All Ages 13 banned children's books that will surprise you.

Published on July 30th, 2014 | by Bright Kids Books

13 banned children’s books that will surprise you

Is it coincidence that these 13 banned children’s books are pretty much all classics? Is it also not strange that the vast majority of proposed banned books are written for children? Why is it that (some) people are so afraid of their children – or other people’s kids – being exposed to different philosophies and ways of thinking? We don’t have the answers, but perhaps a big part of the solution lies in this great quote from Judy Blume:

Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won’t have as much censorship because we won’t have as much fear.” – Judy Blume

13 banned children’s books that will surprise you

1. Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Where the Wild Things Are is one of those truly rare books that can be enjoyed equally by a child and a grown-up. The book was also banned in most southern US states immediately following its publication (in 1963), due to the fact that it promotes “witchcraft and supernatural events.” For us, the ‘wild things’ – with their mismatched parts and giant eyes – manage somehow to be scary-looking without ever really being scary. In fact, at times they’re downright hilarious.

Sendak’s defiantly run-on sentences – one of his trademarks – lend the perfect touch of stream of consciousness to this tale, which floats between the land of dreams and a child’s imagination. Hard to believe it’s on a list of banned children’s books. But then again, 1963 is also considered the defining year of the civil rights movement.


2. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
by William Steig

In 1970, William Steig won the Caldecott Medal for Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. In this donkey’s tale, Steig imbues his characteristically simple illustrations of animals sporting human garb with evocative, irresistible, and heartbreakingly vivid emotions. It’s also one the banned children’s books. In this instance because the characters are all shown as animals, with (gasp!) the police presented as pigs. For most people, Sylvester’s story is very sweet – reminding us that sometimes what we have is all we really need. A moving story based around gratitude and being thankful for young listeners.


3. Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See?
by Bill Martin Jr.

On a train ride in 1966, the title phrase Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? popped into Bill Martin Jr.’s head. Later, he spotted an illustration of a red lobster in a magazine and contacted the creator, Eric Carle, to ask if he would illustrate his poem. So began Eric Carle’s career as a children’s book illustrator – along with a life-long collaborative friendship with Bill Martin Jr.

Unfortunately, in 2010, Bill Martin Jr. came to the attention of the Texas State Board Of Education, thus joining this list of banned children’s books. Y’see, because they were so eager to ban an author named ‘Bill Martin’ who wrote Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation… the Texas State Board Of Education accidentally also banned ‘Bill Martin Jr.’ (no relation).

Fortunately, this gross oversight was rectified and Brown Bear and its three companion titles – Polar Bear, Panda Bear, and Baby Bear – have gone on to sell millions of copies worldwide. Another win for banned children’s books.


4. The Lorax
by Dr Seuss

Long before conservation became a global concern, Dr. Seuss, speaking through his character the Lorax, warned against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth’s natural beauty. The Lorax is widely recognized as Dr Seuss’s take on environmentalism and how humans are destroying nature. When it was first published, groups within the logging industry weren’t happy about it and later sponsored The Truax, a similar book — but from the logging point of view. As you can imagine, The Truax was as lame as its title suggests. But there was still one more (futile) tactic, which is why The Lorax is on this list of banned children’s books. In 1989, a California school district banned the book for being too harsh on the logging industry and thus persuading children against logging. Suffice to say, The Lorax provides an ecological warning that still rings true today.


5. Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr Seuss

Another Dr Seuss on the list of banned children’s books, this timeless classic was first published in 1960, and has been delighting readers ever since. Oh, except for in California where the book was banned on accounts of “homosexual seduction.” It was also banned in China for “early Marxism” from 1965 until Dr. Seuss’ death in 1991. On a more creative note, Green Eggs and Ham uses only 55 words. And kids… well, they just love the rhymes, the silliness, and the repetition.

The 50 words, by the way, are: a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you.

** Very subversive!


6. Alice in Wonderland
by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1865 under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children. It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Or put another way, it’s pretty trippy. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is also a worthy entrant to the pantheon of banned children’s books. Apparently there are references to sexual fantasies and masturbation in this book, resulting in its ban from classrooms in New Hampshire.

Since its original banning (in 1900), the book has been challenged by thousands of other institutions, most famously in the 1960s in fear that it would promote drug use to children. Also, and you’ll see this reason crop up over and over again on any list of banned children’s books, but apparently it’s quite objectionable in certain countries to show animals talking. This example from China: that “Animals should not use human language, and it is disastrous to put animals and human beings on the same level.” Unfortunately, this (lack of) logic applies to oh, around 80% of children’s books. Can you imagine?


7. Charlotte’s Web
by E.B. White

E. B. White’s Newbery Honor Book is a tender novel of friendship, love, life, and death that you and your kids will love. It’s also one of our favourite kids books. Charlotte’s Web is also a worthy addition to this list of banned children’s books. You’ve probably spotted the pattern by now, but once again, it’s the old talking animals issue. This time in Kansas. The book was called “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book.” That was in 2006. However, earlier, in 2003 an English Headteacher removed all books that featured pigs lest they potentially offend a Muslim student. The Muslim Council of Britain called the move “well-intentioned but misguided” and requested the books be reinstated. “Well-intentioned but misguided?” Possibly the main take-away from this list of banned children’s books.


8. Harriet the Spy
by Louise Fitzhugh

Harriet M. Welsch is a spy. In her notebook, she writes down everything she knows about everyone, even her classmates and her best friends. Then Harriet loses track of her notebook, and it ends up in the wrong hands. Before she can stop them, her friends have read the always truthful, sometimes awful things she’s written about each of them. And according to a group of concerned citizens in 1980’s Ohio, Harriet the Spy was challenged for teaching “children to lie, spy, back-talk and curse.” If that’s the worst kids get up to, then… collective sigh of relief. In the meantime,  Harriet the Spy makes a welcome addition to this list of banned children’s books.


9. Bridge to Terabithia
by Katherine Paterson

In 1976, Katherine Paterson’s son David was 8 years old when his friend, Lisa Hill, was struck by lightning and killed. A year later Bridge to Terabithia was published – winning a Newbery Medal and becoming, if such a thing is possible, an instant classic. The book was also banned in 1996 from several classrooms in Pennsylvania on accounts of “profanity, disrespect for adults, and an elaborate fantasy world that might lead to confusion.” The book has also been banned by other schools for its use of the phrases “Oh Lord” and “Lord.” Aside from being confronting, challenging and promoting discussion about life’s big issues, Bridge to Terabithia  is one of the most moving children’s stories of all time. So it’s probably no surprise that it’s on this list of banned children’s books.


10. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl

A true star of children’s literature, Roald Dahl seems to know just how far to go with his oddball fantasies. All manner of disasters can happen to the most obnoxiously deserving of children because Dahl portrays each incident with such resourcefulness and humor. Roald Dahl’s classic was initially challenged because the depictions of the Oompa Loompas (small, black pygmies) was deemed racist. If we squint, we can see how this conclusion was drawn. Dahl, absolutely taken aback, changed the description of the Oompa Loompas in the revised 1988 edition to be “‘knee-high dwarves’ with ‘rosy-white’ skin and funny long ‘golden-brown’ hair who came from ‘Loompaland.'” However, that wasn’t enough for one Colorado librarian who locked the revised edition in the reference collection because “the book espouses a poor philosophy of life” and because Charlie has no “tremendously positive traits, only an absence of negative ones.” Um… that would be Charlie Bucket – a boy who’s honest and kind, and brave and true. Go Charlie! And welcome to this esteemed list of banned children’s books.


11. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by L. Frank Baum

The classic American fairy tale of Dorothy Gale and her dog, Toto, is one of the staples of American literature. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has stimulated the imagination of young and old for generations. However, in 1928, all public libraries in Chicago banned the book because of its “ungodly” influence “for depicting women in strong leadership roles.” Wow! And in 1957, the Detroit Public Library banned the book for having “no value for children of today.” Kapow!

And while in the years since, Baum’s book has been banned all over the place, famously, in 1986 a group of Tennessee families filed a lawsuit claiming that the presence of good witches (that would be Glinda) in the book imply that human attributes are “individually developed rather than God given” and that all witches are bad so the presence of a good witch is “theologically impossible.” Or perhaps they were just channeling the Scarecrow! Another fine addition to this list of banned children’s books.


12. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
by J. K. Rowling

You’re probably familiar with this one. Harry Potter, the most beloved children’s series of the modern era, a series so potent it got even non-reading children to line up at midnight for its release, has been challenged and banned all over for promoting godless witchcraft. While you’re scraching your head, we’re just going to repeat the following line; ‘a series so potent it got even non-reading children to line up at midnight for its release’. Really? Ban the book that pretty much started the the reading craze for a generation. Harry Potter, you’re a fine addition to any list of banned children’s books.


13. Winnie-the-Pooh
by A. A. Milne

Cue a severe case of deja vu. Talking animals are somehow considered an “insult to god,” resulting in this book’s banning throughout random parts of the United States. Several institutions in Turkey and the UK have also banned the book, claiming that the character of Piglet is offensive to Muslims. Other institutions claim that the book revolves around Nazism. Say what?

In other news, for nearly seventy years, readers have been delighted by the adventures of Christopher Robin and his lovable friends. We’ll end this list of banned children’s books with a quote from Winnie-the-Pooh himself: “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

Go Pooh! Go You!


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- thinking kids can change the world.

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