Today’s edition of our Banned Books Week celebration is dedicated to all the parents/school boards/crotchety community members out there who want to keep their special snowflakes as pure as the driven snow – never to encounter a bodily function, curse word, or unpleasant situation in print, whether fictional or historical. To you, I dedicate this “Raised in a Bubble” edition – tell little Susie and Timmy to cover their eyes! (Not that they’re even allowed on the interwebs, but still.)
Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh
I hope you’re sitting down for this, because it’s a doozy. People got butthurt over this book (which I loved as a child) because Harriet was a… spy. Despite winning multiple awards and being named to dozens of “best book” lists (in fact, in 2012, the School Library Journal named it the #17 children’s novel of all time), Harriet’s been a target since her publication in 1964. In the 1980s in Ohio, people tried to get this book removed from school libraries, claiming Harriet “teaches children to lie, spy, back-talk and curse.”
You know, because children never do that on their own.
A Light In The Attic – Shel Silverstein
This book was omnipresent growing up: in my school library, friends’ houses, bookstores. That’s why I found myself scratching my head when I discovered it had attracted the ire of censors since its publication in 1981. This is because some people are entirely too literal for their own good.
For instance, a mother in Texas got the book successfully banned after complaining that the below poem “exposes children to the horrors of suicide” (!!!):
And Abigail began to cry and said,
“If I don’t get that pony I’ll die.”
And her parents said, “You won’t die.
No child ever died yet from not getting a pony.”
And Abigail felt so bad
That when she got home she went to bed,
And she couldn’t eat,
And she couldn’t sleep,
And her heart was broken,
And she DID die—
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn’t buy.
Silverstein’s book was also banned at another school because one of the poems purportedly “encourages children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them”.
I… I’m speechless.
Where’s Waldo? – Martin Handford
I wish I were making this up. I’m not. Where’s Waldo? made #87 on the “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books” of the 1990s because there’s a topless sunbather ON HER STOMACH. I kind of feel like if a kid managed to spotted this, they EARNED that naked cartoon sideboob, damn it. Those Waldo books always gave me a freaking headache.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary
I really, really wish I were making this up. Alas, I am not. The freaking DICTIONARY was pulled from classrooms in Menifee, California (population approx. 85,000) after a parent discovered his child looked up “oral sex” in the dictionary. THE DICTIONARY. Not the internet… which is a FAR worse place for little Timmy to be getting his definition of oral sex. THE DICTIONARY.
As Peter Scheer, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition puts it:
“At the end of the day, if my kid is digging through the Merriam-Webster dictionary to find words he and his friends are going to giggle over but along the way find other words they will use, I think that is a day well spent in school.”
The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank
Buckle up, kids… you know it takes a real asshole to complain about this one.
In 2013, a Michigan mother of a 7th grader threw a fit over Anne’s description of her ladybits, saying it was “pornographic” and that it was the parents’ job to give kids this information. Decide for yourself:
“There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it… the little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!”
I, personally, think Anne’s description is hilarious – obviously unintended – but she’s spot on! She’s going through puberty, for Pete’s sake. WHILE LOCKED IN AN ATTIC. And not for nothing, but if your 7th grader hasn’t figured out where babies come from, there are larger issues at play here.
Not to be outdone in the asshole department, an Alabama school board tried to ban the book because they thought it was a “real downer”.
You know what else was a real downer? The fucking Holocaust. The people on that school board should be deeply, truly ashamed of themselves… but that would require self-awareness.
On that note, I’ll leave you until tomorrow’s “I Can’t Even” Edition! I hope you’re enjoying reading these bits of banned books, because I am thoroughly enjoying sharing them with you!