Most people are familiar with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax –a story about the little mustachioed creature who warns the Once-ler (and the reader) about the harm caused by taking advantage of nature’s resources, but did you know that this classic book was challenged in a California Public School in 1989 for demonizing the logging industry to children?
Of the top ten banned books of 2008, all were children/young adult books (or adult fiction being read by young adults) and of those, seven were cited for being “unsuitable for age group.” What is interesting is how often the books challenged by adults are the most beloved by children– all of my childhood favorites were on the list of banned books from 1990-1999: Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George, The Witches by Roald Dahl and The Giver by Lois Lowry. I have no doubt that I would be a different person if I had not experienced these stories as a ten-year-old, an eleven-year-old and a twelve-year-old (respectively).
…interesting fact: [The Lorax] used to contain the line, “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie,” but 14 years after the book was published, the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss and told him how much the conditions had improved and implored him to take the line out. Dr. Seuss agreed and said that it wouldn’t be in future editions. (from mentalfloss.com’s The Quick 10: Stories Behind 10 Dr. Seuss Stories by Stacy Conradt )
Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien written between 1937 – 1949) it contains the three books : Fellowship of the Ring; Two Towers and Return of the King.
Burned in Alamagordo, N. Mex. (2001) outside Christ Community Church along with other Tolkien novels as satanic. Between 2001 – 2003 Peter Jackson created three epic movies based on these books. The films were nominated for and won many awards including winning 17 Oscars.
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939)
Burned by the East St. Louis, III. Public Library (1939) and barred from the Buffalo, N.Y Public Library (1939) on the grounds that “vulgar words” were used. Banned in Kansas City, Mo. (1939); Kern County Calif, the scene of Steinbeck’s novel, (1939). “Grapes of Wrath has been challenged through the years for among many things including using the name of God and Jesus in a vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references. The has only been one film of this book, filmed in 1940. It starred Henry Fonda and John Carradine. The movie received 7 Oscar nominations in 1940, winning for best director and best supporting actress Jane Darwell.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
This book has been challenged since 1977 for using profanity and being a filthy trashy novel. The most recent challenged was at the Stanford Middle School in Durham, N.C. (2004) because the 1961 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel uses the word “nigger.” The movie was filmed in 1960. It starred Gregory Peck. It was nominated for 8 Oscars winning 3 including best actor, Gregory Peck.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982)
Color Purple as been challenged since its publication mostly for “sexual and social explicitness” and its “troubling ideas about race relations, man’s relationship to God, African history and human sexuality.” The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983. The movie was filmed in 1984 with Whoopie Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. It was nominated for 8 Oscars.