10 Favorite Banned Children’s Books

This week is banned books week- September 21st through the 27th. It is definitely not a week to celebrate. But it’s a week to acknowledge the disservice that is still done in 2014, in this country. When a book is “banned,” it’s not banned across the board and pulled from every shelf of every bookstore or library. The American Library Association puts out a list of books that have been challenged or pulled from various public libraries across the country, and a substantial amount of those books are children’s books being removed from school libraries. This happens when some overreaching parent decides that the material is offensive for whatever reason, and not only do they not want their own child to be exposed to it, but they feel confident that they know what’s best for other people’s children as well.

Books like And Tango Made Three, the true story of two male penguins that nested together in New York’s Central Park Zoo and hatched another couple’s egg and formed a family, was the most challenged book of 2006, 2007, and 2010. Parents across the country asked their children’s school libraries to either place the book in “restricted” sections or pull it altogether, worried that their children might be presented with the very idea of same-sex families. Also books like Where the Wild Things Are, which after its release in 1963 was widely banned in the south for glorifying tantrums and angry behavior. Harry Potter is the number one most frequently banned book of the last decade; a series that can be credited with getting an entire generation of children to read was also challenged by several Christian groups for promoting witchcraft. Winnie the Pooh and Charlotte’s Web have been banned because talking animals are an insult to God. A California school district tried to ban The Lorax, citing its criminalization of the foresting industry. Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen featured nudity. James and the Giant Peach contained the word “ass.”

In fact, I remember when I was reading James and the Giant Peach aloud to the kids that I raised my eyebrows when I came to word “ass.” And then I continued on to finish the sentence. I looked up to see if the kids had any questions. Toby’s eyes widened a little and he said “is he supposed to say that?” And I said “No, it’s not a nice word. But it does have two meanings, a bum or a donkey. And I think the centipede probably meant that he was as stupid as a donkey. It’s still a nasty thing to call someone. Don’t do it.” Done. We moved on. And I didn’t have to deny other children with other parents access to the book.

I’m not saying all children’s books are great or even appropriate, and I’m not saying every child should read every book. I’m just saying that if you object to your children reading a particular book, then don’t read them that book. Tell your friends how much you didn’t like it, shout it from the roof tops. But don’t shelter everyone else by censoring it. Let others decide for themselves.

Looking through my children’s bookshelves, I’ve come up with a list of books that have been challenged or banned for one reason or another, that my children love (and haven’t been completely ruined by reading).

Ten Favorite Banned Children's Books from www.ameliesbookshelf.com

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12 thoughts on “10 Favorite Banned Children’s Books

  1. I work at a library and once a year the library system looks at and evaluates books that people have requested be banned. Someone, who I can only imagine had a very sad childhood, not only requested we ban ‘Hop on Pop’ by Dr. Seuss because it promoted “violence against fathers” but also insisted that the library pay any damages to fathers that this book might have incurred. Luckily, the board decided to keep it. :p

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  2. whoa I did not know a ton of innocent books have been banned for these reasons. I think sometimes people just do not comprehend the idea of taking care of their own and leaving other people alone. That we are accountable and responsible to ourselves but we cannot just prance around enforcing our will on others-and by this I mean that if one parent does not like what the book means for her, it doesn’t necessarily mean she should prevent others from reading it and making their own opinion of the same book.

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  3. Excellent article. I loved how you handled “James and the Giant Peach” with your children. It can be used as a point of discussion with kids. Then you move on. I’m not surprised that religious groups play a role in the banning of many books.

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    • Thanks Patricia! I feel like we have the power to talk and move through uncomfortable moments. It’s part of our job as parents- to guide, not just to shelter. But really, we all know our kids- if I felt like he wasn’t ready for the book, I wouldn’t have read it to him yet. And no, it doesn’t surprise me either, unfortunately.

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  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. Thanks for writing this. Charlotte’s Web will remain a favorite book of mine, talking animals aside. I only heard about why Waldo was banned from a friend who worked in my school library with me. Wow. How did I manage to miss all the fun?

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  5. I love that you didn’t censor the word “ass” in “James and the Giant Peach” but instead talked through it with your kids. I used to be replace words like “hate” with “dislike” when reading classics like “The Best Nest” and then I realized it was a great opportunity to say to my kids, “gee I wish he had chosen a different word. What’s a different way he could have said that?” Really the same approach could be applied to all banned books–discussions with your children are the best way to arm them with the tools to make decisions for themselves. Great post!

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  6. There is a line Wind in the Willows in which one of he characters says, “I have been a complete ass. Please forgive me.” (or something like that). After I read that, my youngest son ran around the house quoting that line in a fake British accent for days. I’m not going to lie. It was adorable. Thanks for sharing these titles. My family loves them all – except Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. We always found that one a little disturbing. By the way, you have a lovely blog.

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