Lois Duncan, “Killing Mr. Griffin”

Lois Duncan’s Killing Mr. Griffin was first published in 1978. The summary from the Banned Library podcast provides all of the insight you might need into the plot of this book: “A bunch of kids decide it would be funny to kidnap their teacher but everything goes horribly wrong, mostly because one of them is Bonkers McCrazynuts.” The novel explores the different pressure that are placed on modern teenagers, both by the adults and their peers other. One teacher in particular, Mr. Griffin, becomes the target of student anger by demanding “perfection” of his students, handing out only bad grades, being unfair and overly critical. Killing Mr. Griffin won several awards including the 1982 Massachusetts Children’s Book Award and the 1982–1983 Alabama Camellia Children’s Choice Book Award. In 1997, it was adapted into a made-for-television movie starring, amongst others, Mario Lopez and Michelle Williams.

Killing Mr. Griffin was banned from some California schools in the 1980s (removed from Bonsall Middle School eighth-grade reading list) and challenged in numerous others others (for example, a 1988 challenge at Sinnott Elementary School in Milpitas, California claimed the novel had “no redeeming qualities”). It has been banned and challenged for having themes of violence, murder, drinking, drugs, lying to authority, peer pressure, and smoking. Not all attempts have been successful, however. In 2001, the Greenville school board in South Carolina voted to keep the book after a challenge. Still, according to the American Library Association, Killing Mr. Griffin was the 25th on most challenged book between 2000-2009.


Lois Duncan Steinmetz (April 28, 1934 – June 15, 2016) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Duncan’s first widely known novel was Hotel for Dogs (1971). She is credited for pioneering the Young-Adult thrillers/horror genre. Her most famous novels include I Know What you did Last Summer (1973), Summer of Fear (1976), and Killing Mr. Griffin (1978). After her daughter’s murder in 1989, Duncan largely abandoned the horror genre. She wrote poetry and published Who Killed my Daughter? (1992) about her the unsolved murder. Her last published book was a sequel to Who Killed my Daughter? called One for the Wolves (2013). Duncan founded the nonprofit Resource Center for Victims of Violent Deaths, and gave up teen thrillers saying she could no longer stand to write about young women in life-threatening situations.

Further Reading

The Banned Library Podcast – Killing Mr. Griffin

Parent Group Pressures Florida School District to Ban Four Books

I Know What I Read that Summer