Ten Children's Books You Won't Believe They Banned



2017-01-17 16:09:55

You’ll be shocked by which children’s books have fallen foul of the authorities

Too religious, too irreligious, too depressing, too leftist, too gay.

Just some of the reasons why the books in this list have been banned.  

The first editions of many of these 10 are highly collectible today, so keep a look out at your local second hand bookshop – just make sure the police aren’t watching.  

10. Dr Seuss - Green Eggs and Ham


"I'm as subversive as hell!" the writer once said.

Yet we don't think he was attempting to subvert with Green Eggs and Ham, in which the irritatingly persistent Sam-I-Am attempts to force-feed his friend the revolting titular dish.

However, the Chinese government managed to find a deeper context (one we certainly didn't pick up on as wide-eyed youngsters). The government banned the book in 1965 for its supposed "portrayal of early Marxism".

Even the most adept political thinkers among us might struggle to link the two, but even so, the ban was only lifted in 1991, when Seuss passed away.

Today, first edition copies of the book are worth upwards of $7,000 - find a copy of the book in Chinese and you'll be sitting on a fortune that will leave you scoffing at Marx's proletariat dreams.

Seuss' The Lorax was also banned in California for a while after claims it would cast logging in a negative light to children...

9. Lewis Carroll - Alice in Wonderland 

We all know there are some hidden messages in Alice in Wonderland, particularly pertaining to drug use (we're looking at you, hookah-smoking caterpillar).

Yet China (again) took an entirely different view, excluding the book from library shelves due to its portrayal of animals as humans, which apparently suggests that animals are equal to our superior form.

New Hampshire also banned Lewis Carroll's surreal book as it supposedly "contains expletives, sexual content and derogatory characterizations of teachers and of religious ceremonies."

Given that Carroll's true name was Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, we find the latter charge hard to believe. 

Highly collectible today, a first edition copy of the book inscribed to Alice Liddel - the inspiration for the story - sold for $15,000 at auction recently, and that's far from the highest price seen for Carroll's work.

8. JK Rowling - Harry Potter series 

Yep, Rowling's beloved boy-wizard has been snubbed by religious types across the world, including Christians, Muslims and Mormons.

In fact, only Judaism (and Wicca, of course) have stood up for Potter and his pointy-hatted pals, with one rabbi describing the books as "a force for good".

No-one can argue with Potter's good intentions (come on, the kid saved the world from a serpentine Ralph Fiennes), but it appears to be the vaguely Satanic nature of magic that irks the praying public.

One parent said: "If they are going to pass out witchcraft certificates they should also promote the Bible and pass out certificates of righteousness." 

Get your hands on one of the 500 first edition, first printing copies of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and you'll be worshipping the pagan god of collectibles in no time - the record for a first edition at auction stands at £28,500 ($43,750).

7. EB White - Charlotte's Web 

Despite the threat of slaughter throughout, there are few books as charming as Charlotte's Web.

Set in the countryside, the books tells the story of a pig named Wilbur, who escapes the meat grinder thanks to the help of a spider named Charlotte.

Again, the anthropomorphic representation of animals irked some religious folks in America, but it was one UK teacher's decision to remove all copies of the book from the school's library that was really absurd.

In the well-intentioned but misguided thought that the main pig character might offend Muslim students, each copy was pulled from shelves.

A series of 42 original illustrations for the book sold for $780,000 at Heritage Auctions in 2010.

6. Bill Martin Jr - Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?


We've seen some spectacular displays of idiocy so far in this list, but this one takes home top prize.

The Texas State Board of Education decided to ban "Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation" by Bill Martin, a philosopher and advocate of Marxism.

Given the US stance on all things of a communist nature, it wasn't surprising the decision was made. What was a bit of a shocker was that the Texans somehow got their wires crossed, and banned this adorable 1967 picture book by Bill Martin Jr (no relation).

Considering the contents is aimed at infants, to help them identify basic shapes and objects, it is hard to believe no one flagged up the mistake.

First editions are already rising to $100 - did the controversy inspire collectibility?

5. Shel Silverstein - The Giving Tree 

Shel Silverstein has had some of his cartoons published in Playboy. Big deal, right?

For some people, the writer's previous employment was enough to question The Giving Tree's suitability for children, despite it being hailed by some churches as "a parable on the joys of giving".

Some even tried to claim that the bending tree was a "suggestive illustration".

However, some nitpicking psychologists still weren't content, analysing the book to find a much greater evil: the sadomasochistic relationship between the tree and the little boy.

Yes, really.

While the tree is all-giving and loves the boy without condition, the selfish little boy just takes, takes, takes. One shrink even described it as a "vicious, one-sided relationship".

When readers told the naysayers quite how ridiculous their ideas were, renewed cries that the book was sexist (for portraying all little boys as selfish) were heard. These cries fell on deaf ears, until one elementary school teacher banned the book simply for encouraging children to break dishes.

Mint condition copies of the 1964 first edition can sell for up to $6,000.

4. Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson - And Tango Makes Three 

This one is sure to be a future collectible classic…

True story: in New York's Central Park Zoo, two male penguins (who were obviously a couple, displaying all the courtship methods of heterosexuals) were given an egg to raise after trying to hatch a rock together (awwww).

Over the course of the next six years, they did just that - successfully too. Little baby penguin Tango (as far as we know) hasn't yet had any major crises as a result of her lack of a mother figure.

Yet, despite being proven successful, the idea that two male parents could raise a healthy child was just too much for the haters out there. When a children's book was written about the happy event, a censorship war ensued.

The book was never actually banned, but many parents refused to even show the loved-up penguins to their kids. On the flipside, the book has won numerous awards for its charming exploration of a very relevant subject.

Again, despite this being a TRUE STORY, the group Focus on the Family Action called it "disingenuous, inaccurate".

3. Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl 

Some might call this book a hugely important piece of literature, essential to our understanding of what persecution under the Nazis was like, and a tender portrayal of childhood tested to the extremes.

Others would call it "pornographic" and take objection to its "sexual content and homosexual themes (here's looking at you, Michigan).

Other US states removed it from shelves for being "too depressing". How about we forget about the entire second world war for the same reason?

Today, Anne Frank is understandably a highly collectible figure, and letters between her and her pen pals in the US sold for $165,000 in 1988. Such is the importance of her story, most items relating to the Frank family are safely housed in museums.

2. CS Lewis - The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe 

The opposite of Potter's plight, CS Lewis' classic tale was almost banned for being too Christian.

America is famously proud of its separation of church and state, which is defended by Americans United, a group that encompasses "many faiths and political viewpoints".

With Aslan the lion an obvious allegory of Jesus, they felt the book should be removed from sale.

And they are not the only critics, Phillip Pullman (whose His Dark Materials trilogy was subject to the same questions at Harry Potter) called it "one of the most ugly, poisonous things I have ever read".

Polly Toynbee, a widely respected political commentator, even wrote an article for the Guardian newspaper entitled "Narnia represents everything that is most hateful about religion", proving that atheists are just as susceptible to banned book fervour as believers.

Good quality first editions regularly auction for more than $10,000 today.

1. Just about every book Roald Dahl ever wrote 

It's why we love him. Roald Dahl's delightfully devilish characters have kept the naughty little kid in us entertained for decades.

As a result, however, nearly every one of his books has been challenged by some busybody or other.

"The walls were wet and sticky, and peach juice was dripping from the ceiling. James opened his mouth and caught some of it on his tongue. It tasted delicious." That despicable sentence, found in James and the Giant Peach, was apparently too sexual for some.

So was the description of Miss Spider licking her lips (despite the fact that no one has ever been attracted to a spider, pouting or not).

The Witches saw Dahl in hot water for supposed misogyny, but as he states in the preface: "I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women."

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory sees Dahl's Oopma Loompas described as "small, black pygmies". While perhaps a little outdated, there's technically nothing wrong with the description. Dahl invented them, so he gets to decide their height, colour and ethnic group.

He was shocked when he was called racist, and changed their description to "knee-high dwarves" with white skin and golden hair.

Perhaps parents should have been more concerned with the fact that Willy Wonka is responsible for the disappearance (and possible deaths) of several children. It's essentially the tale of an outcast chocolate obsessive who lures small children to his factory, with only one survivor.

Cannibalism was one of the main reasons for banning The BFG, with some parents concerned that their little angels might decide to eat their friends after reading the highly realistic account of a giant man-eater.

If you are concerned your children might eat someone after reading a book, call the police, or a psychiatrist, or anybody.

Also listed as reasons for potentially banning the book was "teaches poor moral values" and "too mature for intended audiences".

We'd agree with the latter, (this writer was terrified of the cartoon film adaptation as a boy), but the first seems a little farfetched. Most would argue that ridding the world of evil giants is a morally sound decision.

First edition copies of Dahl's books can range from just $500 to well over $5,000. His family has preserved the most valuable memorabilia in the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, in his hometown of Great Missenden, UK.

Images: Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions/ Heritage Auctions/ RR Auction/Wikipedia/Sotheby's

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