Ferdinand the bull, a beloved character in the children’s picture book, “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf, would rather smell flowers than participate in bullfights.
The Lorax, the character from the same-named book by Dr. Seuss, wanted to save the forest. James of “James and the Giant Peach” by Roald Dahl, tried to escape his dismal life with cruel aunts. All of these books have been banned at different times and locations throughout the years.
Last week was “Banned Books Week,” an annual event that is highlighted at libraries across the country to encourage people to pick up a book and read — yes, even a banned book. Every year, when Banned Books Week rolls around, I am reminded about all of the books that people have tried to keep others from reading.
Some of my favorites have been frequently challenged or banned, such as “Bridge to Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson and “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. Luckily, my local library didn’t take these off the shelves and I was able to read them. Some people may be surprised that children’s books are frequently banned or challenged as well.
When a book is challenged, this means that an individual or group would like it removed or restricted from libraries and schools. The reasons are numerous, including religious viewpoints, violence, political viewpoints, unsuited for age group, etc. If that book is taken off the shelves and made unavailable to patrons, it is considered to be banned.
In the cases of the aforementioned books, Ferdinand was thought to be a pacifist by some and was even ordered to be burned by Adolf Hitler in Germany. The Lorax shined a negative light on the logging industry. James and the Giant Peach has been banned for different reasons including references to alcohol and tobacco and a spider licking her lips.
Booklovers may be surprised at some of the other frequently challenged or banned children’s books, including “Draw Me a Star” by Eric Carle, “Freaky Friday” by Mary Rodgers and “Hop on Pop” by Dr. Seuss, which has been said to promote violence to fathers.
While some may choose not to read certain books — there could be many good reasons for this — others might feel differently. Banned Books Week is all about choosing for ourselves what to read or what to allow our children to read.
We don’t have to wait until next September for Banned Books Week to come around again and remind us to pick up a book and read. It’s always a good time to read, whether the book is banned or not.
To see lists of frequently challenged and banned books, check out the American Library Association’s website at http://ala.org.