September 22nd marks the beginning of banned books week. Cubberley has a display of just a few of the many banned/challenged children’s and young adult books. Topping the YA list this year is The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. His book was challenged by two school districts this past year for “…explicit sexual references, encouraging pornography, racism, religious irreverence, and strong language.” He is used to it however, as his books frequently make the most frequently challenged list.
Several other books have also been challenged due to strong language and/or sexual situations: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Speak and Looking for Alaska are just a few examples. The Lorax made the cut back in 1989, banned in Laytonville CA for – you guessed it – attacking the forestry industry. And Tango Makes Three actually beat out Absolutely True Diary for the most challenged book in 2010. It depicts the true story of two male penguins raising a baby chick. This picture book was challenged as being inappropriate for elementary school and for depicting homosexuality. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak has been frequently challenged due to the full frontal nudity of the young boy in the book.
Some books are challenged on the basis of one word and such was the case of the Higher Power of Lucky in 2007. “Scrotum sounded to Lucky like something green that comes up when you have the flu and cough too much,” …... “It sounded medical and secret, but also important.” Many school librarians stated that they would refuse to purchase this Newbery winner.
And who could forget Harry, our young wizard hero? The Harry Potter series has been challenged multiple times due to its occult/satanic themes. Harry Potter books have been burned many times.
Banned books week was formed in part to keep materials available so that individuals could form their own opinions of the work. Please come, look, check some out and make your own decisions.
This year there is also a virtual readout on youtube. Authors and celebrities including Sherman Alexie, Stephen Chbosky, Laurie Halse Anderson, Bill Moyers and Judy Blume have already uploaded videos.
If you’d like more information about banned books week visit the American Library Association's Banned and Challenged Books, American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, and Banned Books Week.