Top 10 Most Surprising Banned Books

Some frequently banned books may not seem that surprising, since they may contain obscenity, adult content or controversial ideas. But peruse the American Library Association’s site on banned and challenged books, and you’ll likely come across a number that will have you scratching your head. Here are some of the most baffling.


10. The Three Billy Goats Gruff

The Three Billy Goats Gruff cover

The Three Billy Goats Gruff

A fairy tale that has formed the basis of countless puppet plays and adaptations, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” faced a stronger challenge than a troll in 1984. In that year, an Eagle Point Oregon elementary school challenged the book, claiming it was too violent for children. In that case, perhaps they should also ban the nursery rhymes “Jack and Jill,” “Rock-a-bye Baby,” and “Humpty Dumpty,” all of which depict something bad and/or violent occurring. For that matter, “Little Jack Horner” teaches poor table manners; “Little Miss Muffet” teaches children to fear spiders; and “Little Bo Beep” might make children worry about their pet sheep.


9. The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll

The Illustrated History of Rock 'n' Roll

The Illustrated History of Rock ‘n’ Roll

This essential reference book on pop music, “The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll,” edited by Jim Miller, includes oodles of information about the evolution of rock music. While the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle has often been associated with some unsavory behavior, this tome is primarily a dispassionate recitation of dates, key players, and pivotal moments. The photos and illustrations are simply a collection of head shots and cover art. Yet, perhaps it was merely the idea of rock ‘n’ roll that underlay one parent’s objections. The book was challenged in 1982 in Jefferson, Kentucky, because according to that parent, it “will cause our children to become immoral and indecent.” Or perhaps to ask for guitar lessons, which in some households may be nearly as bad.


8. Where’s Waldo?

Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo?

Most people reading Martin Handford’s popular book, “Where’s Waldo?” focused on finding the book’s bespeckled stripe-wearing namesake. But some people managed to also find something objectionable: namely, a tiny drawing of a woman in a beach scene, wearing a bikini bottom but no top. Even though she was lying face down, this was enough for the book to be challenged at the Saginaw, Michigan, public libraries in 1989 and to be removed from the Springs Public School Library in East Hampton, New York, in 1993. It is unconfirmed that the announcement of the reason for the book’s removal led to an increase in sales of the book to teenage boys.


7. A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

Madeleine L’Engle’s Newbery Award-winning novel, “A Wrinkle in Time,” has been credited by many writers for inspiring a love of reading and science fiction. However, the luminous, gentle-spirited book has also inspired some controversy. In 1985, it was challenged by a parent at a Polk City, Florida, elementary school for promoting “witchcraft, crystal balls and demons.” Others have challenged the book for supposedly religious themes, such as a 1990 challenge in Anniston, Alabama, schools because the book listed the name of Jesus Christ along with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists and religious leaders when discussing those who defend earth against evil. It’s also been challenged for sending “mixed signals about good and evil.” Sometimes you just can’t win.


6. Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy

Harriet the Spy

Many girls — and boys, too — for decades have enjoyed the independent, adventurous, candid character of Harriet the Spy from the book by Louise Fitzhugh. But while the book addresses issues and thoughts that real children have, rather than giving readers a sugar-coated version of childhood, that has struck some people as dangerous. The book was banned in Ohio school libraries in 1983 for teaching children to “lie, back-talk and curse.” Incidentally, it also teaches such controversial things as loving yourself for who you are, as well as writing in a journal to deal with emotions. Shocking.

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