Banning books. Challenging novels. Censorship. Sounds like something from a couple of generations ago, right? Unfortunately, these practices are alive and well in 2013 America, and it is children’s books that are most frequently under fire. Some books that are now considered classics, such as Catcher in the Rye, Bridge to Terabithia, and Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, were all challenged and actually banned from some libraries in the past. More recently, books that have drawn attacks include the Harry Potter series (for its depiction of magic), And Tango Makes Three (for its treatment of homosexuality), and the Gossip Girls series (for their inclusion of provocative topics).
The American Library Association (ALA) as well as the librarians at the Mill Valley Public Library believe that whether you like these books or not, they have the right to exist and libraries have the responsibility to carry them. Are you worried your child might come across content that they aren’t ready for? You can take an active role in your child’s reading by accompanying them to the library, discussing the appropriateness of books, and even reading the same books that they do.
We can all show our support for freedom to read by taking part in Banned Books Week. Check out the ALA’s information on frequently banned or challenged books, or read some of our suggestions, below. These four children’s books have all been challenged, either in libraries, classrooms, or bookstores.
Little Red Riding Hood, retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman
This classic, Caldecott-winning version of the beloved Grimm’s fairy tale features lush, detailed pictures by one of America’s most talented illustrators. BANNED! In 1990, a California school district objected to the bottle of wine in the girl’s basket of food for Grandma, concerned it would promote underage drinking. The book was removed from their library. (ages 4-8)
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
One of children’s literature’s most beloved picture books, this whimsical fantasy follows a little boy as he falls asleep and, in his dreams, concocts a wildly imaginative cake. BANNED! Caldecott honoree though it may be, this book was widely banned when it was published in 1970 and still receives challenges. Some people are offended by the general fantasy-esque feel. Most challengers, however, object to the scenes that show the little boy without clothes. (ages 4-8)
Guess What? by Mem Fox, illustrated by Vivienne Goodman
“Far away from here lives a crazy lady called Daisy O’Grady,” begins this deliciously creepy tale. A tantalizing series of questions leads up to the inevitable conclusion as to the woman’s secret identity, with a reassuring twist. BANNED! This is a regular on the ALA’s list of most challenged books because of its depiction of witchcraft. (ages 5-10)
The Stupids Take Off by Harry Allard, illustrated by James Marshall
The super-silly picture book series about Mr. and Mrs. Stupid and their children, Buster and Petunia, delights with its wink-wink humor. The cartoonish drawings are by the masterful James Marshall (known for such classics as George and Martha and Miss Nelson Is Missing). BANNED! High on the list of most-challenged titles, these books bother some parents because of the use of the word “stupid” and the general lack of intellect of the main characters. (ages 5-9)