Now we know what you’re thinking and you are correct — all book banning is dumb. Bookmans is on it, fighting for your freedom to read ‘em. We remain the pro free speech advocate and all around rebel that you know and love. The reasons people give for challenging books sound like a broken record to us. This one is pornographic; that one celebrates witchcraft; the other encourages civil disobedience. All too often a novel is banned without much reasoning at all. Sometimes it’s a case of how the book is interpreted or who wrote it. Every year The American Library Association publishes a list of the 100 Most Banned Books from the past year. Some books or authors are list veterans. Acclaimed author Judy Blume has five novels that have cracked the countdown. Best Sellers like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter have also made the list. As we welcome back Banned Books Week, what better way to bring attention to the absurd practice of book banning than to highlight those egregious cases when a novel was removed from shelves for reasoning that is so far-fetched, so misguided reasons that will just leave you screaming, “Did you even read the book?” Ladies and gentlemen we give you the top five dumbest attempts to ban a book.
Yup, you read correctly. The dictionary made the banned books list. Schools in California removed The Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, 10th Edition after parents took notice that a certain sexual act was defined in the volume. It was also under scrutiny in Anchorage, Alaska for including what they called “slang words” such as “balls”, “knockers” and “bed” in 1987.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by Frank Baum
This classic is a veteran banned book. It was banned in 1957 from a public library in Detroit for having “no value to children today” and “bringing children’s minds to a cowardly level.” The challenges to this great work go on and on. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was called “theologically impossible” for its depiction of good witches — not that witches don’t exist but that witches who claim to be good are in no way possible. Some say it promotes socialism or Marxism and encourages a negative attitude. Our personal favorite is the charge that the book is ungodly for depicting women in strong leadership roles. Sorry Dorothy, get back to the kitchen.
Shel Silverstein … in general
This beloved children’s book author makes frequent appearances on the banned books list. These appearances seem to have little to do with any one of his books and more to do with the fact that Silverstein at one point drew cartoons for Playboy Magazine. The light in The Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving tree have been challenged for various ridiculous reasons. The Light in The Attic is accused of encouraging children to break dishes instead of drying them. Where The Sidewalk Ends includes the poem dreadful, which just might cause cannibalism among its readers. Can we please put a smidgen of faith in our children to know the difference between lunch and another person? Much of the controversy surrounding The Giving Tree is a case of interpretation. Some claim it is a story of a selfish little boy and an unhealthy one-sided relationship, others feel it criminalizes the forest industry and some believe the book is sexist. Heaven forbid you interpret the story yourself!
Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne
Oh bother, we’ve gone and banned Pooh. The much loved telling of everyone’s favorite teddy bear has been banned and/or challenged multiple times. In the United Kingdom, Winnie the Pooh along with other stories like Charlotte’s Web was banned because the books might offend Muslim students due to characters such as Wilbur and Piglet. The Muslim Counsel of Britain called the banning “well-intentioned but misguided” and asked that the books be placed back on the shelves of schools. Winnie the Pooh has been removed from shelves because talking animals are an offense to God and place animals on the same level as humans. Well, joke’s on you! Winnie the Pooh is a stuffed animal.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You see? was accused of promoting Marxism after the popular children’s book was removed from third grade curriculum in Texas because board members confused the author Bill Martin, Jr. for Bill Martin, writer of Ethical Marxism, an embarrassing situation once the truth was brought to the attention of board members. And if it were the same person? Have we gone as far as to deem all books inappropriate by an author if we disagree with just one of the books?
We’ve had our fun with this post, but censorship is a serious issue for us. We take a hard stance on censorship. We definitely do not endorse or appreciate some of the speech covered by our First Amendment rights, but we would never interfere with the right people have to say or consume whatever ideas they wish. In fact, we actively fight for this right. As Blume says, “Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. We wont have as much censorship because we wont have as much fear.” We agree.
Happy Banned Books Week everyone!