You would expect a banned book to be hugely salacious or controversial, but some of these books which featured on the banned list are positively wholesome and were taken off the shelves for the craziest reasons.
Wait…what? Some students working on their spelling might have been out of luck when the teacher asked them to “look it up”. In 1987, the Anchorage School Board in Alaska banned the American Heritage Dictionary because it had “objectionable” entries, like the slang definitions for “balls,” “knocker,” and “bed.” A California elementary school banned Merriam Webster from its shelves because the definition of oral sex was “not age appropriate.” Find out what the most misused word in the English language is here.
Dr. Seuss may have endeared the hearts of millions, but The Lorax, about the perils of deforestation, didn’t sit well with California loggers. One community banned the book for its negative portrayal of the industry. (By the way, you’ve been saying “Dr. Seuss” wrong. Can you pass this quiz of 4th grade spelling words?
Anti-deforestation wasn’t Dr. Seuss’s only political message to make schools squirm. One Canadian school announced Yertle the Turtle one of its banned books in 2012 because of this line: “I know up on top you are seeing great sights, but down here at the bottom, we too should have rights.” Apparently that line was too partisan for a school that had banned political messages. Dr Seuss was the master of the made-up word. Find out the science behind why these words tickle our funny bone.
No matter how you feel about human-sized bugs, Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach seems innocent enough at first glance. Some schools have challenged it for language, and tobacco and alcohol references. But perhaps the oddest? In 1999, one small Wisconsin town officially made it one of its banned books after claiming a scene when the spider licks her lips could be “taken in two ways, including sexual.” Can’t say that would have been our first thought.
It was tough enough for author Maurice Sendak to get his borderline dark and scary children’s book published. When it finally did hit the shelves, it got in even more trouble. Where the Wild Things Are is now a fun classic, but it was initially banned because little Max’s punishment was starvation—well, lack of supper—and the story had supernatural themes. Always wanted to start your own book club? FInd out how here!
You might want to reread Shel Silverstein’s collection of poems, Where the Sidewalk Ends—you may have missed something in its quirky, funny, and touching verses. According to some schools, the book actually promotes everything from drug use and suicide to ignoring parents and telling lies. Yikes. Meanwhile, find out what are considered the 10 best romance novels of all time.
Who knew a child misfit could create such a stir? Sure, kids loved Harriet for her strong will and rebelliousness, but critics argued the “spy” was less of a good-girl Nancy Drew and more of a mean-spirited gossip. Some schools banned Louise Fitzhugh’s Harriet the Spy to keep students from the bad influence. Check out 20 of the best thrillers you won’t be able to put down here.
To some, this was Shel Silverstein’s sweet story about unconditional love. But to one bitter Colorado librarian who took it off the shelves, The Giving Tree was just plain “sexist.” Are you a Game Of Thrones fan? Here are nine great fantasy epics you’re sure to love.
Might as well stop trying to wrack your brain for what in the world could have been grounds to take Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? out of schools. It was all an awkward mistake. Eric Carle might be a famous children’s illustrator, but the Texas State Board of Education wouldn’t approve the storybook after recognizing writer Bill Martin Jr.’s name from another book: Ethical Marxism. There was just one problem—the political Bill Martin was not the same Bill Martin Jr. as had written the children’s book. Next time, maybe the school board should do its homework.
No, Anne Frank’s diary hasn’t been removed from libraries because of the terror of hiding from Nazis. Schools have deemed some of the 14-year-old’s descriptions of her anatomy as “pornographic.” More cringe-worthy? One Alabama textbook committee asked for it to be banned because it was “a real downer.”
The unlikely friendship between a pig and spider sparked a much bigger controversy among Kansas parents in 1952. They had Charlotte’s Web banned because talking animals went against their religious beliefs, arguing humans are “the only creatures that can communicate vocally. Showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God.” We wonder what they’d think about the Cat in the Hat and Mickey Mouse and the three little bears and…
John Steinbeck’s work of fiction was based on the reality of the Dust Bowl that left migrants homeless and in search of work. In Kern County, California, where the protagonists land, the real-life county board of supervisors didn’t appreciate the author’s portrayal of how locals didn’t help migrants. A 1939 vote removed The Grapes of Wrath from the area’s schools and libraries. Find out which classic novels and other brilliant ideas were conceived in dreams.