Top Ten Weirdest Reasons Books are Challenged

September 23, 2014 Banned Books 46

Howdy Howdy Howdy, Bookworms!

It’s Banned Books Week still and I thought it might be fun to look at some weird-ass reasons books have been challenged and/or banned. The most common complaints about books are the holy trinity: sex, drugs, and naughty language. Those are the ones you expect to see, you know? Luckily for our reading enjoyment, there are some more entertaining problems that have caused folks to get their knickers in a twist over books. Check these out.


1. Talking Animals are an Insult to GodWinnie-the-Pooh and Charlotte’s Web have both been challenged because they feature talking animals. Apparently in certain religious circles, talking animals are an insult to God. Sounds like those folks would have done well in Gregory Maguire’s re-imagining of Oz…

2. Depicted Women in Strong Leadership Roles- Speaking of Oz, apparently The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was banned in 1928 in all Chicago Public Libraries because Dorothy and the witches were ladies with power. True, Dorothy and Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West were the key players and the Wizard was a charlatan. True all Dorothy’s male travel companions were lacking a certain something. I still fail to see this as a problem. Then again, I’m a big old feminist and would likely land on the naughty list of the folks who hated this book myself…

3. Because it Defined Oral Sex- Okay, I know that a book being sexual explicit makes easy pickings for challenging books, but in 2010, some schools in California banned the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary because it included a definition for oral sex. You know how I learned what oral sex was? My 6th grade science teacher told us on the bus to the annual health center field trip that oral sex wasn’t just “talking about it” it was “mouth on genitals.” That resulted in a resounding “ewwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” from a bus full of 12 year olds.

4. Middle Class Rabbits- It seems Beatrix Potter has been challenged in some schools in the UK because only “middle class” rabbits are depicted. My sources failed to mention if the challengers wanted more rich rabbits or more poverty stricken rabbits, but the middle class just wasn’t representative enough of rabbit society. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.bbwbeatrix

5. Witchcraft- Because Satan. I’m always frustrated by wanting to be tolerant of religious beliefs and wanting to shake people who think Harry Potter could possibly be a bad influence. It’s not just HP, of course. Pretty much anything that deals with magic, spells, potions, witches, wizards, fairies,  mythological creatures (and likely fun in general) is seen as problematic by some.

6. It used “ass” or “bitch” in the appropriate context. Ah yes. Bad language. Books are forever being challenged for the use of dirty words. But I’m not talking about f-bombs here. I’m talking about using the word “ass” to refer to a donkey and “bitch” to refer to a female dog. That IS what they mean, after all. It’s not “ass” and “bitch”s fault that people started flinging them about in a rude manner.

 7. Anne Frank is a Debbie Downer- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl has been challenged for a number of reasons ranging from perceived homosexual undertones (what the what?!) to the idea that the Holocaust is too mature a theme for certain age groups. The one I find most amusing (and troubling) is that Anne Frank is just too depressing. Well, yeah. It is depressing. The Holocaust was an atrocity of unspeakable proportions, but it happened, and astonishingly recently. You can’t just dismiss a book because reality sucks. I actually think this book is one of the best introductions to the Holocaust there could be as it deals with the family in hiding rather than the nightmare inducing subject matter of a concentration camp memoir.

8. It Teaches Children to Spy- Harriet the Spy apparently encourages children to spy, lie, and be general malcontents, according to some opponents. Funny, after reading this book as a kid I recall learning that spying wasn’t a great idea and that you shouldn’t talk smack about your friends in a secret notebook (a lesson kids today could learn in regards to Facebook!)


9. Promotion of Cannibalism- The perrenial favorite Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein supposedly promotes cannibalism in children. Unsurprising given that some of Silverstein’s other works have been so insidious as to “encourage children to break dishes so they won’t have to dry them.” (Please tell me someone else thought of Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead: “The dishes are done, man!” I can’t be alone here!)

10. Little Red Riding Hood is an Alcoholic- Some have voiced concern that the timeless fairy tale depicts LRR putting a bottle of wine into her basket of goodies for Granny. Never mind the fact that Lil’ Red didn’t drink it. And never mind the fact that if she HAD drunk it, the tale originated in a time when potable drinking water could easily have given you dysentery or cholera and you were better off with a little alcohol. Never mind that a Big Bad Wolf is eating people. NEVER MIND. BOOZE IS BAD.

Talk to me Bookworms. Anybody out there heard of any strange reasons for books being banned and challenged? Which of the weirdo reasons is your personal fave?

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46 Responses to “Top Ten Weirdest Reasons Books are Challenged”

  1. Sarah @ Sarah Says Read

    LOL. People are ridiculous! Can’t read about Oz because *gasp* women are doing things other than housework and popping out babies! THE HORROR!

  2. Emma White

    Some of these are really funny. I remember seeing somewhere that J.K. Rowling went to do a reading of HP at her old primary school and one child was not allowed to listen because his parents thought the book was evil. I am sorry but in this day and age it’s just terrible and a little funny that people can still believe all this.

  3. Leah

    haha, I posted about this yesterday! Great minds think alike. 🙂

    The BFG is also pro-cannibalism & A Wrinkle in Time has a strong female lead as well – it’s a wonder I grew up to be a normal, functioning adult, right?

    okay, I’m DYING over the Middle Class bunnies. oh my goodness.

  4. Jancee

    These are hilarious! I love Banned Books Week because if the book has stirred up someone enough to want to remove it, I want to read it. I’m a librarian, so I’m really passionate about free access. I love looking at the reasons that people challenge books. Half the time I wonder if they are even talking about the same book I read because their reasons don’t match up.

    Also, pretty sure there was a donkey in the Bible that talked. As in, God let the donkey talk to rebuke the owner. So pretty sure God isn’t insulted by talking animals. What the heck? 🙂

  5. ThatAshGirl

    OMG I wish animals talked in real life. Jasper and I have great chats as it is.

    I remember when Rainbow Rowell was in Toronto she was talking about why E&P had been banned. They focused on the swearing (which is practically non-existant) rather than focusing on ya know, the fact that her creepy step dad wants to molest her? Funny what certain people choose to focus on.

    • Words For Worms

      I talk to Office Beagle ALL THE TIME. He typically answers in yelps and head motions, roughly translated to “feed me, wench!” That E&P thing made me NUTS. Their relationship is downright chaste, and WHY was nobody upset about the creepy stepdad?!

      • ThatAshGirl

        Jasper have full on conversations while I’m getting his food ready. I presume he’s saying, “haul ass woman and give me my dinner!!!” And I just go, “yes yes, I know….it’s coming.”

        Exactly! Because when he totally could have done her in the car at the end did he? No. Because he’s a gentleman.

  6. Liesel Hill

    I think the weirdest one I ever heard was that Green Eggs and Ham has homosexual undertones. As in, the ‘green eggs and ham’ he Sam-I-Am wants the narrator to try is actually homo sex. Ugh. It’s Doctor Seuss people! I wish I’d never read that because I can’t read it to my niece without thinking that now. :/ Thanks for sharing this, though. Lots of these I hadn’t heard and they’re hilarious. 😀

  7. Jennine G.

    Wow. The Holocaust is too depressing to read about…cause God forbid we keep from repeating history. Oh wait, we already are with the mass beheadings. SO DUMB!

    But I actually liked the one about girls in position of power. My students just took a test on Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and one question asked their opinion, if CS Lewis is sexist because his main bad guy is a woman. I actually had a few kids answer No, because he was putting a female in a position of power! Didn’t even think of that!

  8. Hobbie DeHoy

    I adored your response to the Beatrix Potter rabbit non-issue. Have you read The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes? Now there’s a feminist fairy tale that could be targeted by a bunch of these non-reasons: 1. Strong female character 2. talking animals 3. Fantasy/ magic. But, but, but… it has one saving grace… some of the rabbits are aristocrats!

    • Words For Worms

      I have not, though while I was researching there was a book about a black bunny and a white bunny that got married or something and people were up in arms about the interracial bunny marriage. Weirdos. Aristocratic bunnies, huh? I need to check this out!

    • Tulip

      I love that book!! I had completely forgotten about it until now. I can picture in my mind how she rose through the air with her gold shoes on. Need to buy it for my library, which (BTW) is in the most conservative corner of the most conservative state (“the buckle on the Bible belt”). I’ve been told that the Grinch is a child molester and have many [adult] patrons who want someone to do a pre-read of books for them so they aren’t exposed to “bad” words and sex. “Are you sure this is OK? I couldn’t finish the last one.”

  9. Jenny @ Reading the End

    Ahahaha, but it’s medicinal wine! Poor Granny, she’s probably outraged at being construed as an alcoholic by some trigger happy school parents!

    (I learned what oral sex was because a kid on my bus told me to blow him, and I asked my parents what that meant. They were unthrilled to have to explain it.)

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