Smart Bitches Love Banned Books

It’s Banned Books Week – September 29 – October 6, 2007.  Hat tip to Bitchery reader Lucinda for reminding me.

So! In honor of Banned Books Week, we open the floodgates! Check out the list of 100 Most Challenged Books from 1990 to 2000. If you like, submit a review of one of the books, up to 500 words, and we’ll post them throughout the week. Please feel free to include your name, a URL to your site, and any information about yourself and when you read the book as part of your “bio,” up to 50 words.

If you loved it, great. If you hated it but still defend your right to read it, even better! Get creative, and we’ll vote on the best one once they’re all posted. Prizes? Of course there will be prizes! Stay tuned!

EDITED TO ADD: Please email your reviews to candy @ and sarah @ and we’ll start putting them up on the site. Please also tell us what name you’d like us to use to credit your review.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    Thanks for that link – I never knew my reading habits were so outrageous! I’ve read probably a third of the books on that list.

    I’ve read nearly all the Judy Blume books on the list and I don’t *think* it warped my mind. She certainly told me more than my own mother ever did, LOL. I read “James and the Giant Peach” to my daughter fairly recently and I really have no idea what the objection to that book is?? I’m not crazy about Roald Dahl’s style myself, but it certainly isn’t worth censoring. Perhaps there is some really deep hidden meaning in the symbolism of the peach itself??

    “How to Eat Fried Worms” was another childhood favorite. I read it countless times – again, what’s the problem? Or perhaps my mind was so warped by Judy Blume, Stephen King and all the others that I just can’t see the deeper symbolism??

    I own “Mommy Laid an Egg” but have not yet had the courage to read it to my children!!! Not sure I want to review that one either!

  2. 2
    Kimberly Anne says:

    Umm, why is Where’s Waldo on this list?  Do people object to striped shirts, or is that he’s always smiling?  Dammit, Maude, finding a smiling guy in a crowd will destroy Wilbur’s feeble leetle mind!  This book is filth!

    And did anyone else notice that the Girl’s Guide to Growing Up is way higher on the list than the the Boy’s Guide?  Can’t have our girls understand their bodies, no sir.  Next thing you know, those uppity womenfolk will want the vote!

  3. 3
    Bonnie Dee says:

    I have just one question. “Where’s Waldo?”? What could possibly be objecionable there? I’m at a loss. Unless it’s because there is no text so the book is consered without value in school libraries or something.

  4. 4
    Kimberly Anne says:

    On another note, it always gives me great joy that my birthday falls right beside—and sometimes in—Banned Books Week.  What a way to celebrate getting older than to read a book other people don’t want me to!

  5. 5
    soco says:

    Anyone who has ever driven down I-85 near Gaffney, SC knows that peaches = giant butts, hence the banning of James and Giant Peach.

    While I am, in principal, anti-book banning, I can see the age-appropriate argument for school libraries.  There are a lot of books on this list I wouldn’t want to see in an elementary school library.  Though you’d think most of those would have been weeded out during the order process not be on the shelves to be objected to.

  6. 6
    Teddypig says:

    The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein

    What was wrong with the old Joy?

  7. 7
    Charlene says:

    Do you want us to post the reviews here, or to e-mail them to you?

    I’m writing one on that POS “Go Ask Alice”.

  8. 8
    Charlene says:

    Teddypig, New Joy will let you get through 20% more


    dishes than the old Joy.

  9. 9
    Charlene says:

    Pretend that was struck out.

  10. 10
    SB Sarah says:

    Charlene: Please email the reviews to us – thanks. Brain fart on my part!

  11. 11
    Jen C says:

    I *think* Where’s Waldo is on there because there was a picture on a beach that included a topless woman, and breasts=Satan. 

    I have read so damn many of those books, and if I had the time, I would send in 17 reviews.  Also, can we review a book even if we have no website to pimp?  I’ll assume we can.

  12. 12
    fiveandfour says:

    Well, that was a nice walk down memory lane and a nice reminder of some books I’d forgotten about.

    There are a lot of books on this list I wouldn’t want to see in an elementary school library.

    That’s exactly when I read many of those books.  I do realize it’s a fine line deciding what’s appropriate for your child vs. what’s appropriate for any child.  And it has to be difficult walking that line knowing that there are younger children who can read above what’s considered “their level”.  I mean, I’m sure I’m not the only one who was reading things from my parents’ bookshelf while in the 2nd or 3rd grade and who found it to be a great thing (a relief, even) when books came along that featured children and didn’t talk down to them.  It’s probably a good thing that I’m not in charge of a children’s library because I’m sure I’d err pretty far on the side of the too liberal, figuring it did me a whole lot of good to have the freedom to self-select what I read so why not allow that same freedom to other kids.

  13. 13
    Tracy says:

    There are books here that I read in elementary school that as I think about it I’m not sure I want my kids reading at that age. BUT, that’s up to me, not someone else.  I should be the one watching what they bring home and deciding if they are allowed to read it or not.  I’m the parent, I make that decision.  I think parents need to remember that they are the ones raising their kids.  They are the ones that decide what their children read. We cannot depend on others to make that choice for us.

    fiveandfour says she’s more liberal with this decision. I’m pretty sure I’d be much more conservative than her.  We obviously have different ideas of what we would allow our children to read.  Nobody is right or wrong~but it’s our job as the parent not someone else’s job.

    If your school wants your child to read something you are not sure of, read it first and if you REALLY have problems with it, talk to the teacher. I know our school system is very good at allowing alternatives if a parent really objects. BUT if it’s something you only mildly object to, my suggestion would be to read it with your child and use it as a springboard for discussion about the topic.

    LOL at my word verification: INVOLVED59.  I guess that is what I am saying~be involved in your child’s life~don’t expect others to make the decision for you.

    Sorry for the lecturing mode, not sure why it came off that way, but I’m too lazy to re-write it :o)

  14. 14

    Hmm, I’ve read at least 40% of those books. I just re-read ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER because my 8th grade daughter needed to read it over the summer for school (ironically, she had to choose between TOM and ANNE OF THE GREEN GABLES, another of my faves—she read the first chapters of both and decided TOM sounded more interesting.)

    I’m actually shocked by some of the books on this list. I mean, A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC by Shel Silverstein? What on earth? JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH? HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS?

    Some of the books wouldn’t be appropriate for young children simply because of the subject matter or the intended age level of the book, but isn’t that what parents are for—to know what their kids are ready for and what they aren’t?

    P.S. my 11 year old is currently reading KILLING MR GRIFFIN by Lois Duncan, one of my personal fave authors from my childhood. And I started reading Stephen King at the age of 13. Hmm, maybe that explains a lot . . .

  15. 15
    Joe says:

    My wife and I both read voraciously, and thankfully, it appears to be rubbing off on our two boys.  Even if one of us is just relaxing with a few pages of our current novel/study/textbook/comic/whatever, one or both of them will jump up onto the couch and ask to be read to (the 4-year-old by asking, the 20-month-old by pointing and yelling).  I try to comply most of the time, but it’s hard keeping a kid’s attention with passages from “The Road to Reality” or “Iron Council”.  :)

    When they’re old enough to read on their own, I have the feeling that there won’t be much restricted material in our house.

  16. 16
    Randi says:

    No VC Andrews on that list? Incest and murder are OK, but clever rhymes (Shel Silverstein) and a boy’s coming of age (Huck Finn) are not? Hmmm….

    I also found it interesting that Public Libaries were the thire most common entity complaining about books. Where do public libaries get off? There arn’t there to determine what people can and can not read and shouldn’t have any say-so about it, IMHO. Like most others here, I read a good 50% of those before I was even a teenager, and there’s nothing like Judy Blume to help out during that pesky adolescence. I didn’t turn out to be an homicidal maniac.

    I’d like to hear what my mom (cat) has to say on this topic, as she was pretty free on what I could read (though she once had to ground me from reading because my grades were slipping, in high school). She actually gave me James and the Giant Peach and I loved it. I just re-read it recenlty and cried. Poor James. The young Harry Potter reminded me of James; all that abuse from their families….that’s probably why James gets banned, because it deals with abuse.

  17. 17
    Heather says:

    Wow, the #1 banned book was a Christmas gift – from my mom.

    (keyword “issue42”—someone’s trying to tell me something?)

  18. 18
    Maya says:

    the list was fascinating – pretty clear from titles why some are on the list, others mystified me. ‘in the night kitchen’ – a picture book by the same author as the charming ‘little bear’ books – what could possibly be the problem? must find out.

    QUESTION:  what’s the timeline on reviews?

  19. 19
    Rosemary says:

    I also found it interesting that Public Libaries were the thire most common entity complaining about books.

    *sigh*  Ok.  Public libraries aren’t the ones complaining. Public libraries are the ones REPORTING the complaints of their USERS.

    That means that any time someone comes in and complains to the librarian about the content of a book, it is reported.

  20. 20
    Randi says:

    Rosemary, thanks for clarifying.


  21. 21
    Melissa W says:

    I’ve read 9 of those books. I have to catch up. Well, I loved The Witches, gave it to my daughter and see no problem with the book about eating children and squashing them when you turn them into rats. It’s educational and tale to be a good child or else.

  22. 22
    Laurel says:

    I’m still boggled by the concept of Where’s Waldo being found objectionable. I… I give up on America.

  23. 23
    Bev Stephans says:

    I too have read a lot of the books on the list. As far as telling a child what he/she can’t read, if they can pick up the book and understand it, it is age appropriate.  If you tell a child they can’t read something, they will be sure to find a way to do so!

  24. 24
    SandyW says:

    I know what the problem is with ‘In the Night Kitchen.’ As the little boy is dreaming and falls into the night kitchen, he falls out of his pajamas. So, for part of the book you get to see cartoon-like drawings of a naked little boy, complete with tiny, little boy penis.

    Oh. My. God.

    Quick, we must protect other people’s children from the horror.

  25. 25

    “So, for part of the book you get to see cartoon-like drawings of a naked little boy, complete with tiny, little boy penis.”

    My daughter is doomed – she and her little brother run around naked together all the time!!

  26. 26
    Kalen Hughes says:

    If you tell a child they can’t read something, they will be sure to find a way to do so!

    Oh, no little Johnny. No Huck Finn for you. It’s a bad, bad book and Mommy doesn’t want you to spoil your sweet little brain. Wonder if that would work with Brussels sprouts?

  27. 27
    Nora Roberts says:

    So of King’s books it’s Cujo, Carrie and The Dead Zone.

    What about the scary clown in It? Rabid dogs—evil. Hormonal teenagers with telekinisis—child of Satan. Psychic trying to save the world from crazed politician—burn in hell!!

    But a homicidal clown with razor teeth and a taste for wittle children gets a pass?

    Where’s Waldo? Obviously we’ve all missed the subliminal message where the guy zips all over the world for purient purposes. What else could we expect of some pervert named Waldo (and his weenie, named Little Waldo).

  28. 28
    Nora Roberts says:

    ~So, for part of the book you get to see cartoon-like drawings of a naked little boy, complete with tiny, little boy penis. ~

    Obviously named Waldo.

  29. 29
    Jackie L. says:

    Well, as far as I am concerned, Little Black Sambo can take a long hike.  I had to read it as a child and it struck me as odd back then—we’re talking prehistoric times.  When my baby sister read it, it was Little Brave Sambo. 

    Either title, it was a stinker.  But if my misguided children want to read it, it’s ok by me.  I hate censorship.

  30. 30
    sismartmensab-tch says:

    My mom’s philosophy was if I was old enough to understand the book and be interested in reading it, I was old enough to read it.  My dad’s philosophy was that child rearing, especially of girls, is the mom’s concern. Seems to have worked – I haven’t been convicted of anything yet, I usually vote, and I never park in handicapped spaces. ;)

    Most of my formal education was in Texas public schools and a Texas public university, so thank Goddess I also read voraciously.  Except for a few wealthy districts, Texas public education is pretty bad.  I think half my education is from reading!

    Pillars of the Earth?  How could anybody object to THAT?  I haven’t looked up the details of the objection yet.  Maybe it’s critical of the Catholic Church?  I read it a couple of years ago, so I don’t remember.  Also, I might not have noticed since I’m critical of the Church myself. ( For Ken Follett fans: think I read somewhere that he’s working on a sequel to it.)

    If you want to complain about a Stephen King book, complain about The Stand. I read it in high school, and some of it still haunts me. But I would never favor banning it, or anything else, especially from tax supported libraries.

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