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Banned Children’s Books Every Child Should Read

By Emma Rogers, Holly Allwright, Camryn Vodden, Ekta Rajagopalan


Literature is one of the best educational tools for children, and yet more and more schools, libraries and entire countries are banning certain books, in the hopes of censoring children from particular ideas and information. Many of these books are important resources for children because of their role in representing our ever-changing and diverse world.

 

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl 


Despite the success of James and the Giant Peach as a Roald Dahl classic, as evidenced by its movie adaption in 1996 starring Joanna Lumley, schools have challenged this novel several times. The primary reason for the book to be banned is due to its potentially frightening content, such as when James is eaten by a rhinoceros, and some references to tobacco and alcohol. In fact, James and the Giant Peach is not the only Roald Dahl book to be banned with Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches all make the cut too.


The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky 


It seems young adult novels are not safe from being banned either, with The Perks of Being a Wallflower frequently being challenged for several reasons. The book was first banned in 2003, four years after its release, by the group Parents Against Bad Books in Virginia for including topics such as drug use, sexual abuse, mental health and sex. It has in fact been banned as recently as the 2022-2023 academic year. Arguably, this coming-of-age novel is the perfect read for teenagers who are trying to navigate adolescence because of its relatable themes of friendship and belonging.


The Family Book by Todd Parr


Winning the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Gold Award in 2004 after The Family Book’s publication in 2003 was not enough for school systems in Illinois, since it was removed from their curriculum. Whilst being praised for its diversity and inclusion of same sex families, thus representing different types of family units, twenty years after publication in 2023, The Family Book remains banned in five different Florida districts.


Worm Loves Worm by J.J Austrian


Deciding to wear wedding rings as belts because worms don’t have fingers, Worm Loves Worm breaks through stereotypical boundaries. Based on the plot of two worms meeting each other, falling in love, and deciding to marry each other. After publication in 2016, this book was banned due to its inappropriate content. The controversy was due to a scene in which the two worms couldn’t decide who should wear a wedding dress and who should wear a tuxedo, with the conclusion being that it didn’t really matter. Accused of having an agenda regarding LGBTQIA+ content, the book was banned by a conservative group in Florida.

 

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell


Published in 2005 and becoming the most challenged book from 2006 2010, And Tango Makes Three is inspired by a true-life story of two male penguins hatching a female egg together at the New York Zoo. Accused of promoting same-sex marriage, and adoption agenda, the book was not accepted positively in US schools or libraries. Despite winning ten awards for promoting open speech on taboo topics, it is believed that the relationship between the two penguins, Roy and Silo, depicts human homosexual relationships as the norm, which has, and still is, being discouraged in libraries and educational settings in America.

 

Front Desk by Kelly Yang 


When her book was banned for supposed anti-racist sentiments from an elementary school in New York, author Kelly Yang created her own collection of banned books to share with “elementary schools across America.” Set in the nineties, Front Desk depicts Chinese American Mia who lives in a motel run by her parents. After facing financial difficulties for many years, Mia’s parents are hired to run the hotel and Mia helps by working the front desk. What the owner doesn’t know is that Mia and her parents have been letting immigrants stay in the vacant rooms for free! Yang’s ambitious and powerful middle-grade novel has been criticised for its depictions of taboo subjects such as anti-racist sentiments, police brutality and poverty, while in reality, the book paints a vivid and accurate portrait of the daily struggles faced by minorities in America. Front Desk shines a light on some of the most contentious topics in politics and provides an accessible window into these issues for a middle-grade audience.

 

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher


Thirteen Reasons Why is a young adult novel written by Jay Asher in 2007, that addresses themes of suicide, bullying and its mental impact on students. There’s a box left on Clay Jensen’s doorstep, inside are cassettes with words spoken by his friend Hannah Baker  who died two weeks previously. Through these cassettes, Hannah, a high school freshman, lists out thirteen reasons why she decided to commit suicide. This book was later adapted into a Netflix series, which has also come under censorship. According to the American Library Association, Thirteen Reasons Why has frequently been challenged and removed from schools and libraries. The book has been banned and removed because it addresses teen suicide, it is sexually explicit, includes drugs, alcohol, and smoking, and is considered unsuitable for the age group. However, there are certain schools in the United States who support the novel and believe that these are topics that should be addressed with students.

 

Blubber by Judy Blume


Blubber by Judy Blume, published in 1974, explores themes of fat-shaming and self-image and was banned in Illinois due to “bad language.” When Linda presents a project in class on whales, some of the other children make fun of her and call her fat. The bullying escalates and her friends, even though they know it’s wrong, become bystanders. The book has also featured in the list of top one hundred books banned in the United States between 1990 and 1999, as well as between 2000 and 2009.

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