Words have power and books can change lives. Yet many literary masterpieces are often frowned upon because of their “questionable” themes. Some children’s and young adult books have fallen into this category as people want to protect young minds from perceived mature or inappropriate content. Quite often, it’s well-known titles that are banned or challenged in libraries and schools across the country. Below are 10 kid’s books that have caused a storm of controversy. Some might surprise you.
by Shel Silverstein
Shel Silverstein is one of the most beloved children’s authors of all-time. His books have sold millions of copies, yet one book in particular has been challenged because it “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them” and glorifies violence, cannibalism, Satanism, self-harm, and disobedience.
That’s right. “A Light in the Attic,” Silverstein’s delightful book of whimsical poems and drawings, has been labeled inappropriate for children by a handful of schools. Thankfully, most parents and teachers disagree and the book continues to light up the lives, and possibly attics, of children everywhere.
by Dav Pilkey
They say to never judge a book by its cover. If any book has ever become a victim of this warning, it’s “Captain Underpants.” The children’s series has topped the list of the most banned books in the United States. In fact, in 2012 and 2013, the books earned the number one spot on the American Library Association’s Top Ten Most Frequently Challenged Books List, even beating out “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
Sometimes the book is misjudged because of the cover, but Dav Pilkey’s bestseller has also been pulled from the shelves because its “anti-establishment” tone. That assessment is grossly misinterpreted. “Captain Underpants” hardly challenges authority. It’s just kids being kids and learning right from wrong.
by Maurice Sendak
You might get a little wild after learning that Maurice Sendak’s cherished children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” has, in fact, been challenged and banned since it was first published in 1963. Its imagery of witchcraft and supernatural elements has outraged some school officials. Psychologists have also referred to it as a bit “too dark” for children since it focuses on Max’s inability to control his emotions and the trauma of being sent to bed without dinner. However, as we all know, the magic, power, and bravery that comes to life on the pages outshine the poor judgement of Max’s parents.
by Lois Lowry
“The Giver” is a Newbery Medal-winning book with its own movie starring Taylor Swift and is one of the most influential novels of our time. The story focuses on a time when twins are illegal and one is “released” from life with a fatal injection. Although weighty topics are important, this book has been banned for sexually explicit content and depictions of death, including suicide and euthanasia. Those in support of the book say the story makes children think about important social issues and form their own opinions.
by J.K. Rowling
You raise a clenched fist in disgust. How dare they? you cry. Well, they did.
The best-selling Harry Potter series of children’s books by J.K. Rowling has been challenged and banned in countless schools and libraries across the United States (and elsewhere). The most frequently cited reasons is that they promote witchcraft, set bad examples, and are much too dark in tone. Despite the outcries, the series has been translated into 47 languages with the movie counterparts making billions in the box office worldwide, and for good literary reason.
by Judy Blume
This beloved coming-of-age novel from Judy Blume follows Margaret, an almost twelve-year-old who joins a secret group when she moves to the suburbs of New York with her family. When the topics of bras, boys, and periods are brought up, Margaret becomes uneasy and wonders if she should leave.
Although the book covers normal issues surrounding puberty and growing up, “Are You There God?” has been yanked from shelves because of its so-called “adult’ content and the debates over Judaism and Christianity. The bans rarely stick because Blume presents such a realistic interpretation of life as a teen, and the actual struggles surrounding faith.
by Katherine Paterson
Katherine Paterson penned a brilliant book about two kids who form an unlikely friendship and travel to a fantastical country. The story is tragic and heartbreaking, yet somewhere along the way, some educators and parents interpreted “Bridge to Terabithia” as Satanic, offensive (swearing), and anti-authoritarian. The naysayers can charge on, but this book is a powerful story about friendship and imagination. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
by Madeleine L’Engle
Another clenched fist moment. It’s hard to wrap your head around a book so well-known, so gorgeously written, and so celebrated being passed up by publishers 26 times. It’s equally hard to believe that “A Wrinkle in Time” has been banned and challenged anywhere and for anything. The offense? Undermining religious beliefs, since Jesus was added to a tale primarily about time travel and alternate dimensions. Despite the pushback, the book has never been out of print since it was first published and was recently made into a major motion picture. Turn that fist clench into a bump.
by William Golding
“Lord of the Flies,” first published in 1954, is one of the most frequently challenged books ever written. The reason? Violence, sexuality, language, and interpreted attacks on minorities and the disabled. Many schools believe the book is too much for young audiences, since the main characters themselves are young children. Should kids read the book? Librarians believe the choice should be left to parents.
by Stephen Chbosky
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” has been challenged and banned every single year since the first year it was released. This coming-of-age story chronicles what it’s like to be an ordinary kid in high school. The book, however, has been called “bad” and a “terrible example to set for children” since it explores adolescent anguish, homosexuality, assault, drug use, and suicide. On the flip side, it paints an appropriately on-point picture of what life looks like when you’re nearing adulthood and trying to discover who you really are.
Which children’s books were you surprised to learn have been challenged or banned? Share in the comments!