Monday, October 1, 2007

Newbery Banned Books

This is Banned Books Week, and I’ve spent the last few workdays constructing a display (for my university’s Curriculum Collection area) of books that have been challenged, particularly in Texas. The ACLU in Texas does a report on such books every year, using information requested from Texas public schools under the authority of the Texas Public Information Act, Texas Government Code Ch.552 (commonly known as the Open Records Act). The reports from 2002 on are available at Note that the 2003 report does not list the reasons books were challenged.

I thought it was interesting, the number of Newbery books that are in these reports. Here are the Newbery Medalists and the reason(s) they were challenged:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (1963) - “references the occult,” “depicts mysticism,” “characters possess supernatural powers,” “undermines religious beliefs”

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (1973) – “graphic sexual content,” “girl’s husband tries to rape her,” “offensive language,” “violent content,” “depicts actions unsuitable for a young reader.”

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (1977) – profanity, inappropriate language

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (1978) – profanity, language

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (1992) – “reference to praying to Jesus”

The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994) – “contains graphic themes,” “depicts ideas and actions that are inappropriate for young readers,” “contains blasphemous ideas and content,” “inappropriate for [elementary] grade levels”

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (2000) - profanity/ language, violence/horror, and “p. 33 - character imagines … murder with shotgun”

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (2007) – profanity/inappropriate language (uses the word “scrotum” on the first page).

There are also 13 Newbery Honor books in the reports, one Caldecott Medalist (Smoky Night, 1995), two Caldecott Honor books, at least one National Book Award winner (When Zachary Beaver Came to Town), and (not surprisingly) a few Printz award winners and honor books.

It's important to note that not all the books were banned - some were restricted, many were retained, some were moved to a more appropriate library (from elementary to middle school, for example), in other cases other choices were given for readings in the curriculum.


Sandy D. said...

Ha. I just finished "Bud, Not Buddy" and Bud imagines "murder with a shotgun" and then thinks better of it. How on earth is this a bad thing?

M.F. Atkins said...

I find it interesting that Shiloh was banned for praying. I teach Shiloh in 4th grade. Most parents get mad about the cursing in it. It's a great book and we've been allowed to keep reading it. We use the cursing to talk about what that says about character.

Dahlia B. said...

Remarkable that A Wrinkle in Time, a book written by a very religious Christian woman and filled with Christian allegory and symbolism, is considered by the Bible-Belt Thought Police to "undermine traditional religious beliefs."

Lord protect us all from self-appointed Arbiters of Decency!