According to the ALA website, the most common reasons for banning/challenging books over the last decade were sexually explicit material, offensive language, material unsuited to age group, violence and homosexuality. As stated in the previous post I can certainly understand if someone wishes to avoid certain materials based on their own personal preferences, however that does not give them the right to restrict access for others.
For example, I prefer to avoid books (and other forms of entertainment) that contain overly explicit sexual scenes/subjects of an erotic nature but at the same time I don’t wish to completely erase that genre since there are people who really enjoy it. Additionally, sometimes a book has a couple overly graphic sex scenes that are not the main focus of the story and I can still greatly enjoy the overall tale/message/characters. This is most prominently seen in the realm of graphic novels, two of my favorite series (Saga and Rat Queens) have moments with pretty explicit nudity/scenes of a sexual nature but the general storyline is still amazing with some spectacular characters. On the other hand, a comic series called Sex Criminals is very popular but the entire premise is so very hinged on sexual situations (as you perhaps guessed from the title) that I just can’t bring myself to read it, however, I have no problem with others enjoying/exploring the series.
Continuing my series on celebrating those books that have been challenged or banned for various reasons, here are some of my personal favorites among those banned books (in no particular order):
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Reasons for ban/challenge: anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, violence
One of the most commonly banned/challenged books from 2000-2009, the Harry Potter series is also one of the most popular book series in the world (with approximately 450 million copies in print and 73 foreign-language translations as of 2013). Nonetheless, this tale of a boy wizard is one of my all time favorites, if you’ve never given it a try head to your local library/bookstore and pick up a copy- you won’t regret it ;).
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Reasons for ban/challenge: Anti-Family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group.
As mentioned above I love this on-going comic series by Vaughan and Staples, it was also one the top ten most challenged books of 2014. Saga follows Marko and Alana, deserter soldiers in a centuries long war between the citizens of Landfall (Alana’s home planet) and Wreath (Marko’s home moon). Against the odds these two crazy kids fall in love and have a child. However, their relationship and the very existence of Hazel is seen as a major threat to the ongoing war and the citizens of the warring worlds- leading to a chase across the galaxy with multiple parties wanting to get a hold of this family for various less than pleasant reasons.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
Reasons for ban/challenge: irreligious, Satanic, promoting witchcraft
The reasons for this challenge/ban are particularly ironic considering Tolkien himself was a devout Catholic and considered The Lord of the Rings to be a very Catholic story.
This classic series is often my go-to book when forced to answer the question “What’s your favorite book?” (which is a ridiculous question to ask a book lover). This joyful romp follows 4 hobbits, 2 men, an elf, a dwarf, and an Istari across Middle Earth as they work to rid their world of a powerful evil that threatens to destroy everything they love. The Lord of the Rings is very rich in describing the world Tolkien built which can sometimes make it a bit difficult to get into- if this has been the case for you I would recommend watching the Peter Jackson movie series from the early 2000s. Though some die-hard LotR fans might disagree, I think the movies provide a nice jumping-off point for entering the written world and helps to keep events within their broader context.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Reasons for ban/challenge: lewd, twisted, mature themes- suicide, sexuality, euthanasia
Commonly taught in elementary schools, The Giver is one of the books that I could read over and over again, coming away with new thoughts and perspectives each time. Within a utopian society where peace and order are paramount, 12 year old Jonah is assigned to become the Receiver of Memories. While training with the man known as The Giver, Jonas becomes the receptacle for all knowledge of pain, sorrow, pleasure, love, everything removed from the community in order to maintain the seemingly idyllic world. As he receives these memories and learns more about the world around him Jonas begins to realize that utopia comes at a price leading to questions about deeply held beliefs and values.
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Reasons for ban/challenge: promotes violence and disrespect, glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism, encouraged children to be disobedient
I’m usually not real big on poetry but I adore Shel Silverstein- quite frankly it’s hard not to love his works. Rather than talking about it, here are a couple of selections from A Light in the Attic:
What did the carrot say to the wheat?
“‘Lettuce’ rest, I’m feeling ‘beet.'”
What did the paper say to the pen?
“I feel quite all ‘write,’ my friend.”
What did the teapot say to the chalk?
Nothing, you silly… teapots can’t talk!
I’d rather play tennis than go to the dentist.
I’d rather play soccer than go to the doctor.
I’d rather play Hurk than go to work.
Hurk? Hurk? What’s Hurk?
I don’t know, but it must be better than work.
Our turtle did not eat today,
Just lies on his back in the strangest way
And doesn’t move.
I tickled him
And poked at him
And dangled string in front of him,
But he just lies there
Stiff and cold
And sort of staring straight ahead.
Jim says he’s dead.
“Oh, no,” say I,
“A wooden turtle cannot die!”
It was incredibly difficult to whittle this down to only 3 poems, there are just so many gems in A Light in the Attic. I would especially recommend “Meehoo With an Exactlywatt”, “Whatif”, and “Nobody” but really you should just read the whole book!
I could see where some parents might be concerned about certain poems (such as “How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes” and “Prayer of a Selfish Child”) but it wouldn’t be difficult to skip over those poems until your children are older or to make sure you have the discussion with them that the poems are funny but should not be imitated in real life.
Feel free to share some of your favorite banned or challenged books in the comments!
Thank you for stopping by!
~ ❤ ~ Meg