Banned Books Week takes place once a year. This year it takes place from September 25 to October 2. The American Library Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress sponsor Banned Books Week and encourage people all over the United States to read books that have been challenged and banned all over the world. Hundreds of books through out history have been banned including many children’s books we considered classics. Here are my picks for the top 5 classic children’s books, with the reason for the challenge/ban and what country(s) it was banned in, for reading during Banned Book Week.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Country Banned In: China
Reason: According to the Governor of Hunan Province, China in 1931, “animals should not use human language.”
About Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: In 1865 Lewis Carroll wrote a story about a young girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole and is swept into a fairy tale world with animals that can speak. These creatures lead her through the fantasy world of Wonderland where she meets the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the Queen of Hearts and many other creatures that can be found in the genre of literary nonsense.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
Country Banned In: Lebanon
Reason: Favorable portrayal of Jews, Israel and/or Zionism. In Lebanon several other books that portray Jewish peoples in a favorable light have also been banned including books by Philip Roth, William Stryton and Thomas Friedman.
About The Diary of Anne Frank: Anne Frank is a young girl who has been keeping a diary during the years when the Jewish people were outcast in Nazi Germany. It is written from the perspective of a pre-teen girl who is experiencing war, famine and other horrors while trying to survive in hiding until she is sent to a concentration camp.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Country Challenged In: United States
Reason: Mark Twain’s children’s book The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn have been widely challenged in the United States due to offensive language and the use of the word “nigger”. During the 1950’s the NAACP challenged the book on claiming it had a racist tone. A public school in Illinois removed the book from an eighth-grade reading program after complaints about the offensive language in it.
About The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Huckleberry “Huck” Finn is a friend of Tom Sawyer (a leading character in many of Twain’s other stories) who is growing up and learning to become more “sivilized”. Huck doesn’t find the “sivilized” life much fun. He escapes only to find his abusive father coming back into his life. His father takes him to a place in the backwoods where Huck is locked inside a cabin. The story then follows Huck’s escape from the cabin, the faking of his own death and his adventures along the Mississippi River.
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Country Challenged In: United States
Reason: In 1977, this children’s picture book was challenged because of it’s portrayal of police as pigs even though there are no human characters in the picture book. Several schools and organizations in over 11 states called for the banning of the book.
About Sylvester and the Magic Pebble: This is the tale of a young donkey who collects pebbles of unusual shapes, sizes and colors while living in the community of Oatsdale. While walking through the town the young donkey finds a magic pebble that grants wishes. A run in with a lion makes the donkey wish himself into a rock where he loses the magic pebble. The rest of the story covers the rocks attempt to change back into a donkey and his parents search for him.
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
Country Challenged/Banned In: United States
Reason: Although published as late as 1991 the reason for challenges and bans of this book across the U.S. have happened because of references to homosexuality in children’s literature. In 1995, Sarah Palin complained that the book should not be allowed in public libraries. During the years of 1991-1999, it was ranked as #2 out of 100 on the lists of books most complained about by the American Library Association.
About Daddy’s Roommate: This story follows a young boy who’s father has gotten divorced and has moved in with his gay partner. The story takes on a child’s perspective through divorce to living with his gay parents and how they treat him the same as a heterosexual couple would with fights, love and spending time with the boy. It is a picture book and only 30 pages long.