Book Challenges Report: December 2006 – December 2008

 For the most up-to-date Kids’ Right to Read Project Report, click here.

Individual Book Challenges (Alphabetical by Title)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Hachette)
Banned in Prineville, Oregon, December 2008
School officials in Crook County, OR, removed The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from ninth grade English classes at Crook County High School after one parent complained about a passage that discussed masturbation. The Kids’ Right to Read Project sent a letter to the Crook County superintendent and school board. We also offered resources and support to school officials who opposed the book’s removal.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (Penguin)
Challenged in Manchester, Connecticut, December 2007
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
was challenged for use in the 11th grade curriculum at Manchester High School in December 2007. One parent objected to racially sensitive language in the book. We wrote a letter to the local newspaper opposing the challenges. The book was returned to classrooms in January 2008.

The Amazing Bone by William Steig (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Challenged in Lehigh Acres, Florida, February 2008
The Amazing Bone was challenged at Sunshine Elementary School in February 2008 by a parent who objected to a scene in the book in which robbers try to steal from the main character (a pig) and brandish pistols and a dagger. The parent wanted the book removed from the library. NCAC and ABFFE worked with the school principal and provided informational resources on the First Amendment in schools to the school’s book review committee. In an interview with a local TV station, we emphasized the importance of protecting all parents’ First Amendment rights to decide what their children may read. The review committee voted on February 8, 2008 to keep The Amazing Bone in the school, and school officials worked with the parent to accommodate the family individually.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (Simon & Schuster)
Restricted in Loudoun County, Virginia, February 2008
And Tango Makes Three
was placed on restricted access in all elementary school libraries throughout Loudoun County in February 2008. The book was challenged by one parent who objected to the story of two male penguins who parent a chick as an attack on families headed by heterosexuals. The book was reviewed by two committees of librarians, teachers, principals, parents, and administrators at the school and district levels. Both committees recommended against any restrictions on the book. Despite these recommendations, the Superintendent decided to restrict student access to the book, which was made available only to teachers or parents. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Superintendent urging him to reverse his decision, and our comments on the issue were printed in the Loudoun Times- Mirror. We also provided resources on book challenge policies and the First Amendment in schools to members of the school board. The Superintendent later returned the book to circulation based on “procedural errors” in the review process.

Challenged in Ankeny, Iowa, December 2008
Two parents challenged And Tango Makes Three for use in elementary school libraries in Ankeny, Iowa. The parents objected to the story of two male penguins who parent a chick because they say the book is not “age-appropriate.” ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Ankeny School Board opposing the challenges in November 2008. We also provided information on the First Amendment in schools to school officials. The board voted 6-1 in December 2008 to keep the book on library shelves.

Angels in America by Tony Kushner (Theatre Communications Group)
Challenged in Deerfield, Illinois, March 2008
Angels in America was challenged at Deerfield High School by a community member who objected to the play’s sexual, religious, and racial content and wanted it removed from the school’s AP English classes. The school then offered the play as an “opt-in” assignment. In addition, a local organization publicly attacked the play, calling it “pornography.” ABFFE, NCAC, and three organizations sent a letter to the Superintendent and School Board supporting their resolve to stand by First Amendment principles and keep the play in the curriculum. We also published a youth op-ed on the issue, written by a Deerfield High School graduate, on the NCAC website. The school board voted unanimously to uphold the principal’s decision to keep the play in classes.

Beach Music by Pat Conroy (Random House)
Challenged in Kanawha County, West Virginia, October 2007
In October 2007, two novels by Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, were challenged for use in the Advanced Placement English curriculum at Nitro High School in Kanawha County, WV, because some parents objected to graphic violence including sexual violence in the books. The books were pulled from classrooms, and many students protested the books’ removal. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the school board, who referred the matter to a book review committee, and we provided educational resources to educators involved in the controversy. In addition, Pat Conroy wrote a letter to the local newspaper, the Charleston Gazette, which covered the controversy. Following the review committee’s vote in favor of both books, Beach Music and The Prince of Tides were returned to classrooms. The school board subsequently passed an alternative reading policy requiring teachers using supplemental materials to send home a copy of the syllabus and to notify parents through a form of any materials that may be considered objectionable. The letter from ABFFE, NCAC, and four other free speech groups opposing the policy was published in the Charleston Gazette in December 2007.
See also: The Prince of Tides

Beloved by Toni Morrison (Random House)
Banned in Louisville, Kentucky, March 2007
Beloved was removed from Advanced Placement English classrooms at Eastern High School in Louisville, KY, in March 2007 because some parents complained about the book’s racial and sexual content. Students were told to stop reading the book within 30 pages from the end of the novel, and class discussions were terminated. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by PEN American Center and the National Council of Teachers of English in opposing the book’s removal. We also worked with the local chapter of the ACLU and local activists.

The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson (Penguin)
Banned in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, May 2007
The Bermudez Triangle was removed from circulation in the school library at Bartlesville Mid-High in May 2007. The book was removed following complaints from one parent about homosexual themes and underage drinking in the book. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Superintendent and Board of Education opposing the book’s removal.

Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (Hachette)
Banned in Orestimba, California, November 2008
Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District Superintendent Rick Fauss removed Bless Me, Ultima from district high school classes after one parent objected to the book as “anti-Catholic.” Our letter opposing the ban was published in the Modesto Bee. We also sent a letter to the school board and worked with the ACLU of Northern California.

The Book of Bunny Suicides by Andy Riley (Hodder & Stoughton)
Challenged in Brownsville, Oregon, November 2008
The Book of Bunny Suicides was challenged by one parent who wanted the book removed from the library at Central Linn High School. In November 2008, NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board in support of keeping the book in the library.

Child of God by Cormac McCarthy (Random House)
Banned in Tuscola, Texas, October 2007
Child of God was removed from Jim Ned High School in Tuscola in October 2007 and cancelled from the school library’s order list following complaints by parents of one student, who also filed an official complaint against a teacher with the local sheriff. The book was included in an optional reading list from which students chose books to read for a class assignment. The student’s parents objected to violence, sexual themes including sexual violence, and profanity in the book. They met with the school principal and their daughter’s English teacher. Dissatisfied, they registered an official complaint with the sheriff’s office, charging the teacher with providing material “harmful to minors” to their daughter under Texas Penal Code 43.24. The teacher was placed on paid administrative leave in early October 2007. NCAC, ABFFE, and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) sent a letter to the superintendent and school board opposing the book’s removal.

The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Random House)
Banned in Bel Air, Maryland, April 2007; returned to classrooms in November 2007
In April 2007, The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Random House) was removed from the ninth grade Social Studies curriculum in Harford County Public Schools. Parents challenged the book because they objected to language, sexual content, and references to homosexuality. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by the National Council of Teachers of English, the Association of American Publishers Freedom to Read, the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, and PEN American Center in sending a letter opposing the ban. The Superintendent reversed her decision, and The Chocolate War was returned to classrooms in November 2007.

Cradle and All by James Patterson (Hachette)
Banned in Westhampton Beach, New York, December 2007
Cradle and All by James Patterson and The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (Simon and Schuster) were challenged in November 2007 by some parents who objected to sexual content in the books and requested that they be removed from the ninth grade optional reading list at Westhampton Beach High School. Terry Lucas of The Open Book bookstore in Westhampton Beach, NY, was one of four people who spoke in support of the books at the school board’s initial meeting on the challenges; parents opposing the books had gathered over 75 signatures on their side. Terry wrote a letter to the school board, and we helped her to assemble a petition in support of the books, gave her talking points, and assisted with plans for her store’s banned book “Read-In” event. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the school board in support of the books. The board voted 4-3 in early December 2007 to remove the books from the optional reading list, although they will remain available in the library. In a press release, we condemned the board’s decision.
See also: The Tenth Circle

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (Candlewick)
Challenged in Colorado Springs, Colorado, February 2008
A middle school teacher reported challenges to books in his school library including the removal of The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things in late February 2008. We provided educational resources for the teacher to use as he gathered more information about the challenges.

The Fighting Ground by Avi (Harper)
Banned in Panama City, Florida, June 2008 The Fighting Ground was banned from elementary schools throughout the Bay District Schools in June 2008 after one parent challenged the book for language he found objectionable. A review committee and the superintendent recommended that the book be kept in school libraries. We sent a letter to the school board opposing the book’s removal.

Finding Laura Buggs by Stanley Gordon West (Lexington-Marshall Publishing)
Challenged in Fargo, North Dakota, May 2007
Finding Laura Buggs and Until They Bring the Streetcars Back, both by Stanley Gordon West, were challenged in May 2007 for use in the Fargo public schools because of one parent’s objections to violence and sexual content. The complaining parent demanded that the school district ban the books despite district policy explicitly stating that only parents with children in classes assigned to read the books may file formal complaints; her child was not assigned to read either of the books. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Superintendent and book reconsideration committee, who decided to retain the books.
See also: Until They Bring the Streetcars Back

Fool’s Crow by James Welch (Penguin)
Challenged in Helena, Montana, April 2007
Fool’s Crow was challenged for use in the 10th grade English curriculum in Helena Public Schools in April 2007. One parent objected to violence and sexual content in the book. The parent said she would be satisfied with an alternative assignment for her son, but the school district said it never offered him one because he never asked. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the school board opposing the challenge and advising the school district about ways to deal with challenges of this nature to avoid further controversy. Fool’s Crow was kept in the high school curriculum.

The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell (Random House)
Banned in Indianapolis, Indiana, February 2008
The Freedom Writers Diary was removed from English 11 classes at Perry Meridian High School in February 2008 while students were in the process of reading it. No formal complaint process against the book was initiated, students’ parents had signed permission slips indicating their approval of the book’s use, and the book is freely available in the high school library. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) in sending a letter to the school board opposing the book’s removal.

Challenged in Howell, Michigan, February 2007
The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell, Black Boy by Richard Wright (Harper), The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Random House), Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (Macmillan), and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Random House) were challenged in Howell High School in February 2007 for sexual themes and profanity by members of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) with assistance from the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association. ABFFE and NCAC organized a coalition of nine free expression groups who sent a letter to the school board urging them to keep the books. The school board voted 5-2 to retain all of them. Dissatisfied with this result, the AFA also assisted LOVE in filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the books violate laws against child pornography and sexual abuse. ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release condemning the decision. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, federal, state, and local prosecutors alike declared the complaints to be without merit. ABFFE and NCAC issued a press release applauding the decision.
See also: Howell, Michigan

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (Random House)
Censored in New Rochelle, New York, December 2008
Teachers at New Rochelle High School removed pages from Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (Random House), reportedly due to complaints about sexual content and profanity. The school board issued a statement in December 2008 opposing the censorship and announced that full text copies will replace the censored copies. NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board commending the decision. We also spoke with reporters about this and other book censorship incidents and blogged about the case on NCAC’s blog. Our comments were published in The Guardian.

A Girl’s Life Online by Katherine Tarbox
Challenged in Baldwinsville, New York, May 2008
A Girl’s Life Online was challenged at Baker High School in May 2008 by a parent who objected to sexual content in the book and asked the district to remove it from the curriculum. We sent a letter to the Syracuse Post-Standard opposing the challenge.

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Random House)
Challenged in Concord, California, November 2007
The Giver was challenged and reviewed in Mt. Diablo School District for use on the sixth-grade optional reading list and in the school library. We sent a letter to the local newspaper to publicly oppose the challenge.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (Random House)
Challenged in Winchester, Kentucky, October 2007
The Golden Compass was challenged in Winchester, KY, in October 2007 by parents and some local Christian leaders who believed it to be anti-Christian. The school board appointed a review committee to read the book and make recommendations to the board. ABFFE and NCAC sent letters to the committee and the school board in support of the book. In addition, the Catholic League, a national advocacy organization, urged parents to keep their children from seeing the new film, The Golden Compass, for fear that it would encourage kids to read the book, which they condemn as anti-Christian. We created a web page to track challenges to the book and provide resources for opposing them.

Grendel by John Gardner (Random House)
Challenged in Sherwood, Oregon, November 2008
Grendel was challenged for use in Sherwood High School’s 10th grade accelerated English curriculum in November 2008. Some parents objected to sexual content and violence in the book, but their children were offered an alternative assignment. The school board voted to keep the book in the curriculum. A letter from the Kids’ Right to Read Project in support of the decision to keep the book was published in the local newspaper.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (Simon & Schuster)
The word “scrotum” in February 2007 made the Newbery Award-winning novel the subject of controversy among authors and librarians across the country. Following a report in the New York Times, the story of Patron’s challenged book received national attention, and many school librarians hesitated to purchase the book for their collections. Susan Patron is the Juvenile Materials Collection Manager at the Los Angeles Public Library and the author of five other books for children. In an interview with Patron, we asked her about the controversy over The Higher Power of Lucky and librarians’ role in defending the First Amendment. ABFFE and NCAC also disseminated information about book censorship and worked with publishers and others to build awareness and draw attention to the issue.

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez (Penguin)
Banned in Smithfield, North Carolina, December 2007
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents was removed from Johnston County Schools in December 2007 following challenges by a few parents who objected to sexual themes in the book. Although their daughter was offered an alternative assignment, the parents continued to press for the book’s removal. A review committee recommended that the book be kept in school classrooms and libraries, but a district committee decided to ban it. In addition, the district began using lists of challenged books to “weed out” potentially offensive materials. ABFFE, NCAC, and PEN American Center sent a letter to the school board condemning both decisions. We also conducted an exclusive interview with Julia Alvarez.

It’s Perfectly Normal written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley (Candlewick)
Removed by a library patron in Lewiston, Maine, September 2007
In September 2007, a woman refused to return It’s Perfectly Normal to the Lewiston public library and filed obscenity charges against the library because she objected to the book’s sexual content. The patron was issued a civil complaint summons for refusing to return the library book after she was asked to return it. We contacted the librarian to offer support and resources in dealing with the controversy. Ellen Richmond of Children’s Book Cellar in Waterville, ME, alerted us to this incident, and we worked with her to monitor the controversy as the case was reviewed by the library board.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen (Penguin)
Challenged in Tampa, Florida, December 2007
Just Listen was challenged in December 2007 at Armwood High School by a few parents who objected to the book’s sexual themes and language and requested that it be removed from the school library. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Tampa Tribune and the Hillsborough County School Board in support of the book. A review committee of teachers, parents, and students voted unanimously to keep the book in the library.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (Simon and Schuster)
Challenged in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, November 2008
Kaffir Boy was challenged for use in ninth grade English classes at Lincoln High School in Thief River Falls, MN, in November 2008. Some parents objected to sexual violence and graphic language in the book. NCAC and ABFFE wrote a letter to the school board, urging that the book be retained in the curriculum. We spoke with school administrators involved in the issue. The school board voted to keep the full version of the book in classrooms but to offer parents the option for their children to read an abridged version of the book, through the use of an opt-out form.

The Land by Mildred D. Taylor (Penguin)
Challenged in New Tampa, Florida, March 2008
The Land by Mildred D. Taylor and The Starplace by Vicki Grove were challenged in the Turner Elementary School library in New Tampa in March 2008. One student’s parents objected to the authors’ use of racial language and wanted the books removed from the elementary school library. A school-based committee reviewed The Land and voted to remove it from the library and donate it to a middle school. Our understanding is that no official challenge to The Starplace was submitted, and that the book is still available in the school library.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest Gaines (Random House)
Challenged in Huntsville, Alabama, July 2008
A Lesson Before Dying was challenged in the Huntsville City Schools by two parents who objected to sexual references and profanity in the book. The parents asked that it be removed from the ninth grade required summer reading lists. The principal of Grissom High School offered an alternative assignment to students who object to the book, and the school board reviewed it and decided to make the book optional reading. NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board in support of the book.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (Penguin)
Challenged in Depew, New York, February 2008
Looking for Alaska was challenged at Depew High School in February 2008 by some parents who objected to sexual content and graphic language in the book and requested that it be removed from the 11th grade English curriculum. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Buffalo Times, and we were joined by Jonathon Welch of Talking Leaves…Books in Buffalo, NY, in sending a letter to the school board opposing the challenges. The school board appointed a committee to review Looking for Alaska and voted unanimously to keep the book.
See also: St. Louis County Libraries, Missouri

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (Simon and Schuster)
Challenged in Beardstown, Illinois, September 2008
Nineteen Minutes was challenged in September 2008 by one parent who objected to sexual references, profanity, and violence, including bullying and suicide, in the book and asked that it be removed from the Beardstown Middle/High School library. A committee comprised of teachers, a school principal, a librarian, and a school psychologist reviewed the book and recommended that it be retained in the high school adult fiction section of the school library. NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board opposing the challenges, and we provided resources and assistance to local educators involved in the controversy. The school board voted to retain the book in the high school section of the library, but students are required to get parental permission to check it out.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Penguin)
Challenged in Appomattox, Virginia, January 2008
Of Mice and Men was challenged in January 2008 at Appomattox High School by a parent who objected to graphic language in the book. Though her son was given an alternative Steinbeck book to read, the parent insisted that the book was inappropriate for other students and asked that it be removed altogether from the 10th grade English curriculum. We wrote a letter to the review committee opposing the challenges.
See also: Baxley, Georgia

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (MTV)
Banned in Portage, Indiana, November 2008
The Perks of Being a Wallflower was banned from ninth grade classrooms at Portage High School in late November 2008. The book was challenged by one parent who objected to sexual content in the novel, and the school board decided to remove the book from the curriculum. In response to an article published in the school newspaper, the Pow Wow, which reported on the review process for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, school administrators imposed a new policy requiring that all future newspaper content be subject to prior review. In December 2008, NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board and superintendent opposing the banning of The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the prior review policy for the newspaper.

The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy (Random House)
Challenged in Kanawha County, West Virginia, October 2007
In October 2007, two novels by Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music, were challenged for use in the Advanced Placement English curriculum at Nitro High School in Kanawha County, WV, because some parents objected to graphic violence including sexual violence in the books. The books were pulled from classrooms, and many students protested the books’ removal. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the school board, who referred the matter to a book review committee, and we provided educational resources to educators involved in the controversy. In addition, Pat Conroy wrote a letter to the local newspaper, the Charleston Gazette, which covered the controversy. Following the review committee’s vote in favor of both books, Beach Music and The Prince of Tides were returned to classrooms. The school board subsequently passed an alternative reading policy requiring teachers using supplemental materials to send home a copy of the syllabus and to notify parents through a form of any materials that may be considered objectionable. The letter from ABFFE, NCAC, and four other free speech groups opposing the policy was published in the Charleston Gazette in December 2007.
See also: Beach Music

Sandpiper by Ellen Wittlinger (Simon & Schuster)
Challenged in Brookwood, Alabama, September 2007
Sandpiper was challenged at Brookwood High School by a student and her grandmother who objected to the book’s sexual content. The student refused to return the book to the school library. A review committee recommended that the book be retained in school libraries. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the school board in support of the book. The board voted to keep Sandpiper, but board members promised to consider policies to prevent potentially “offensive” material from being included in library collections.

So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins (Harper)
Challenged in Dover/Sherborn, Massachusetts, December 2006
So Far from the Bamboo Grove was challenged in Dover-Sherborn Middle School in December 2006 by parents who found its depiction of Koreans during World War II offensive, calling this work of fiction “historically inaccurate.” The challengers also sought to bar the author from visiting the school to meet with students, though her annual presentation had been an integral part of the sixth grade English Language Arts unit on “survival” for years. Partly in response to a letter from ABFFE, NCAC, and other free expression groups, the school board reversed a committee decision that had recommended removing the book. This incident was brought to our attention by Carol Chittenden of Eight Cousins Bookstore in Falmouth, MA, with whom we worked in responding to the controversy.

The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult (Simon & Schuster)
Banned in Westhampton Beach, New York, December 2007
The Tenth Circle by Jodi Picoult and Cradle and All by James Patterson (Hachette) were challenged in November 2007 by some parents who objected to sexual content in the books and requested that they be removed from the ninth grade optional reading list at Westhampton Beach High School. Terry Lucas of The Open Book bookstore in Westhampton Beach, NY, was one of four people who spoke in support of the books at the school board’s initial meeting on the challenges; parents opposing the books had gathered over 75 signatures on their side. Terry wrote a letter to the school board, and we helped her to assemble a petition in support of the books, gave her talking points, and assisted with plans for her store’s banned book “Read-In” event. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the school board in support of the books. The board voted 4-3 in early December 2007 to remove the books from the optional reading list, although they will remain available in the library. In a press release, ABFFE and NCAC condemned the board’s decision.
See also: Cradle and All

Tripping Over the Lunch Lady: And Other School Stories ed. by Nancy E. Mercado (Penguin)
Challenged in Williamsburg, Virginia, October 2007
Tripping Over the Lunch Lady: And Other Stories
was challenged in Magruder Elementary School in October 2007 by some parents who objected to war references in one of the stories. We wrote a letter to the local newspaper applauding the school district’s decision to keep the book in the school library and in Magruder’s optional, school-wide “One Book for All” reading program, which encourages students and parents to read together.

TTYL by Lauren Myracle (Abrams)
Banned in Round Rock, Texas, November 2008
TTYL was removed from middle school libraries throughout Round Rock Independent School District in November, 2008. One student’s parents challenged TTYL because they objected to sexual content and profanity in the book. Two review committees evaluated the book and recommended that it be kept on library shelves. However, before the school board could review the matter, Superintendent Jesús Chávez had the book removed from middle school libraries throughout the district. NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board and superintendent opposing the banning and a letter to the Austin American-Statesman.

Until They Bring the Streetcars Back by Stanley Gordon West (Lexington-Marshall Publishing)
Finding Laura Buggs and Until They Bring the Streetcars Back both by Stanley Gordon West were challenged in May 2007 for use in the Fargo public schools because of one parent’s objections to violence and sexual content. The complaining parent demanded that the school district ban the books despite district policy explicitly stating that only parents with children in classes assigned to read the books may file formal complaints; her child was not assigned to read either of the books. ABFFE and NCAC sent a letter to the Superintendent and book reconsideration committee, who decided to retain the books.
See also: Finding Laura Buggs

Vamos A Cuba by Alta Schreier (Heinemann)
Banned in Miami, Florida, April 2006
Vamos A Cuba was banned in April 2006 by the Miami-Dade County School Board because a local parent complained that the book paints too favorable a picture of Cuba. The school board decided to ban the entire series of travel books, which are intended for children ages 4-8. ABFFE joined an amicus brief in support of the ACLU lawsuit opposing the school board’s decision. A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case on June 6, 2007. A decision was still pending in December 2008. Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher (Random House) Challenged in Missouri Valley, Iowa, March 2007 In early March 2007, Whale Talk was challenged in tenth grade English classes at Missouri Valley High School by a local pastor who complained about the book’s “objectionable language.” Following a letter from ABFFE and NCAC, the book reconsideration committee recommended that the school board vote to keep the book, and the books were subsequently returned to classrooms.

What’s Happening to Me? A Guide to Puberty by Peter Mayle (Lyle Stuart)
Challenged in Raleigh, North Carolina, April 2008
In April 2008, a third grade teacher reported objections in her elementary school to What’s Happening to Me? A Guide to Puberty. We provided educational resources and support as she obtained more information about the challenges and worked to make policies about book challenges more widely known in her district.

Book Challenges and Bans Involving Multiple Titles (Alphabetical by State)

Jacksonville, Florida: Novels Challenged Middle and High Schools, March 2007
In March 2007, Vegan Virgin Valentine by Carolyn Mackler (Candlewick) was challenged in Mandarin High School library for language some parents found objectionable. The challengers wanted, at minimum, parental permission to be required for students to check the book out of the school library. Also in the Duval County Public Schools, parents challenged four books in the school library at LaVilla School for the Arts, a Jacksonville middle school. They objected to Lucky by Eddie de Oliveira (Scholastic), Beyond the Chocolate War by Robert Cormier (Random House), Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume (Random House), and Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes (Harper). Most of the objections concerned the allegedly “offensive” language in the books. In the case of Lucky, the critics disliked the protagonist’s questioning of his own sexuality. ABFFE and NCAC joined with PEN American Center in writing letters to the school principal and superintendent urging them to retain the books and to follow a thorough review policy.

Baxley, Georgia: Novels Banned High School, November 2007
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Penguin) and Native Son by Richard Wright (Harper) were banned by the Appling County School Board in November 2007 after a local church minister challenged the books. Two review committees of twenty educators reviewed the books and recommended that they be kept in Appling County High School classrooms. Parents signed permission slips to express their support of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley (Harper), which was banned, as well, without prior review, in violation of district policy. We sent a letter to the school board opposing its decision.

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: Novels Reviewed Middle and High Schools, December 2008
In the fall of 2008, the Coeur d’Alene school board placed over two dozen titles in a review process and suspended the books’ use in classrooms for sixth through twelfth grades during the review. Initially, 78 books were removed from high schools and 39 from middle schools, as the district sought to complete an evaluation process administrators say was overlooked when the books were adopted. As the evaluation process was completed sets of titles, and the books approved, they were returned to classrooms. In December 2008, the board unanimously approved 26 titles, including Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, over which the board had split in a previous session. The list also included Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Kids’ Right to Read Project offered advice and assistance to a community member in terested in opposing efforts to remove the books. We also offered resources to school district administrators.

Howell, Michigan: Novels Challenged High School, February 2007
Black Boy by Richard Wright (Harper), Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs (Macmillan), The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Random House), Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Random House), and The Freedom Writers Diary by Erin Gruwell (Random House) were challenged in Howell High School in February 2007 for sexual themes and profanity by members of the Livingston Organization for Values in Education (LOVE) with assistance from the Michigan chapter of the American Family Association. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by nine free expression groups in a letter to the school board urging them to keep the books. The school board voted 5-2 to retain all of them. Dissatisfied with this result, the AFA also assisted LOVE in filing a complaint with the State Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice, claiming that the books violate laws against child pornography and sexual abuse. The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan referred the matter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, federal, state, and local prosecutors alike declared the complaints to be without merit.

St. Louis County, Missouri: Young Adult Books Challenged Libraries, September 2007 and September 2008
Local residents concerned about efforts to restrict access to books in the Daniel Boone branch of the St. Louis County Public Library contacted us to report challenges to several books for young adults. Growing Up Gay in America by Jason R. Rich (Franklin Rich), Homosexuality: What Does It Mean? (Perspectives on Healthy Sexuality) by Julie K. Endersbe (Capstone Press), Making Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide (It Happened to Me, No. 4) by L. Kris Gowen (The Scarecrow Press), and A-List #6, Some Like It Hot by Zoey Dean (Poppy) were challenged by a community member who called them “obscene” and spoke against the books at a City Council meeting. We wrote a letter to the City Council and a local newspaper opposing the challenges.

In September 2008, a local group, Citizens Against Pornography, and some community members objected to a dozen titles in the young adult section of the St. Louis County Libraries. The books are Alice on Her Way by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Simon and Schuster), Escape from Egypt by Sonia Levitin (Penguin), Hard Cash by Kate Cann (Simon and Schuster), Rainbow Boys and Rainbow High by Alex Sanchez (Simon and Schuster), Looking for Alaska by John Green (Penguin), 33 Snowfish by Adam Rapp (Candlewick), and A Seahorse Year by Stacey D’Erasmo (Houghton Mifflin), as well as non-fiction books on sexuality and sexual health: Growing Up Gay in America by Jason R. Rich (Franklin Street Books), Homosexuality: What Does It Mean? (Perspectives on Healthy Sexuality) by Julie K. Endersbe (Capstone Press), Making Sexual Decisions: The Ultimate Teen Guide (The Scarecrow Press), and The Little Black Book for Girlz: A Book on Healthy Sexuality by St. Stephen’s Community House (Annick Press). The group asked that the library impose restrictions on the books, such as using a “rating” system to classify books, or requiring that teens get written permission from a parent or guardian to check the books out. NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the library board opposing the proposed changes.

Morganton, North Carolina: Novels Challenged February 2008 and Fall 2008
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Penguin) was challenged at Freedom High School in February 2008 by a community member who objected to sexual content and graphic language in the book. A school board member also strongly objected to the book and moved to have the board circumvent the normal procedures for dealing with book challenges. The same board member also proposed amending the district’s media policy to apply standards for audio and visual materials to all materials including books. In direct violation of district policy, the Superintendent told all schools in the district to suspend use of the book pending a review by a Media Advisory Committee. ABFFE and NCAC were joined by PEN American Center, the Association of American Publishers, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom in sending a letter to the school board and superintendent opposing the challenges. The school-based media and technology committee recommended that the book be kept and that a policy be created for future reading assignments involving books with “mature content.” The policy would require that the school send written notification to parents warning them of the content of the book. The Kite Runner was reviewed and subsequently approved for use in classrooms.

In the fall of 2008, some parents objected to sexual content, profanity, and violence in The Bluest Eye and Beloved by Toni Morrison (Random House), The Color Purple by Alice Walker (Harcourt), The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (Hachette), and The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (Penguin) in Burke County, NC, schools. NCAC and ABFFE sent a letter to the school board opposing the challenges in November 2008.

What You Can Do About Book Censorship

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