Thursday, October 4, 2012

Banned Books Week, Part Two - My Favorites

I have a confession to make: I don't seek out books that I know have been challenged or banned or removed from the shelves of a library. I feel like that's how it should go, but for me the process always seems to happen in the opposite direction: I read and love a book, then find out that someone has challenged/removed/etc. the book.

Now that I've got that off my chest, here are some of my favorite books that fall into this category:

And Tango Makes Three by written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson and illustrated by Henry Cole.

Cover Art
This is a true story about the time a zookeeper decided to give a spare egg from a boy/girl pair to a boy/boy pair of penguins. They hatched the egg. Everyone was happy at the end of the day - the boy/girl pair, the boy/boy pair, and the penguin chick. The illustrations are vaguely anthropomorphic: enough to make them super cute, but without making the animals cartoonish. Bonus points go to this book because it takes place in one of my favorite zoos of all time.

So why is it challenged? Detractors claim that the story supports same-sex marriage, and those puny brains think same-sex marriage is bad. Never mind that And Tango Makes Three is a true story, and never mind that the events portrayed in the book had been covered extensively in the press prior to the book being published. Those penguins are sinners.

In the Night Kitchen, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

Cover Art
A little boy falls asleep and dreams/fantasizes about helping three very fat bakers with their batter. Sendak is one of my favorite illustrators, and his pictures in this book do not disappoint.

So why is it challenged? NUDITY! The little boy's PENIS is shown a couple of times! HOW DARE SENDAK?! (Shown below in all its offensiveness.)

Look away if you're easily offended.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

Cover Art
The protagonist decides to go to a high school off of the reservation where he lives with his family, and attends a school that is mostly white. Partly as a result of this decision, he has some troubles both on the reservation and at the school, but in true coming-of-age-story form, he survives and is better for all his experiences. (Words alone cannot describe how much I loved this book, but that's not what I'm writing about today.)

So why was it challenged? Because the protagonist thinks and acts and talks like a teenage boy. Here's the passage that gets most people riled up:

"Yep, that's right, I admit that I masturbate. I'm proud of it. I'm good at it. I'm ambidextrous. If there were a Professional Masturbation League, I'd get drafted number one and make millions of dollars. And maybe you're thinking, 'Well, you really shouldn't be talking about masturbation in public.' Well, tough, I'm going to talk about it because EVERYBODY does it. And EVERYBODY likes it. And if God hadn't wanted us to masturbate, then God wouldn't have given us thumbs. So I thank God for my thumbs."

It's that honesty that endeared this National Book Award Winner to me, but honesty is too much for some people I guess.

So how about you? What is your favorite frequently challenged book? And if you know, share why it has been challenged in the past?


  1. "Those penguins are sinners"-- LOVE IT! :)

    1. That's what it feels like the people who challenged the book are saying. C'mon, people, they're penguins. Get over it.

  2. Love Sherman Alexie! He has a satirical wit that is still compassionate. His books are wonderful.

    Working at Girls Inc. (and after-school program for girls. Strong, Smart and Bold! Rah!) I kept the ttyl books in the library and thought they were great. Really spoke to preteen-teen women as adults. Well done.

    "Scary Stories" series were a staple as a kid. "Of Mice and Men" is simply epic.

    I also don't seek them out. People just seem to challenge books I love.

    1. I finally bought the ttyl books for my library. Looking forward to reading them.