“Something will be offensive to someone in every book, so you’ve got to fight it.” – Judy Blume
Judy Blume would know — she has 5 of the top 100 most challenged books from 1990-1999 — but when you peruse the lists of the most frequently challenged books, it is hard not to agree. Below, I’ve highlighted the three challenged books that surprised me the most.
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Tomie dePaola’s classic picture book is often cited as one of the best picture books of all time — it was #34 on SLJ’s Top 100 Picture Books — so it might come as a surprise that it has been challenged. The story of a magical old woman (“grandma witch”) who tells her assistant — Big Anthony — not to touch her magical pot of pasta. Big Anthony ignores her and Strega Nona must save the day before the town is overrun in pasta.
Why was it challenged or banned? Witchcraft, of course.
Where’s Waldo by Martin Hanford
I loved Where’s Waldo books as a kid. My mom would bring a stack of them with us on long car rides and they would entertain my brother and me for hours. Waldo books are a challenge of concentration and a fantastic way to get kids to pick up on pattern and color. I looked at these books for hours and before reading about why the book was challenged and banned, I would have never guessed.
Why was it challenged or banned? Apparently in searching for Waldo, some people have been shocked to find topless sunbathers, gay couples, and people holding up the rocker hand sign (or as they called it “Hail Satan”).
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
I wept the first time I read this book. This beautiful story about the friendship between Wilbur, a pig, and Charlotte, a barn spider, is a classic. It is heartbreaking in the way many of the best children’s books are, and is beloved around the world. When I think of stories to share with children, I’ve always thought that this is a safe (albeit sad) book to recommend. Apparently, I was wrong.
Why was it challenged or banned? It was banned in 2006 when a group of parents were upset that it included talking animals and inappropriate subject matter (death).