This edition we make note that books are still being banned and/or challenged all over the world for various reasons -- sex, violence and death content and offensive language thought to being inappropriate for children the most popular excuse.
Books usually are challenged with the best of intentions—to protect others, especially children, from difficult ideas and information. The following is my list of the top 10 banned authors of last year, with links to their websites and information about why their books were challenged.
Phyllis Reynolds Naylor http://www.simonsays.com/content/feature.cfm?sid=510&feature_id=450 Author of the Alice series, which now includes 39 titles, Naylor has written more than 100 books, won a Newberry Award and an Edgar Allan Poe Award, among others. Her books have been banned because some say they promote homosexuality and others say the discussion of girls’ development is best left to parents.
Robert Cormier http://www.randomhouse.com/author/results.pperl?authorid=5740 The Chocolate War and We All Fall Down are perennial favorites of those who challenge books. A master of the young adult novel, Cormier’s books dig deep until the real and dark worlds of adolescence. The Chocolate War in particular has been banned for profanity, violence and sexual innuendo.
Judy Blume http://www.judyblume.com/menu-main.html The beloved children’s author, given an honorary National Book Award for her contribution to literature, is also one of the most challenged authors for her books about the struggles of growing up. Blubber, Forever and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret are teenage classics, banned for their strong language and “objectionable” subject matter. In some places Blubber is used in teacher training classes to help future teachers understand classroom dynamics.
Toni Morrison http://nobelprize.org/literature/laureates/1993/ Not all books that are challenged in the United States are children’s books. Beloved, The Bluest Eye and Song of Solomon have all been challenged because of harsh language and sexual content. Morrison has won a Pulitzer Prize for Beloved and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Chris Lynch http://www.iblist.com/author7193.htm Lynch writes stories about teenaged boys coming of age under harsh circumstances. His books Extreme Elvin and Iceman have been challenged for sexual content and profanity. (His books also sometimes have boys doing not very nice things to animals.) He’s also earned a Michael Printz Honor Award for his book Freewill.
Barbara Park http://www.randomhouse.com/kids/junieb/ Junie B. Jones is a precocious girl who’s always going on some sort of adventure. Park is the author of more than 30 books, but at least one school has challenged the books (written from the point of view of a young child) for having poor grammar. Her Mick Harte Was Here has also been challenged for themes inappropriate to children such as death and dying.
Gary Paulsen http://www.randomhouse.com/features/garypaulsen/library/ The young adult author and Iditarod racer has written 175 books. Nightjohn has been said to be too mature for young readers, while The Beet Fields was targeted for sexual content and Christmas Sonata for inappropriate language. His book about running the Iditarod has also been flagged for language.
Dav Pilkey http://www.pilkey.com/index.php The Adventures of the Captain Underpants series is a set of graphic novels about a cartoon character invented by a couple of elementary school kids. The books, obviously, have some potty-related language, and, predictably, they’ve been challenged for offensive language. but they’ve also been flagged for causing unruly behavior among children.
Maurice Sendak http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/sendak_m.html Acclaimed author of Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen, Sendak is heralded as a master of children’s literature. In The Night Kitchen has been challenged because of nude drawings of a young boy in the book. His pajamas fall off during the course of the story.
Sonya Sones http://www.sonyasones.com/mybooks.htm Sones’ books are novels in free verse dealing with all those wonderful things that happen to young girls as they grow up. What My Mother Doesn’t Know details a lot of those firsts and has been challenged for offensive language and sexual content. It was named the best book for young adults in 2002 by the American Library Association.
I hope this little trip down the banned book list has inspired you to read a banned book, or give one to a cool young person and explain to them that just because they read something in a book doesn’t mean they have to do it.
By the way: Did you know that even the Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling was challenged last year?