April 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Most Challenged: A Look Back at Books Some Wanted Off the Shelves

To some, they are “anti-family” or promote the occult. They can be accused of being “unsuited” to an age group, often because they contain “offensive language,” gay characters, or violence. To millions of fans, though, the books that face the most challenges and force librarians to fight censorship are important and favorite reads.

The American Library Association’s (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) receives reports from libraries, schools, and the media on attempts to remove books from school and public libraries across the country. The OIF compiles the list to create an annual Top 10 “in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.”

The OIF will release the list of the most challenged books from 2017 on Monday, April 9, at 9:30 a.m. EDT.  What do you think will top the list this year? What has your library had to fight to keep on the shelves? (Put your predictions in the comments section below.)

Will it be The Hate U Give? Will Tango and his penguin parents reappear? What about Harry Potter? As U.S. readers prepare to celebrate the the 20th anniversary of the September 1998 publication of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States, will J.K. Rowling regain her place on the challenge list?

The “Harry Potter” series took the No. 1 spot on the 2001 and 2002 lists, and was No. 2 in 2003. The reasons for challenging the boy wizard and his friends? Anti-family, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, and violence.

While we wait for the list of 2017’s Top 10, read SLJ’s reviews of the 2016 Top 5 (two were starred) and take a look back at the most challenged—and often most beloved—books of the last decade.

Here is the No. 1 book each of the last 10 years and the number of challenges recorded.

2016 (323 challenges): This One Summer, written by Mariko Tamaki and illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Reasons: LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.

2015 (275 challenges): Looking for Alaska, by John Green. Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, and unsuited for age group

2014 (311 challenges): The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. Reasons: anti-family, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence. Additional reasons: “depictions of bullying”

2013 (307 challenges): “Captain Underpants” (series), by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

2012 (464 challenges): “Captain Underpants” (series), by Dav Pilkey. Reasons: offensive language, unsuited for age group

2011 (326 challenges): ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (“Internet Girls” series), by Lauren Myracle. Reasons: offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

2010 (348 challenges): And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson. Reasons: homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

2009 (460 challenges): ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (“Internet Girls” series), by Lauren Myracle. Reasons: drugs, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group

2008 (513 challenges): And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell. Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group

2007 (420 challenges): And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell: Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint, sexism, unsuited to age group


Kara Yorio About Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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  1. Anonymous says:
  2. There’s an upcoming LGBT picture book: Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag. My bet is that it ends up number 4 on the list for 2018. Part Time Indian, 13 Reasons, Looking for Alaska, and a Donald Trump biography (or something about “Fake News”) will round out the top 5.

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