Throughout literary history, books have faced censorship and controversy for various reasons. Children’s books are no exception, with some of the most beloved classics coming under fire for their themes, characters, or language.
We this guide to banned children’s books we delve into the captivating world of these prohibited stories to uncover the reasons behind their bans and explore the impact they have had on young readers. From addressing societal taboos to challenging authority, these books have sparked heated debates and, in some cases, even changed the course of children’s literature.
Join us on this eye-opening journey as we navigate the fascinating realm of the top 40 banned children’s books.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Get ready for an epic adventure with “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain! Join Huck, a young boy who escapes his abusive dad and befriends Jim, a runaway slave, as they brave the mighty Mississippi River. The journey is filled with twists and turns and themes like racism and morality.
Even though the book is an American classic, it’s not without controversy. Some argue that the use of racially offensive language perpetuates stereotypes, leading to it being banned. But others see it as an opportunity to reflect on history and promote empathy. What’s your take on this literary masterpiece?
And Tango Makes Three
“And Tango Makes Three” by Justin Richardson isn’t just any children’s book; it’s a heartwarming and inspiring tale that celebrates love, acceptance, and diversity in the animal kingdom and beyond. It fosters understanding and empathy by highlighting that different forms of love exist even in species beyond our own. It follows the captivating journey of Roy and Silo, two male penguins who form a loving partnership in New York City’s Central Park Zoo.
The pair shares a unique bond, and when they hatch and raise their baby penguin, Tango, they become the envy of all the other penguin couples. However, not everyone is thrilled about their unconventional family unit, and the book’s portrayal of a same-sex couple raising a chick has ignited controversy and led to its banning.
But despite the backlash, “And Tango Makes Three” continues to inspire readers of all ages with its powerful message and charming illustrations.
Bridge to Terabithia
“Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson is a heartwarming and thought-provoking novel that tells the story of two young friends, Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke, who create an imaginary kingdom called Terabithia as a refuge from their daily struggles. The book explores themes of friendship, imagination, and coping with loss.
Despite its touching narrative and valuable life lessons, “Bridge to Terabithia” has faced controversy and has been banned in some regions. The primary reasons for the ban are the book’s portrayal of death, which critics deem too distressing for young readers, and its use of profanity.
Additionally, some individuals have objected to the novel’s exploration of non-traditional gender roles and religious skepticism, claiming these aspects challenge conventional values. As a result, the book has been removed from various schools and libraries to protect young readers from potentially upsetting or controversial content.
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
“Diary of a Wimpy Kid” by Jeff Kinney is a wildly popular series that humorously chronicles the life of middle schooler Greg Heffley. Despite its global success, the series has faced bans in places like Tanzania due to concerns over negative behavior portrayal, sarcastic humor, and perceived promotion of LGBTQ+ issues. Tanzanian bookstores have even been instructed to remove the books from their shelves.
However, many fans and educators appreciate the series for its relatability and ability to engage reluctant readers, fostering a love for reading and camaraderie among young audiences.
“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss is a timeless treasure for children of all ages! We’re introduced to the titular character – the Lorax – a guardian of trees and the environment whose mission is to save the earth from the clutches of a selfish capitalist, the Once-ler.
Amidst a backdrop of dramatic conflict and colorful illustrations, this beloved book drives home the importance of environmental conservation. However, did you know that “The Lorax” has faced bans due to its perceived anti-industry themes?
To some, the book’s depictions of the Once-ler and his destructive habits promote an unfavorable view of businesses and economic growth. What do you think?
Harriet the Spy
Louise Fitzhugh’s “Harriet the Spy,” tells the tale of young Harriet M. Welsch, an aspiring writer who spies on her friends and chronicles her observations. Harriet grapples with the consequences and learns valuable lessons about life after her notebook is discovered.
The book has been banned from some schools and libraries due to concerns over Harriet’s spying, dishonesty, profanity, and instances of bullying. Critics argue these elements may be inappropriate for young readers and could encourage negative behavior, leading to their removal from some schools and libraries.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling is the enchanting first chapter of a spellbinding series that whisks readers away to the world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Follow young Harry Potter, an orphan who discovers he’s a wizard, as he sets sail on a thrilling adventure to uncover his hidden past and unravels the secrets of his mysterious new world under the threat of dark forces.
But before you dive into this magical masterpiece, know that it’s immense popularity and captivating narrative have caused it to face numerous bans and criticism due to the portrayal of witchcraft and wizardry, which some argue encourages occultism and undermines religious beliefs.
The Giving Tree
“The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein is a poignant tale of unconditional love, depicting the lifelong bond between a tree and a boy. As the boy grows, the selfless tree continuously provides for his needs, teaching readers about love, sacrifice, and the importance of nurturing relationships.
Did you know that a public library in Colorado banned “The Giving Tree” in 1988? The reason? The book was criticized for being sexist. Many readers were upset with the young male character who repeatedly took from the female tree without reciprocating. The worst part? The story ended there!
To Kill a Mockingbird
“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee is a powerful novel that transports you to the racially-charged American South of the 1930s. Young Scout Finch will capture your heart as she navigates this complex world and watches her father, Atticus Finch, fight for justice amid racial bias.
This novel delves into themes of racial injustice, courage, and empathy, and has been widely celebrated for its thought-provoking content. However, it’s not without its controversies. Some find the book offensive due to its mature topics like rape and racial inequality.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a beloved children’s book that transports us to a world of pure imagination! The story of young Charlie Bucket’s golden ticket to visit eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka’s magical factory has captivated readers for generations, thanks to its vivid imagination and an unforgettable cast of characters.
But let’s get real – what’s a great story without some controversy? The book has faced bans and criticism for Oompa-Loompas’s portrayal, initially described as African pygmies, raising concerns about racial stereotyping. Although later editions have corrected the depiction, the debate lingers on the challenge of addressing problematic content in children’s literature without diminishing the timeless charm of a classic tale.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
“The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie is a powerful coming-of-age novel that follows the journey of Arnold Spirit Jr., a Native American teenager living on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Seeking better opportunities, Arnold attends an all-white school off the reservation, facing challenges and prejudice.
Despite its powerful message, it has faced bans and challenges for reasons like explicit language and sexual content. Moreover, it touches on issues related to alcoholism, including Arnold’s experiences with masturbation and his family’s struggles with alcohol abuse.
Captain Underpants Series
The wild, wacky world of “Captain Underpants” is the brainchild of author Dav Pilkey. The series chronicles the epic adventures of two mischievous fourth-graders, George Beard and Harold Hutchins. Their creation, Captain Underpants, becomes a comically clueless superhero who takes on villains in hilarious and imaginative ways!
But it’s not all sunshine and laughter in this book series. Despite its overwhelming popularity, “Captain Underpants” has faced its fair share of bans and challenges. Critics argue it’s irreverent, too crude, and ultimately, a bad influence on young readers. What do you think? Dive in and decide for yourself!
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky is a riveting coming-of-age novel that takes us on a journey with Charlie – an introspective high schooler battling through love, loss, and mental health. As we delve into Charlie’s world through his letters, we see a raw and unfiltered depiction of adolescence that is both arresting and relatable.
Although the novel has sparked healthy discussions surrounding mental health, personal growth, and relationships, it has also encountered its fair share of criticism. Detractors point out its “explicit” depictions of sexual content, drug use, and suicide, citing these elements as reasons for concern.
Yet despite this, fans of the story passionately defend Stephen Chbosky’s unfiltered honesty in portraying the struggles faced by teenagers, highlighting it as the foundation of the novel’s poignant impact.
Henry’s Freedom Box
Discover the inspiring true story of Henry “Box” Brown, an enslaved African American who escaped to freedom by mailing himself in a wooden box, in “Henry’s Freedom Box” by Ellen Levine.
Follow Henry’s journey from the harsh realities of slavery to his courageous decision to seek liberty in this captivating children’s picture book. It’s a story that will leave you in awe of the power of the human spirit and the unyielding pursuit of freedom.
Even though the book hasn’t been widely banned, it has received some warranted flak for its raw and graphic portrayal of slavery. It’s been argued that some illustrations and narratives may not be suitable for young readers. Take, for instance, Henry’s heart-wrenching separation from his kin or the excruciating journey inside that cramped, terrifying box.
The Glory Field
“The Glory Field” by Walter Dean Myers is a compelling historical novel that follows the journey of six generations of an African American family, beginning with the capture and enslavement of 11-year-old Muhammad Bilal in 1753 and ending in modern-day America. The story highlights the struggles and triumphs of the family members as they navigate racism, inequality, and the fight for freedom.
Although “The Glory Field” has faced criticism for depicting themes such as slavery, racism, and violence, many readers and educators appreciate the book for authentic storytelling. From the African American experience to the power of family and perseverance, this book sparks valuable conversations about equality and justice.
Get ready to join middle schooler Rick on a captivating journey of self-discovery, friendship, and empathy in Alex Gino’s must-read novel “Rick.” Along the way, Rick explores complex themes of acceptance, LGBTQ+ identity, and gender representation.
“Rick” isn’t available to all readers due to controversy and censorship surrounding its themes. Critics argue that discussing LGBTQ+ themes may be confusing or inappropriate for young audiences, and others object to the challenge of traditional beliefs and family values. Nonetheless, this book’s message of love and inclusivity is powerful and resonant and deserves to be shared with readers of all ages and backgrounds.
The “Goosebumps” series by R.L. Stine is a wildly popular collection of children’s horror fiction books, filled with suspenseful tales that captivate and thrill young readers. Featuring different spine-chilling stories, the series introduces kids to haunted houses, creepy creatures, and supernatural events, often with a surprising twist at the end.
Although beloved by many for its ability to engage reluctant readers and spark a love for reading, the series has faced criticism and bans for various reasons. Critics argue that it contains frightening themes, violence, and dark subject matter deemed inappropriate for young readers, citing examples like the menacing ventriloquist dummy in “Night of the Living Dummy” or the cursed camera in “Say Cheese and Die!”
“The Witches” by Roald Dahl is a spellbinding children’s novel that follows the thrilling adventures of a young boy and his grandmother as they uncover a secret society of witches plotting to turn all the children in England into mice. With its enchanting storytelling and vivid imagination, the book offers an exciting journey into a world of magic, bravery, and friendship.
Although “The Witches” is a popular children’s book, it has faced bans and challenges because of its dark themes, violence, and negative stereotypes. Yet, there is no need to fear! Despite these controversies, the book still has much to offer, including a captivating narrative, a memorable cast, and uplifting messages about love, family, courage, and resilience.
In the Night Kitchen
“In the Night Kitchen” by Maurice Sendak is a whimsical and imaginative children’s book that follows the dreamy adventure of a young boy named Mickey, who falls into a fantastical world inhabited by giant bakers. In this surreal dreamscape, Mickey helps the bakers make a cake, ultimately finding his way back to his bed.
Despite its captivating narrative and unique illustrations, “In the Night Kitchen” has faced controversy and has been banned in some places. The primary reason for the ban is the depiction of Mickey’s nudity, which critics argue may be inappropriate for young readers.
Additionally, some individuals have expressed concerns over the book’s surreal themes and imagery, believing they might be confusing or disturbing for children. Consequently, the book has been removed from selected schools and libraries to protect young readers from potentially sensitive content.
Alice in Wonderland
Jump down the rabbit hole with “Alice in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll! This children’s classic will take you on a whimsical journey through Wonderland. Join Alice on her journey through Wonderland, where you’ll encounter a cast of peculiar characters, including the mysterious Cheshire Cat, the eccentric Mad Hatter, and the formidable Queen of Hearts.
While “Alice in Wonderland” is admired for its imaginative storyline and unforgettable characters, the book has faced criticism and bans across several regions, including China. The controversy stems from animal characters using human language in their communication, which critics object to as it elevates animals to the level of humans.
The Color Purple
“The Color Purple” by Alice Walker is a powerful and critically acclaimed novel about Celie, a young African American woman from early 20th century rural Georgia. The book explores themes of racism, sexism, poverty, and self-discovery, as Celie grows from an abused girl to an independent woman.
The book has faced bans and challenges for explicit language, violence, and sexual content depicting same-sex relationships. But it remains a significant and influential work in American literature, exploring the African American experience and sparking discussions about social issues.
James and the Giant Peach
“James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl is an enchanting children’s novel filled with whimsy and imagination. It follows the incredible adventures of James Henry Trotter as he journeys aboard a giant, magical peach and befriends a group of talking insects, learning valuable lessons about friendship, courage, and self-belief.
“James and the Giant Peach” might sound like a sweet classic, but did you know it’s faced bans and controversy due to its dark themes, crude language, and mature content? Critics claim it’s not suitable for young readers, pointing to the cruel actions of James’s aunts, the naughty insect behavior, and some choice words. What do you think?
E. White’s beloved children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web” follows the delightful tale of Wilbur, a young pig seeking friendship. Along the way, he meets his wise and resourceful spider buddy, Charlotte. Together, they embark on a mission to save Wilbur from the farmer’s axe.
Despite its timeless charm and profound life lessons on friendship, compassion, and the power of words, the book faced controversy in Kansas when a parent group aimed to ban it from school libraries. Their concerns were centered around themes of death and the portrayal of talking animals, which they believed undermined religious beliefs and were unsuitable for young readers.
The Family Book
“The Family Book” by Todd Parr celebrates the diversity of families, emphasizing that every family is special and unique. Showcasing various types of families, including same-sex parents, single parents, adoptive families, and those with different ethnic backgrounds, the book encourages children to appreciate and respect differences.
However, in 2012, concerns over depicting families with two moms or two dads led to its removal from the Erie School District in Illinois. Critics argue that such content may be inappropriate or confusing for young readers, leading to the book’s ban in some areas.
The Fighting Ground
One of Avi’s lesser-known works, this engaging novel follows 13-year-old Jonathan, who aspires to fight alongside his brother and cousin against the British during the Revolutionary War. “The Fighting Ground” captures the spirit of patriotism and courage in young hearts.
However, in 2008, the Bay District school library banned this notable book due to parent concerns regarding the use of profanity. Critics believe the book’s language might be inappropriate for young readers, overshadowing its historical significance and educational value.”
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
“Sylvester and the Magic Pebble” by William Steig is an imaginative tale that follows a donkey who wishes to become a rock but has sparked controversy with the Illinois Police Association. In 1977, they challenged the book due to its depiction of police officers as pigs, which they deemed disrespectful and offensive.
Consequently, the book faced bans and removal from libraries in various parts of the U.S., overshadowing its creative narrative and potentially valuable lessons for young readers about the consequences of one’s wishes and the importance of self-acceptance.
The Story of Ferdinand
“The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf is a classic, beloved children’s book from 1936. It follows Ferdinand, a gentle bull who prefers smelling flowers to the violent activities of other bulls. Mistakenly chosen for a bullfight in Madrid, Ferdinand stays true to his nature, defying expectations.
The tale’s simple yet powerful message about embracing one’s uniqueness and staying true to oneself has resonated with generations of readers. However, “The Story of Ferdinand” has not been without controversy. Critics have interpreted the book as promoting pacifism, and it has faced bans in various countries, including Spain during Francisco Franco’s regime and in Germany during Adolf Hitler’s rule.
Donovan’s Big Day
Step into Donovan’s shoes in “Donovan’s Big Day” by Lesléa Newman, a heartwarming children’s book about his role as the ring bearer in his mother’s wedding.
Experience the simple beauty, love, and happiness of a same-sex family that embraces acceptance and equality. However, the book’s portrayal of same-sex marriage that captured its positive impact sparked controversies, leading to bans in certain regions.
Unfortunately, critics argue that the book promotes a lifestyle that goes against their beliefs or values, unsuitable for young ones. Where do you stand?
This Day in June
“This Day in June” by Gayle E. Pitman is a vibrant and inclusive picture book that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and the spirit of pride parades. The book uses lively illustrations and playful rhymes to introduce children to the rich history, joy, and diversity that characterizes pride celebrations.
Despite the book’s positive message of acceptance and unity, “This Day in June” has faced bans and criticism in some areas due to its LGBTQ+ content, with detractors arguing that it exposes children to topics they believe are inappropriate for young readers. The book’s celebration of gender diversity and same-sex relationships has sparked heated debates about representation and inclusivity in children’s literature.
It’s A Book
The book “It’s a Book” sparked controversy when it was banned in two Massachusetts school districts in 2010, but braved the challenges and emerged victorious when it was upheld by the Edmonton Public Library in 2013.
The book features a book-loving monkey, a tech-savvy donkey, and a straight-talking little mouse that had even the youngest readers spellbound. However, the derogatory word “jackass” used in the book has sparked heated discussions among parents and educators.
In Our Mothers’ House
The “In Our Mother’s House” by Patricia Polacco has challenged societal norms by exploring same-sex households through the story of three kids from different backgrounds raised by two loving mothers.
Through this heartwarming tale, Polacco delivers a powerful message of inclusivity and diversity. Despite facing bans and permission restrictions in some parts of the US, the impact of this book is undeniable. Are you ready to be inspired?
The Three Little Pigs
Once upon a time, three pig siblings went on to build three homes, each with differing degrees of success. With the power of storytelling and lessons of hard work, perseverance, and resourcefulness, James Marshall’s The Three Little Pigs has warmed the hearts of many kids.
According to the story, the sly wolf was outwitted by the pig who built a house out of bricks. However, due to its depiction of a malevolent character, the story was banned in school and library settings. Critics argued that this portrayal could instill fear and hatred for wolves in children.
Mini Grey’s “Egg Drop” is a charming children’s book that takes us on a journey with a curious egg who dreams of soaring through the sky. Despite warnings from other birds, the egg climbs to the top of a tower, only to realize it cannot fly and ultimately falls to the ground.
This amusing tale of adventure and discovery has faced controversy and has been banned in some areas due to the book’s ending, which depicts the egg’s inevitable shattering. Critics argue that the conclusion is too harsh and potentially upsetting for young readers, overshadowing the book’s creative narrative and positive themes of curiosity, exploration, and learning from one’s mistakes.
The Snowy Day
“The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats is a timeless and enchanting children’s book that follows young Peter as he joyfully explores fresh snow in his urban neighborhood!
The vibrant illustrations and narrative capture the awe-inspiring wonder of a child’s first snowfall. Its innocence is a reminder to cherish the purest and simplest moments in life and to be present in the present. But did you know that despite its popularity and Caldecott Medal win, “The Snowy Day” faced controversy and was also banned?
Critics believed featuring an African American protagonist could promote racial integration, but the concept still met with resistance in certain parts of the U.S. during the civil rights movement. History never looked as colorful and beautiful!
The Dirty Cowboy
Prepare to laugh with “The Dirty Cowboy” by Amy Timberlake! This children’s book tells the story of a cowboy and his dog’s adventure as they head to the river for a bath. After scrubbing a year’s worth of dirt, he’s unrecognizable to his dog, leading to a hilarious showdown between the two that will have you and your kids rolling on the floor.
Although the book has been criticized in some regions for illustrations of a nude cowboy, with strategically placed objects to maintain modesty, “The Dirty Cowboy” is a must-read for parents seeking to ignite their children’s humor and imagination with its engaging story, lively illustrations, and depiction of the American West!
Jacob’s New Dress
Meet Jacob – a boy with a passion for dresses! “Jacob’s New Dress” by Sarah Hoffman is a children’s book that warms your heart and sparks curiosity. Follow Jacob as he navigates challenges expressing himself at school and dealing with peers who question his style. With support from amazing parents, Jacob finds the courage to live his truth in a new dress he and his mom made!
“Jacob’s New Dress” often stirs up mixed reactions. Some hail the book as a symbol of diversity and self-expression, while others deem it unsuitable for young readers grappling with questions of gender identity. Regardless of your perspective, there is one undeniable fact: this literary masterpiece takes you on an incredibly emotional journey!
I Am I
Join the conversation and get ready to question your existence as you dive into “I Am I” by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick! This beautifully illustrated children’s book explores the theme of self-identity through a young boy’s mysterious encounter with his reflection in a pool.
But wait, there’s more! Despite its engaging narrative and striking artwork, “I Am I” has faced controversy and has even been banned. Critics argue that the philosophical themes may be too complex and confusing for young readers, while others believe it fosters self-awareness and self-confidence.
If I Ran the Zoo
Enter the world of Gerald McGrew, a young boy with a wild imagination who dreams of running his zoo in “If I Ran the Zoo” by Dr. Seuss. Join him on his exhilarating adventure of capturing fantastical creatures from across the globe to create the most extraordinary zoo ever!
But the journey isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, as this children’s classic has faced controversy due to racial stereotypes. As the illustrations portray characters from Africa and Asia with exaggerated features, the book has been banned to prevent harm to young readers. Despite its imaginative and creative storytelling, it reminds us to challenge our perceptions and keep an open mind toward different cultures.
Heather Has Two Mommies
“Heather Has Two Mommies” by Lesléa Newman is a heartwarming masterpiece for children, showcasing the power of love, acceptance, and family diversity!
This extraordinary book offers a beautiful portrayal of a same-sex couple raising a child seen through the captivating perspective of Heather. Every page radiates warmth and affection, reminding us that families come in all shapes and forms! However, not everyone sees it that way. The book has faced controversy and has even been banned like others. Critics argue showcasing non-traditional families could undermine traditional values.
The Diary of a Young Girl
“The Diary of a Young Girl” is a heart-wrenching memoir that vividly recounts the life of Anne Frank, a young Jewish girl who was forced to hide from the Nazis during WWII. Trapped in an attic for years, Anne poured her soul into her diary, giving us a glimpse inside her hopes, dreams, and fears.
But despite its incredible story, “The Diary of a Young Girl” has faced its fair share of scrutiny, and has even been banned due to its candid depiction of sensitive topics. Some argue that the book is too mature for young readers due to its inclusion of Anne’s sexuality and the horrors of the Holocaust.
The controversy around banned children’s books is complex. While some contend that select stories are unsuitable for young readers, it’s imperative to consider their context, purpose, and educational value. These facets fundamentally shape our perception of these works and their place in children’s literature, many of which convey priceless messages on diversity, self-discovery, and resilience.
Open-minded discussion on the content and themes of these books is crucial to create a welcoming environment for children to explore literature. After all, understanding the motives for bans helps us make informed decisions regarding what content children should encounter, cultivate their love of reading, nurture critical thinking, and cultivate empathy.
Why are some children’s books banned?
Some children’s books are banned for inappropriate content, controversial themes, or unsuitable language. The bans are in place to protect kids from potential harm.
Why is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory banned?
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” faced bans for racial stereotyping in the Oompa-Loompas. It raised discussions around problematic content in children’s literature.
Who decides to ban a children’s book?
Books can face challenges or bans from parents, educators, librarians, and other community members.
Why is James and the Giant Peach a banned book?
Penned by the iconic Roald Dahl, ‘James and the Giant Peach’ has faced numerous bans due to its portrayal of alcohol, drugs, violence, and suspicious behavior.
Why was the book “Alice in Wonderland” banned?
China and other places initially banned “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” as some objected to animals using human language, seeing it as elevating the status of animals to that of humans.
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