A Challenge of a Different Kind

When I was in 6th Grade, our teacher assigned the class “Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret.” I went to a parochial school. This did not sit well with a number of parents, including my own. They launched a complaint and tried to have the book removed from our reading list. My teacher, Mrs. Coffey, left the book on the list, but offered alternatives for kids with parents who absolutely refused to let them read the book.

What my parents didn’t realize is that I’d already read the book the year before. It was on the shelves of our 5th grade library. Not that I told them.

I learned two things from the experience: 1) Most parents were hopelessly out of touch and had no clue what their kids were reading, and 2) My teachers were cooler than I thought.

September 26 – October 3, 2009 is Banned Books Week. Laurie Halse Anderson knows a thing or two about censorship. She has a great response to some of the schools that have challenged her books. I went to the Banned Books Website and looked over the lists of books that have been challenged over the last two decades. Some titles were expected. Others were a complete surprise. Not only have I bought banned books and personally enjoyed them, I’ve read many of them to my kids. The horror!

Included on the lists:

Captain Underpants Series, by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: anti-family content, being unsuited to age group and violence
Would you believe this series has made the top 10 list in 2002, 2004 and 2005??

Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
Reasons: occult/satanism and violence

Bridge to Terebithia
, by Katherine Paterson
Reason: occult/satanism and offensive language

The Witches, by Roald Dahl
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl
The Stupids series, by Harry Allard
Where’s Waldo?, by Martin Hanford

Can someone please explain why Where’s Waldo is on this list? Seriously, I don’t get why any of these books would be banned, but Where’s Waldo? Come on!

These are just the banned books that I’ve read to one or both of my children. You can find more at the ALA Website under Banned & Challenged Books.

I think parents have a right to guide the choices their children make. They don’t have a right to mandate those choices to the world at large. The funny thing is, if they actually read some of the books they’re challenging, they might be surprised to find that the books have something valuable to say.

The number one banned book for the last four years?
And Tango Makes Three.

We’ll be reading it next week to celebrate. What about you?

BTW: I found out why Where’s Waldo? was banned: The original 1987 book had a topless sunbather exposing a breast. LMAO! Considering how small the pictures are, you’d have to look pretty hard to find it. Are people really offended by this?! Here’s an article with a blowup of the wardrobe malfunction 🙂

17 thoughts on “A Challenge of a Different Kind

  1. That is crazy. My kids read most of those books on the list. I agree. If parents don't want their kids reading something, that's up to them, but they can't force that on the rest of the world. Great post!

  2. I heard Judy Blume speak last spring. She talked about her struggles with censorship, and how she had to make a conscious decision to battle against it. She is an amazing speaker and a truly amazing person.

    I was given Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by a dear friend of our family's who is a preacher–she was ordained right after the Presbyterian Church began to allow female preachers (amazing that has happened just in our lifetime!). She wanted me to read Margaret's story–not just the physical stuff about growing up but the religious questioning.

    Great post! I'm going to go read a banned book!

    sf

  3. Growing up we were allowed to read whatever we wanted. If we could read it, it was ours. I read everything from Stephen King to Harlequin romance novels WAY before I should have been allowed. One of the perks of reading beyond my grade level.

    And here's the thing, it made me want to read more. In fact, I think a big part of the reason that I love to read so much is because my parents gave me complete freedom to read whatever I wanted. I was definitely not allowed to watch movies rated PG-13, but who needed those when you had books like Forever?

    I hope to return the favor with my own kids someday…

  4. That was pretty gutsy of your teacher to actually assign the book…I mean, I read it but only secretly when my mom was at work (hehehehehe).

    When we make books taboo, they only become more appealing to our youth so I say let them read what they want and then be open to discussion about it. That's where the learning takes place.

  5. I'd never heard of TANGO and now feel as if I must read it now.

    I can only imagine what WALDO did to offend. I'd put my ideas here, but I'm afraid they may become banned.

  6. Ha! I work at a UU church, and they sell “Tango” at the family bookstore! Love, baby penguins, and adoption are NOT counter to UU values. Besides, it's a true story. AWWW!

    This list teaches me that being banned must be a great honor, because the only thing I can see that all these books have in common is that they're good reading and very popular.

    Except Waldo. Not so much reading. But still a quality book. 😀

  7. Susan: Some of the books on the list really surprised me!

    SF: JEALOUS! I would love to hear Judy Blume speak! You're lucky to have had such a great childhood influence.

    LiLa: I read what I wanted, my parents just had no clue! With my kids, I'll probably be reading the books right along with them 🙂

    Tess: I'm truly impressed that she stuck to her guns. I'm so glad I had a teacher like her!

    Carrie: Happy reading =)

    Kelly: I found out why Waldo was banned–the original had a stray nipple! Ha!

    Anita: Tango is the story of two male penguins in New York City's Central Park Zoo who want to be parents. It's an AWESOME book. Enjoy!

    Genie: You must go to a cool church! And I think sometimes banning books does increase their popularity.

    PJ: You're right. Here's a link.

    Vivian: If you have the original 1987 copy of the book, you might find that errant nipple. Happy hunting =)

  8. Guide is right. Try to do more than that, and you'll soon find out how little control you do have. Saying NO to a book closes the door, not for your kids, but for you–because they'll do just what you did, find the book on their own, read it, and decide NOT to share their reading with you at all.

    If I lost that sharing with my son, one of our biggest connections would disappear. Why would I EVER risk that?

    Great post, Sherrie. Thanks! And I hope you know how lucky your kids are to have you.

  9. I've gotten more out of the banned books I've read than most other books. It drives me crazy that people want to censor books.

    I read lots of Judy Blume when I was younger, and I'd sometimes have questions for my mom. “What are you reading?” she'd ask. But she didn't stop me, and she answered my questions.

  10. Where's Waldo? Yikes. So very salacious. *Hiding the National Geographics*

    😉

    I doubt my parents knew what I was reading since I remember reading Looking for Mr. Goodbar at 13. I had tested out at adult level reading in 6th grade and was trying to improve on that score. Found out later that it was the top score.

    But that's it – I was reading adult material with the goal in mind of improving my reading score. Comprehension of said material was a bit sketchy.

    Ellen Hopkins auctioned off a school visit for charity and that visit was cancelled because of her books. Only the librarian who won the visit was quite resourceful and got a Baptist church college to host the visit. Ellen's another good source for what it's like to be challenged.

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