It seems the more a book is criticized for being offensive the more keen an audience is to look through it’s pages. However, there are a few childrens’ books whose pages have recently come under fire.
His Dark Materials (1995-200) by Philip Pullman
A trilogy encompassing “The Northern Lights” (The Golden Compass in North America), “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass”, His Dark Materials follows femme protagonist Lyra in a world of mystical creaturs and fantastic lands where she learns about love, loyalty, and coming of age.
Dig a little deeper and turns out His Dark Materials is a retelling of Paradise Lost. This should not be a major area of concern as children are not so inclined to notice things of this sort. However, if you dig not so deeply the trilogy is obviously a dystopic allegory for the Catholic Church, a major area of apprehension for those claiming children may start to question religious doctrine. As a result, His Dark Materials is ranked second most frequently banned in US.
Diary of a Young Girl (1944) collective writings by Ann Frank
The book is a nonfiction collection of writings from Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl condemned to hiding for two years from Nazis. Since it’s publication, Diary of a Young Girl has been utilized to communicate the travesty of WW2 to younger readers in a meaningful and accessible way.
Though some claim it inappropriate Anne Frank never permitted anyone to read her journal, the diary includes an entry in which she consciously decides to publish when she gets out of hiding. However, in the 1980’s the “inappropriate and offensive” content, along with the parts which “undermine adult authority” motivated a number of American schools to have the book challenged. Specifically, in 1983 Diary of a Young Girl was challenged because it was depressing, or as the Alabama State Textbook Committee described, ” a real downer”.
How To Eat Fried Worms (1973) by Thomas Rockwell
The 11-year-old male protagonist loses a bet and is forced to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days. To help deal with this gross task, friends prepare different dishes in hopes of masking the main ingredient.
The plot is essentially most problematic. The most poopular reason for complaining to the American Library Association’s List of Most Commonly Challenged Books from 1990-2000 was because the premise was too disgusting for children. Though admittedly the early 70’s book includes some dated gender roles, includes a few inclusions of light swearing and a fist fight, parents seem most keen on keeping their kids on gummi worms instead of those which have been fried.
Goosebumps series (1992-2010) by R.L. Stine
The Goosebumps series includes a wide range of stories with titles like “Monster Blood” and “Say Cheese and Die”. Targeted for children, they usually span a few hundred pages in a large font.
Nationally, groups of parents have been attempting to ban the series because of it’s inappropriate content. In 1997 CNN wrote an article detailing a group of parents in the Minnesota town Coon Rapids’ attempts to ban all Goosebumps from an elementary school library on the grounds the stories were too scary, despite the fact advocates claimed that was the only reason many children were bothering to read in the first place.
James and the Giant Peach (1961) by Roald Dahl
After his parents die in a rhinoceros stampede, James must co-exist with his horrible aunts until he inadvertently plants a giant peach, home to a handful of amiable bugs which he befriends and with whom shares adventures. This eventually leads to his liberation and finally finding a loving family.
In addition to a temporary banning in a Wisconsin town for sexuality (at one point a spider licks her lips in a way which may be construed as salacious), because the leading protagonist ignores his physically and verbally abusive aunts; Stafford County, Virgina banned James and the Giant Peach from public schools claiming children were being taught to disobey adults.
According to the American Library Association, the group to most frequently challenge (move to have banned) books are parents by a ratio of about three to one. That means many schools and librarians are left mediating what a child wants to read and want a parent thinks they should.