My little Wild Thing, reading one of his favorite banned books.
My little Wild Thing, reading one of his favorite banned books.

We’re a household full of bookworms, so naturally we get a little bit up in arms when we hear about our favorites being challenged or banned from libraries! Banned Books Week is this week, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate your freedom (freadom?) to read! 

I was surprised to learn that so many of mine and my kids’ favorite picture books have been challenged or banned over the years. As a parent I’m pretty sure I’m the one who should be making that judgement call, no? Anyway, why not take this week to enjoy reading some of these controversial titles aloud with your little ones (even the big ones secretly like being read to!) To get you started, here’s my family’s countdown of our 5 favorite banned/challenged picture books.

1. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig

Sylvester the donkey discovers a magical pebble that grants wishes. But when one of his wishes goes awry, he is separated from his family and they begin to search for him. The deeply emotional illustrations won this book a Caldecott medal when it was published in 1970. Challenged for its depiction of the town police as pigs.

2. The Story of Babar by Jean De Brunhoff

Babar the elephant is orphaned when his mother is shot by a hunter. Alone and sad, he escapes to the big city where he befriends a kind Old Lady. He becomes educated and cultured, and buys himself a dapper new wardrobe, before returning to the jungle to reunite with his family.  Challenged for violence and “pro-colonialism”.

3. Strega Nona by Tomie DiPaola

Strega Nona (“Grandmother Witch” in Italian) is a kindly old grandmother with a magic pasta pot. When she hires Big Anthony to help her tend her home, he disobeys her instructions not to touch the pasta pot and hilarity ensues. Challenged for portraying witches and witchcraft in a positive light.

4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Young Max is sent to his room without supper for yelling at his mother. A magical forest takes shape in his room, complete with Wild Things. Max joins in their Wild Rumpus but finally decides that he’d rather be with his mom who loves him best of all, and he heads home. Awarded a Caldecott Most Distiguished Picture Book of 1963. Challenged for being “dark and frightening” and for its depiction of Max yelling and throwing a tantrum.

5. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

A cute, mustachioed woodland creature, the Lorax speaks for the trees. When the Once-ler begins destroying the forest, the Lorax persuades him to stop. Challenged for its perceived negative portrayal of the logging industry and pro-environmentalism slant.

So there you have our faves! What banned or challenged books will you be reading this week? Take a peek at the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of this decade…how many can you check off?

To learn more about the ALA’s work through the Office of Intellectual Freedom, and to find Banned Books Week events, visit the ALA’s official Banned Books Week website

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Mom to three little punk rockers and married to my best friend. I cook, I can, I craft...I get all domestic, yo.
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