Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Banned Books Week

Did you know Banned Books Week is almost here? Banned Books Week (September 27 - October 3, 2020) celebrates the freedom to read and highlights attempts to censor books in libraries, bookstores, and schools. Banned Books Week was launched in the early 1980s in response to a surge of book challenges, protests, and the U.S. Supreme Court case Island Trees School District vs. Pico (1982) in which the Court ruled that the First Amendment limits the power of junior high and high school officials to remove books from school libraries because of their content. 

A major part of Banned Books Week is the list complied by the American Library Association of the Top 10 Most Challenged Books for the previous year. For 2019, the American Library Association tracked roughly 377 attempts to censor library materials and nearly 566 books that were challenged or banned. Considering that most challenges and bans are not reported, surveys indicate that 82-97% of book challenges are undocumented and receive no media attention, the numbers for 2019 are probably even higher. The most challenged book of 2019 was George by Alex Gino for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; for sexual references; and for conflicting with religious views and the "traditional" family structure. To see the complete 2019 Top Ten Challenged Books List, visit here.   


We want to help you celebrate your right to read. Please visit the Library to check out our Banned Books display, and read about the challenged and banned books below. A "challenge" means there was an attempt to remove or restrict a title based upon the objections of a person or group. A "ban" means a title was removed from a library or school. The list below was compiled with information from bibliographies by Robert P. Doyle and James LaRue. To view their complete lists of challenged, removed, restricted, or banned books, please visit here.  


This Day in June by Gayle E. Pittman: Challenged

This picture book with colorful, vibrant illustrations of a Pride Parade was challenged in Hood County, Texas in 2015. While it was decided that the book would be kept by the public library, the library compromised by moving it from the children's area to the adult section. In 2017, parents attempted to remove the book at the West Chicago Library in Illinois after their 3-year-old daughter picked it from the children's shelves. The library voted to retain it, but unlike the compromise made in Texas, the book remained in the children's section. In Orange City, Iowa This Day in June was one of several LGBTQIA+ materials challenged in a public petition from conservative and evangelical community members. They argued in the petition that This Day in June and other titles were indoctrinating children and pushing an agenda the community did not agree with. The petition asked that the LGBTQIA+ materials be moved and segregated from the rest of the library's collection. While all of the challenged books were eventually retained, one local religious activist checked out This Day in June and other LGBTQIA+ titles and burned them live on Facebook. The activist was charged with a misdemeanor and a GoFundMe raised thousands of dollars to replace the damaged materials.  

Drama by Raina Telgemeier: Challenged and Banned 

This graphic novel from the immensely popular Telegemeier follows the onstage and offstage drama of Callie and her friends during their middle school theatrical production of Moon Over Mississippi. Drama has made the American Library Association's Top Ten Most Challenged Books List five times since it's publication in 2012. The book has been challenged by critics for it's LGBTQIA+ characters, and for containing content that is "sexually explicit" and "inappropriate for the age of students reading." Drama has been banned multiple times in Texas between 2014 and 2017, including at the Franklin Middle School, Chapel Hill Elementary, and Kirbyville Middle School. In 2019, the graphic novel was banned from the Cedarburg School District in Wisconsin.    

Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey: Challenged and Banned

The graphic novel series that follows two prank loving boys as they create a superhero has been challenged and banned multiple times since the early 2000s. In 2012, the book series was actually banned more times than the 50 Shades of Grey series. The most common complaints? Offensive language, partial nudity, and for encouraging children to disobey authority. In 2001, the book was banned in Naugatuck, Connecticut because of the belief that it caused "unruly" behavior in children.  

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino: Challenged

Morris loves using his imagination for painting, singing, and creating all sorts of space adventures, but most of all Morris loves to wear the tangerine dress in his classroom's dress-up center. In 2016, a parent demanded the Forest Hills Public School District of Michigan ban the picture book because Morris wearing a dress didn't represent a "normal" way of life. The school district refused and the book was kept. Morris Micklewhite was one of the titles challenged and burned along with This Day in June in Orange City, Iowa. 

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell: Challenged and Banned

Challenged and banned around the world for "promoting the gay agenda" and being "anti-family," this picture book tells the true story about two male penguins and their foster chick at the New York Central Park Zoo. And Tango Makes Three has consistently made the American Library Association's Top Ten Most Challenged Books List, and has faced challenges in the states of Illinois, Virginia, Iowa, California, and Utah just to name a few. Sugarland Elementary School in Loudon, Virginia moved the picture book to an area only accessible by parents and teachers after receiving parent complaints about the book's "gay themes." Challenges against And Tango Makes Three have been so consistent and widespread that Dr. Marta L. Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee published a study in 2011 analyzing the various motives behind the challenges to the picture book.   

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall: Challenged

Even though he has a bright red label, Red knows he is really a blue crayon. In California, a transgender kindergarten student gave Red and other books to her teacher so she could better understand her situation. The teacher read the books to the class and parents immediately complained to the school board that they were "blindsided." The school district responded by saying that the books were age appropriate and that the topic of gender identity did not require advance parental notice; however, the school superintendent did state that the district would be discussing the future presentation and use of materials outside of the approved curriculum.     

A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss: Challenged

The lonely life of bunny Marlon Bundo changes dramatically when he falls in love with another boy bunny. HBO's Emmy winning Last Week Tonight with John Oliver created this picture book parody about Vice President Mike Pence's pet. All proceeds of the book were donated to The Trevor Project and AIDS United. The book was challenged but retained in Terrell, Texas in 2019. A library patron objected to the book on religious grounds, believing it was encouraging her 8-year-old granddaughter to accept a lifestyle that the Bible called "sinful." The book was also one of the LGBTQIA+ titles challenged in Orange City, Iowa. In 2020, a patron at the public library in Tahlequah, Oklahoma defaced the library's copy by writing on the cover, "Girl bunnies marry boy bunnies. This is the way it has always been because science."

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart: Challenged

Lily and Dunkin follows the friendship between eighth graders Jo McGrother, who is still dealing with coming out as transgender to her classmates, and Dunkin Dorfman, who is coping with bipolar disorder. Claiming that the book contained sexual content and instances of bullying, rebelling against the police, and refusing to take medications, parents requested that the book be removed from the children's section of the Andover Public Library in Kansas. After reviewing the title, the library decided to keep the book in the children's area. Parents appealed the decision, but the library board voted in favor of keeping the book in its original location.

Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola: Challenged and Banned

When Strega Nona leaves to visit a friend, she tells Big Anthony to continue his chores and not to touch her magic pot. He doesn't listen and proceeds to conjure an overflowing pot of pasta that threatens the whole town. Despite critical acclaim and multiple honors, Strega Nona has been challenged and banned multiple times in school libraries for depicting magic, witches, and witchcraft in a positive light. Other books with witches, warlocks, and supernatural worlds have been challenged too, including Ronald Dahl's The Witches, Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, and C.S. Lewis' The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was the most challenged book of the last decade (2000-2009) for its depiction of a young, orphaned wizard and his magical world.

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: Challenged and Banned

This classic picture book about a young boy who sails to an island inhabited by the Wild Things and becomes king has been challenged and banned for reasons similar to Strega Nona. Critics argue that the book contains supernatural elements and witchcraft, and that the book is simply "too dark" for children. In 1969, child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim said the book was "psychologically damaging for 3 and 4-year-olds" in Ladies Home Journal. The picture book was banned in several southern states after it's publication in the late 1960s for child abuse; the main character Max is sent to bed without supper by his mother. 

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds: Challenged

A black kid in baggy clothing, a bag of potato chips, racial profiling, and a brutal police encounter; In this YA novel, Keily and Reynolds tell the story of one incident of police brutality from the perspectives of two high school classmates. Mount Pleasant, South Carolina's Fraternal Order of Police fought to have All American Boys removed from the Wando High School's list of optional reading assignments for "an indoctrination of distrust of police." The FOP chapter also challenged Angie Thomas' The Hate U Give. Both books were subject to the school district's reconsideration process, and both titles were retained.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell: Challenged

In this YA novel, two misfit Nebraska teens with a love for mixed tapes and comic books discover the imperfections and the beauty of first-time love. Despite being an award winner, the book was pulled from the Yamhill Carlton School District in Oregon after parents complained about its profanity and use in a middle school classroom. The decision to remove the book was made without following proper policies, and the school board later apologized for it's hasty decision and kept the book.