The pen is mightier than the sword and, apparently, it’s also more offensive. We’ve all read some of the most commonly banned and challenged classics in school, including “The Great Gatsby,” “The Catcher in the Rye,” “1984” and “Catch-22.” Some of the other titles on the list of banned and challenged books may surprise you.
Some folks had their underwear in a bunch over this children’s book series by Dav Pilkey. The “Captain Underpants” series — about two fourth-graders and their superhero of a principal — has the distinction of being one of the top 10 most frequently banned and challenged books for 2002, 2004 and 2005. The series were cited as having offensive language, being sexually explicit and being anti-family.
“The Lord of the Rings”
J.R.R Tolkien’s beloved book was burned, not in the fires of Mount Doom, but outside of a church in Alamogordo, N.M., in 2001 because it was viewed as “Satanic.” How precious, Gollum might say.
“Merriam Webster Collegiate Dictionary”
When it comes to banning books (and knowledge) even the dictionary gets no respect. “The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary” was pulled from the shelf of a school in Menifee, Calif. The offending term in the dictionary? “Oral sex.” The entry references of the dictionary also included cunnilingus and fellatio, which were not cited as the reasons for pulling the dictionary off the shelf. Merriam-Webster has been publishing language reference books for more than 150 years. They were bound to offend someone along the way.
Could a book about censorship really be banned? Absolutely. Enter “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. The book has been banned by the Mississippi School District (1999). It’s also number 69 on the American Library Association’s list of top banned/challenged books from 2000 to 2009.
Harry Potter series
One of the most surprising banned books sits at the number one spot on the ALA list. It’s not even a book. It’s the entire Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. The Harry Potter series is to teens as “Star Wars” was to an entire generation of now-40-somethings. The series has been challenged for occultism, Satanism, violence, being anti-family and having religious viewpoint. The series is number one on the ALA’s most challenged book list for 2000 to 2009.
“The Grapes of Wrath”
John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” is not just another classic on the list. The book was originally banned in California due to obscenity. However, the catalyst behind the banning was based more in embarrassment. The people in the region did not like how their area and the workers’ situation was portrayed in the novel.
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”
Most parents of kids under the age of five have seen Eric Carle’s art accompanying the book by Bill Martin. The Texas Board of Education banned the book, in January 2010, because it thought the book was written by the same Bill Martin who penned the non-children’s book, “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.” A quick Internet search could have cleared up the apparent confusion.
“James and the Giant Peach”
Author Roald Dahl is no stranger to being banned. His book, “The Witches” is on the ALA’s 100 most frequently challenged books for 1990 to 1999 for its depictions of women and witches. But what about James and his peach? Was there witchcraft at work? James was disobedient and there was violence in the book.
“American Heritage Dictionary” (1969)
“The American Heritage Dictionary” of 1969 was also banned in 1978 in an Eldon, Mo., library, because of 39 objectionable words. But the dictionary continued to cause trouble as far away as Alaska, where it was banned by the Anchorage School Board in 1987 for its inclusion of slang words, including “balls.”
Grimm’s Fairy Tales
Fairy tales have always clung to their precarious place in children’s literature. On one side, readers have fairy-tale purists who lament the morals lost in fairy tales that have been too cleaned up. Others object to any violence in fairy tales. A couple of California school districts found a whole new reason to ban “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” in 1989: misuse of alcohol. Little Red Riding Hood’s basket for her grandmother includes wine. Maybe it wasn’t a California red.