In the endless fight over what is deemed appropriate for children’s literary, diets many beloved classics have been censored or banned for ridiculous reasons. For example, in 1928, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned from all public libraries in the United States for “depicting women in strong leadership roles”. In 1986, Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach, was accused by a town in Wisconsin for containing overtly sexual themes, because of a scene where a spider licks her lips.
But if you thought such forms of censorship was a relic of an unenlightened past, you’d be wrong. Libraries, schools and even towns all over the US (and the world, for that matter) are constantly challenging books that they consider “obscene”, “inappropriate” or “an affront to god”. The American Library Association (ALA) compiles an annual record of the most challenged books, along with reasons for the challenge, if you’re interested in banned books.
While the issue is indeed controversial, bestselling children’s book author Dav Pilkney (of Captain Underpants fame) makes a good case concerning the intellectual freedom of minors:
I understand that people are entitled to their own opinions about books, but it should be just that: a difference of opinion. All that’s required is a simple change. Instead of saying “I don’t think children should read this book,” just add a single word: “I don’t think my children should read this book.”
In honor of this year’s Banned Books Week, we present three children’s book titles that are often challenged, but can be excellent to get or keep children interested in reading.
1) And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson, Peter Parnell and Henry Cole
(Preschool to Grade 3)
This multiple-award-winning picture book based on a true story recounts the tale of male penguins Roy and Silo, and their attempts to raise a chick together in Central Park Zoo. While the book has been challenged because it “promotes the homosexual agenda”, it’s a heartwarming affirmation of love within nontraditional families.
“Roy and Silo taught Tango how to sing for them when she was hungry. They fed her food from their beaks. They snuggled her in their nest at night”
2) The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins (Grades 7 and up)
It’s easy to forget that the blockbuster quartet of movies was based on a well-received book trilogy, and an often challenged one at that. Complaints include “anti-family” themes, “occult/satanic” ideas and “offensive language”. But a strong, female protagonist is not often seen in a post-apocalyptic adventure story, and themes of sacrifice and the corrupting influence of power make the series well worth a read
“You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope.”
3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky (Grades 9 and up)
Another YA book to join the Hollywood adaptation bandwagon (though let’s be real, that can be said of most acclaimed YA books…), The Perks of Being a Wallflower, is a coming of age tale that’s sad, exhilarating, thought-provoking, depressing and funny all at once. It’s been banned for its frank discussions of drug use, sexuality, suicide and queerness, but at a high school level, these are themes that teenagers might want to grapple with anyway.
“I am very interested and fascinated how everyone loves each other, but no one really likes each other.”
If you liked this blog post, you might like some of our other book recommendations