Happy Banned Books Week! In honor of this glorious celebration of our freedom to read what we want, let’s pause for a sec and remember there are people out there still trying to take this freedom away for dumb reasons like not wanting their kids to read the word “nipple.”
Actually, now that we think of it…it’s kinda quaint that people still think they can ban books at all, right? It’s the most ineffective power trip in the world! The U.S. government can’t even keep their top-secret spy stuff from the public—how does anyone expect to keep The Adventures of Captain Underpants away from a kid who is basically made out of internet? So let’s all get together and laugh in the face of censorship. Here’s a list of books that were banned and/or challenged based on…well, based on basically nothing.
Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
Why: Because she SPIES (and lies and curses and sets a bad example for kids or whatever)—basically, because she does exactly what Louise Fitzhugh promises in the title. If anything, this is a lesson in honesty and truth in advertising. She could’ve called it Harriet, the Perfect Child but she didn’t, did she? Plus, show us an 11-year-old who isn’t lying and spying and making mischief from time to time, and we’ll show you that this 11-year-old is a cyborg in human skin.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
Why: They called it “sexually offensive,” “immoral,” and “profane,” but let’s be honest here: the real answer is “TOO MUCH PERIOD.” Hey, tween gals on the cusp of lady-dom? Don’t panic! Don’t panic even though you live in a world where no one likes to acknowledge that this happens to you! Forget Judy Blume and turn your attention toward these tampon commercials where women do nothing but turn cartwheels on a beach. Yeah. Thiiiiis is reality. Shhh.
Where’s Waldo, by Martin Handford
Why: Side boob. Seriously. Yes. In this hot mess of a book that’s supposed to make it difficult for you to find anything, someone managed to pick out an errant side boob in the beach scene of the 1987 version. Because, per usual, women’s bodies—even the cartoon ones—ruin everything and start wars and stuff. Avert your eyes forever.
Little Red Riding Hood, by Brothers Grimm
Why: In the 1987 version, which was adapted from the original fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood was shown carrying a bottle of wine in her basket. But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, we ask you this: What’s honestly the most disturbing thing about Little Red Riding Hood? Is it the fact that there’s a sentient wolf in her grandma’s pajamas? The fact that said wolf probably mauled said grandma to death? Oh, it’s the WINE? Really? Not the fact that the Brothers Grimm were always setting up scenarios where children might get eaten? Ok, as long as you’re sure. Glad everyone has their priorities straight.
Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein
Why: The only reason there could possibly be: promoting cannibalism, which is something we all remember from our childhoods, right? Shel Silverstein wanted us to eat other humans. Oh, and some people who really care about their plates also got mad because Shel told kids to break dishes instead of washing them, and we have to keep our little indentured servants in line, right? We can’t have a bunch of whimsical poetry giving them any ideas.
The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck
Why: Vulgar language—but we kinda understand this one because, as all historical documents indicate, the Great Depression was named in jest.
In reality, it was a time of widespread singing and dancing and feasts. Everyone had a really great time. So Steinbeck got it wrong with all that tenant farming and unemployment and hardship. It’s just not accurate. Why would anyone need vulgar language when the world was so awesome?
Other good ones:
• The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger: Pornographic.
• My Friend Flicka, by Mary O’Hara: Uses the word “bitch” to describe a female dog when we ALL KNOW what the word “bitch” is really for.
• The Diary of Anne Frank, by Anne Frank: “Too depressing” in one case, and in another case, she talked about genitals for a second and people got mad.
• Lord of the Flies, by William Golding: Implies that man is nothing more than an animal (as in, the point of the whole book).
• Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, by Bill Martin Jr.: Banned because an author with the same name as this book’s author (Bill Martin, no relation)—who, to be clear, is an entirely different person—was a Marxist who wrote a different book about Marxism and people don’t know how to check their facts.
What books do you love that were banned for silly reasons?