impact of Cormier’s controversial novel. As the fight in Panama City quieted down, the community was left to deal with the aftermath and the lasting effects of the controversy.

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