Ever felt like doing something radical and daring, yet simple at the same time? Something that makes an important point, and that you can share with your children? Something that supports a cause others may disagree with, but that won't land you in trouble with the law? Just read your kids one of the hundreds of banned children's books during Banned Books Week, starting Sunday.
The late-September event, which has been held since 1982, is an initiative by the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. Its purpose: to reject censorship and champion the cause of free access to information for all, no matter how unpopular or discomforting some of that information may be.
Banning certain books from libraries and school curricula has been going on for centuries, much to the despair of educators and kids alike. While certain books might seem like natural targets — To Kill a Mockingbird contains some racially-charged language and even more racially-conscious themes — you might be surprised at what other popular titles have come under fire.
For example, it's hard to imagine a childhood without The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But in 1928, Chicago Public Library employees took the novel off their shelves under the pretext that the book was "somehow, rather evil for children," according to the Chicago Tribune. Alice in Wonderland and Charlotte's Web, published many decades apart, have both been banned in their day for the irreligious concept that animals can talk. Laura Ingalls Wilder's beloved Little House books were challenged by a South Dakota library, per the Christian Science Monitor, for their depiction of Native Americans and Ma's belief that "the only good Indian is a dead Indian."
Even the most innocuous of board books, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, didn't escape the dreaded ban. But this time, it was a simple mistake: The Texas State Board of Education confused the author, Bill Martin Jr., for another writer named Bill Brown who had written a book on Marxism.
So do yourself and your kids a favor — and show them where you stand on censorship — by reading one (or more!) of the children's books that have been challenged over the years. This list will get you started; for more titles, check out this kids' banned-book list from the American Library Association.
1. The Harry Potter Series
The beloved series was the most banned book between 2000-2009, according to a report from The New York Times. The challenges came largely from Christian religious leaders and parents who objected to the positive depiction of witches and wizards. More recently, however, detractors have called for a boycott of the books because of author J.K. Rowling's unapologetic anti-President Trump tweets, reported Newsweek.
2. The Giving Tree
Shel Silverstein's simple tale of motherly love was yanked from a Colorado library in 1988, reported Reading Partners. Why? Folks argued that The Giving Tree is too sexist; the female apple tree gives everything of herself to the boy over the years until she's nothing but a stump. This might be going a bit far, but then again, would it kill the kid to say "thank you" just once?
3. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret
Since 1970, preteen girls have devoured this oh-so-relatable book about a middle-schooler trying to explore the confusing territories of puberty, boys, and religion. And for just about as long, parents have objected to its supposed "amoral" and "anti-Christian" themes, according to Banned Library. But author Judy Blume has never been afraid to explore taboo topics; her other books have offered an honest look at racism, teen sex, masturbation, bullying, and more.
4. Where The Wild Things Are
Maurice Sendak's best-loved book caused a wild rumpus even before its publication; his editors objected to the theme of child rebellion and fantasy escape before finally agreeing to release it. Noted psychologist Bruno Bettleheim warned parents that kids would be freaked out over young Max's punishment of being sent to bed without dinner, according to PEN America; never mind that this was a pretty common mom tactic in the '60s. It's also been banned over the years because the wild things appeared to be too demonic for some folks' taste.
5. A Wrinkle In Time
Surely an award-winning book about the triumph of good over evil could never offend anyone, right? Wrong. Madeleine L'Engle's classic time-travel novel has been challenged many times over the years, reported World.edu. For one thing, it features the magical creatures Mrs Who, Mrs What, and Mrs Which, who could be interpreted as witches. For another, the book mentions Jesus in the same context as Buddha and other peace-promoting figures, rather than singling him out as a deity.
6. The Lorax
The Lorax may "speak for the trees," but he doesn't speak for the California school that banned the book in 1989, according to Banned Library. In Dr. Seuss's think-green book, the materialistic Once-ler chops down all the precious Truffula Trees, and the California logging community was concerned that this might discourage local children from going into the forestry business.
7. Hop On Pop
Seems Dr. Seuss just couldn't please everyone. His Hop on Pop was challenged in Toronto by someone who not only wanted city libraries to remove the early-phonics book, but also to "pay for damages resulting from the book," reported Time. The reason? The objector thought the illustration of kids jumping on their dad was too violent and might inspire imitators. Fortunately, the city library system opted to keep the book on shelves, partly because the text does go on to warn, "STOP You must not hop on Pop." (No known objections have been raised about Pat nearly parking his tuchis on a cactus.)
8. And Tango Makes Three
Any children's book with a positive LGBQT message, be it subtle or bold, is virtually guaranteed to be challenged at some point, and so it was for And Tango Makes Three. Based on real events, the book tells the tale of two inseparable male chinstrap penguins at New York's Central Park Zoo that helped hatch an abandoned egg and raise the chick. (Think of it as the Heather Has Two Mommies of the animal kingdom.) PBS reported that the book has been controversial ever since its publication in 2005 for its gay "undertones" and its supposed inappropriateness for a general children's audience.
9. Junie B. Jones Series
For more than 25 years, early readers have laughed at and loved the true-to-life tribulations of Junie B. Jones (the B stands for Beatrice, but we don't talk about that). Some parents, however, take issue with Junie B.'s improper grammar (such as "I runned speedy quick"), reported The New York Times. The book has also been challenged for Ms. Jones's sassy behavior and use of words like "stupid."
10. Harriet The Spy
Harriet is no Fancy Nancy. She dresses in her slouchiest outfits, the better to observe and take notes on her neighbors and friends. But that same spying, along with examples of mild cursing, lying, and talking back to adults, was condemned by parents in Xenia, Ohio, in 1983. According to Reading Partners, the angry grown-ups felt that Harriet was a poor role model for kids.
11. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain's masterwork has had its critics ever since its 1884 publication. PEN America reported that Huckleberry Finn was banned by libraries in Concord, MA, just a month after its release. (It was called "suitable for the slums.") Since then, it has remained solidly toward the top of the challenge lists. The book's repeating of the N-word and its depiction of runaway slave Jim led one Virginia school district to ban the book, reported The Guardian. But look beyond the dialect, and you'll see that Jim is actually more intelligent and moral than the white con artists and society folk in the story.
12. I Am Jazz
Based on the real-life story of reality-TV star Jazz Jennings, this book has come under fire for introducing young readers to the concept of transsexuality. SheKnows reported that one school in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, planned to read the book in class as a way to promote inclusion, since one of their students was also trans. When a religious group called the Liberty Counsel successfully fought to keep the book out of school, the community fought back by staging a well-attended public reading of I Am Jazz, according to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
13. Morris Micklewhite And The Tangerine Dress
Yet another book about tolerance that has been met with anything but. The Illinois Library Association reported that a Michigan school district unsuccessfully challenged Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress, a book about a boy who enjoys wearing dresses and designing spaceships, for "promoting another life."
Young theater-lovers adore this graphic novel about the frustrations and triumphs of a middle-school musical theater production. But what makes this book among the 10 most challenged books of 2017, according to the Banned Books Week Coalition, is the fact that a pair of brothers in the drama club are gay.