THE MOST SURPRISING BANNED BOOKS
10. The Three Billy Goats Gruff
A fairy tale that has formed the basis of countless puppet plays and adaptations, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” faced a stronger challenge than a troll in 1984. In that year, an Eagle Point Oregon elementary school challenged the book, claiming it was too violent for children. In that case, perhaps they should also ban the nursery rhymes “Jack and Jill,” “Rock-a-bye Baby,” and “Humpty Dumpty,” all of which depict something bad and/or violent occurring. For that matter, “Little Jack Horner” teaches poor table manners; “Little Miss Muffet” teaches children to fear spiders; and “Little Bo Beep” might make children worry about their pet sheep.
9. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll
This essential reference book on pop music, “The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll,” edited by Jim Miller, includes oodles of information about the evolution of rock music. While the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has often been associated with some unsavory behavior, this tome is primarily a dispassionate recitation of dates, key players, and pivotal moments. The photos and illustrations are simply a collection of head shots and cover art. Yet, perhaps it was merely the idea of rock ‘n’ roll that underlay one parent’s objections. The book was challenged in 1982 in Jefferson, Kentucky, because according to that parent, it “will cause our children to become immoral and indecent.” Or perhaps to ask for guitar lessons, which in some households may be nearly as bad.
8. Where’s Waldo?
Most people reading Martin Handford’s popular book, “Where’s Waldo?” focused on finding the book’s bespeckled stripe-wearing namesake. But some people managed to also find something objectionable: namely, a tiny drawing of a woman in a beach scene, wearing a bikini bottom but no top. Even though she was lying face down, this was enough for the book to be challenged at the Saginaw, Michigan, public libraries in 1989 and to be removed from the Springs Public School Library in East Hampton, New York, in 1993. It is unconfirmed that the announcement of the reason for the book’s removal led to an increase in sales of the book to teenage boys.
7. A Wrinkle in Time
Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Award-winning novel, “A Wrinkle in Time,” has been credited by many writers for inspiring a love of reading and science fiction. However, the luminous, gentle-spirited book has also inspired some controversy. In 1985, it was challenged by a parent at a Polk City, Florida, elementary school for promoting “witchcraft, crystal balls and demons.” Others have challenged the book for supposedly religious themes, such as a 1990 challenge in Anniston, Alabama, schools because the book listed the name of Jesus Christ along with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders when discussing those who defend earth against evil. It’s also been challenged for sending “mixed signals about good and evil.” Sometimes you just can’t win.
6. Harriet the Spy
Many girls — and boys, too — for decades have enjoyed the independent, adventurous, candid character of Harriet the Spy from the book by Louise Fitzhugh. But while the book addresses issues and thoughts that real children have, rather than giving readers a sugar-coated version of childhood, that has struck some people as dangerous. The book was banned in Ohio school libraries in 1983 for teaching children to “lie, back-talk and curse.” Incidentally, it also teaches such controversial things as loving yourself for who you are, as well as writing in a journal to deal with emotions. Shocking.
5. Little Red Riding Hood
Maybe it doesn’t surprise you that “Little Red Riding Hood” got banned. After all, the grandmother in the original story does get eaten by a wolf, which could be scary for younger readers. That is not, however, why a school in Culver City, California, removed the book from a recommended reading list. In fact, the culprit was wine. Apparently, the version of the story by Trina Schart Hyman, a Caldicott Honor Award winner for children’s literature, has Red Riding Hood bringing her grandmother a bottle of wine. At the close of the story, after the Woodsman kills the wolf, the grandmother drinks some of the wine and “after a while, the grandmother felt quite strong and healthy, and began to clean up the mess.” To the assistant superintendent for instruction who ordered the ban, that was far worse, evidently, than shooting a wolf.
4. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny
Surely, Beatrix Potter, the beloved children’s author of books about bunnies, has never done anything worthy of being banned, right? Not according to the London County Council in England, which banned her classic books, “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” and “Benjamin Bunny” from all London schools in the 1980s. Why? Reportedly because the books only portrayed “middle-class rabbits.” If only Potter had also written complementary books about wealthy and poor rabbits.
3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
Anyone who’s taken care of children since 1967, when “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” was published, is familiar with this popular primer of animals and colors. The innocuous book, written by Bill Martin Jr. and illustrated by Eric Carle (who also illustrated “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”), however, drew the attention of the Texas State Board of Education. Apparently not bothering to do their homework, the board banned the classic book from the state’s curriculum. You see, it seems that Martin shares a name with an obscure Marxist, who wrote the book “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation”… in 2008, four years after the children’s book author had died. Yeah.
2. The Lorax
How could a book, such as the Dr. Seuss classic “The Lorax,” that sings the virtues of respecting other creatures and saving the planet possibly offend anyone? And yet it did offend somebody: the logging industry. According to “The L.A. Times,” the book has often been challenged and banned, particularly in regions where the economy depends on timber. But the criticism doesn’t end there. The quintessential tree-hugger was called “a parody of a misanthropic ecologist” in a piece in “Nature” magazine. Whatever happened to peace, love, and ecology?
1. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
Students in Menifee Union School District in California had to ask their teachers for the definition of words, after the school district banned the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary in 2010. The problem? The dictionary provided a definition of the term “oral sex.” Administrators said the problem was that the dictionary had “age-inappropriate words.” Which might be true for a district of kindergarten through eighth grade, but it also denies children the joy of paging through those pages for obscure (and yes,naughty) words, expanding their vocabulary as they do so.