Be a Rebel: Read a Banned Book

Read a Banned Book

Growing up in the 70s, Judy Blume was a controversial author in the Catholic school circles of Baltimore. I had to get special permission to read, Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret because the topic of sexual health just wasn’t talked about. So, when I heard whispers on the playground about her newest book, Forever, I knew I must, I must, I must get a hold of it.

Problem was, the book was banned by my school. There was no way I was going to get caught with it at home. My plan: I would sneak the book off the shelves of the public library I went to every week and read it surreptitiously in some back corner. It was my first introduction to the idea of teenage dating – and, no, I did not become a teenage pregnancy statistic as a result of reading the book.

Book banning continues in earnest every year. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series tops the list of 100 most banned books in the last decade. She keeps good company with the likes of Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, and Maya Angelou.

In celebration of the 2016 Banned Book Week, which runs until October 2, we encourage you to pick one of the most banned books in America and (gasp) read it! Then tell us if you think the criticisms are justified.

And Tango Makes three
By Justin Richardson
Ages 4-8
It’s been 10 years since this picturebook was published and it’s still on the Top 10 most banned books – because, you know, two penguin dads adopting and raising an unwanted egg/baby in the animal world “promotes the homosexual agenda”.

In the Night Kitchen
By Maurice Sendak
Ages 4-8
If you loved Where The Wild Things Are, you’re probably scratching your head as to how on earth the beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak could possibly make the banned book list. It pretty much has to do with the naked little boy helping the baker make a cake. The story is an all-around odd one, feeling like it may have taken its inspiration from something other than the writing muse, Calliope.

Captain Underpants
By Dav Pilkey
Ages 6-10
It’s kind of easy to see why schools might not like this book. It makes fun of adults who are mean to children for no reason – and it totally usurps a principal’s authority role. Say what you will about the potty humor, this book series has gotten thousands of reluctant kids actually reading. That’s a win in my book!

It’s Perfectly Normal
By Robie H. Harris
Ages 10 and up
News Flash: Your child will grow up to be a sexually active being (kinda like it happened to you). So unless you want your daughter to grow up not knowing much about her own menstrual cycle (kinda like it happened to me), then you’ll want to get a comprehensive book that explains the ins and the outs of puberty. Note to the censors: It’s not child pornography when you use simple line drawings to discuss anatomy with kids and teens.

The Giver
By Lois Lowry
Ages 10 and up
Euphemisms are powerful. They gives us the opportunity to couch uncomfortable ideas into harmless words. This book does just that, particularly disguising the careless disregard for human life that some people people have. In this day and age of “collateral damage” newscasts, you would think such a concept would not be so controversial. But then again, maybe it’s the big reveal about the true atrocities behind the words – and the fear it might transfer into real life – that’s got people up in arms.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
By Sherman Alexie
Ages 12 and up
This National Book Award winner tells the story of a Native American kid who decides to go to an all-white high school in-town, where he and the school mascot are the only minorities. This book has been challenged for depicting bullying and for being culturally insensitive – which is kind of funny since the book is based on the author’s real-life experience as the rez kid trying to strike his own path in life. Maybe instead of banning this book people should focus on banning bullying.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
By Marjane Satrapi
Ages 12 and up
A comic book memoir of growing up during the Iranian Revolution, this book has been called “politically, racially, and socially offensive”. Hmmm, let me think here for a minute. Yeah, war and the oppression of people pretty much is offensive, but banning it’s description isn’t going to make the harsh realities go away.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower,
By Stephen Chbosky
Ages 14 and up
This is a coming-of-age novel, which means there’s exploration of sex, drugs, and breaking away from parents. The folks who try to ban this book claim it’s unsuitable for teenagers for all those reasons. We will offer a trigger warning for the all-too-real date rape.

ttyl; ttfn; l8r g8r (book series)
By Lauren Myracle
Ages 14 and up
If you don’t mind reading IM-speak, then you can follow along a trio of girlfriends being (what else) high school girls talking about boys, parents, and parties. For what it’s worth, the author has been called the modern-day Judy Blume.

By Joseph Heller
Ages 14 and up
The phrase “You’re in a Catch-22” has been tossed around for over 50 year, but do you know if it’s being used correctly? Let me just say this: People might think you’re crazy to read this book, but if you refuse to read the book to prove you’re not, you just might wind up making yourself crazy trying to figure out the saying.

The Catcher in the Rye
By J. D. Salinger
Ages 14 and up
What’s so corrupt about a rich white kid running away from his boarding school to hang out in New York City before going home to his parents? Can’t be vulgar language. You won’t even find the f-bomb in the book. There’s no sex scenes, just a lot of lust. The dislike for this “filthy, filthy book” has always been a head scratcher for me.

Slaughterhouse Five
By Kurt Vonnegut
Ages 14 and up
I read this great anti-war book about the same time I started attending Quaker Meetings as as a teen and it cemented my love for Vonnegut’s unusual writing style. Based on the author’s experience during the fire bombings of Dresden during WWII, readers meander through the story of Billy Pilgrim’s “unstuck” time travel through his own life. This book is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

Tell us about your favorite banned book!



Alessa Giampaolo Keener, M.Ed. homeschooled her children from kindergarten into college. Over the last 15+ years, she has also worked with families in creating individualized learning plans. As a professional curriculum developer, Alessa has created afterschool youth development programs for a Baltimore-based nonprofit, as well as teaching materials for homeschool parents and brick and mortar school teachers.

One thought on “Be a Rebel: Read a Banned Book

  • September 28, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    Just thinking about book “banning” gives me the shivers. I don’t know if it’s because it’s way too Fahrenheit 451 for me, or if it’s because I can’t believe there are people who actually have the time to worry about policing what strangers read. There are other children’s books that have been banned for crazy reasons. Charlotte’s Web and Winnie the Pooh have been banned for being ungodly for including talking animals.

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