An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
--Oscar Wilde

Books Listed by Title

The details listed below are excerpts taken from the Banned Books Resource Guide by the American Library Association, and Ready Reference Censorship, Copyright 1997, Salem Press (ed. Lawrence Amey et al.). In some cases, my own pithy comments have been added.

Title: 1984 ~ A ~ B ~ C ~ D ~ E ~ F ~ G ~ H ~ I ~ J ~ K ~ L ~ M ~ O ~ P ~ R ~ S ~ T ~ U ~ V ~ W ~ Z

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1984 . George Orwell. Harcourt. Challenged in the Jackson County, Fla. (1981) because the novel is "pro-communist and contained explicit sexual matter." Big Brother doesn't want people reading such things. (Purchase)

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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Mark Twain [Samuel L. Clemens]. Airmont; And/Or Press; Bantam; Grosset; Longman; NAL; Pocket Bks. Excluded from the childrens' room in the Brooklyn, N.Y. Public Library (1876) and the Denver, Colo. Public Library (1876). Confiscated at the USSR border (1930). Removed from the seventh grade curriculum in the West Chester, Pa. schools (1994) after parents complained that it is too full of racially charged language. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a more popular target of censorship, but personally I find this one more entertaining. (Purchase Tom Sawyer) (Purchase Huckleberry Finn)

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Lewis Carroll. Ace; Bantam; Crown; Delacorte; Dover; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Random; St. Martin. Banned in China (1931) for portraying animals and humans on the same level, "Animals should not use human language." (Purchase)

Analects. Confucius. Dover; Random. The first ruler of the Chin Dynasty ordered all books relating to the teachings of Confucius burned. Oh, and he had hundreds of followers of Confucius buried alive (250 BC). (Purchase)

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne Frank. Modern Library. Challenged in Wise County, Va. (1982) due to "sexually offensive" passages. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committee (1983) called for the rejection of this book because it is a "real downer." (Purchase)

Arabian Nights or The Thousand and One Nights. Anonymous. U.S. Customs held up 500 sets of the translation by the French scholar Mardrus, which were imported from England (1927-31). It was confiscated in Cairo, Egypt (1985), on the grounds that it contained obscene passages which posed a threat to the country's moral fabric. It was judged inappropriate for Jewish pupils by the Israeli director of the British Consul Library in Jerusalem, Israel (1985). Nice to see that the Arabs and Israelis can agree, after all. (Purchase)

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Beloved. Toni Morrison. Knopf; NAL. Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Fla. (1995). Challenged by a member of the Madawaska, Maine School Committee (1997) because of the book's language. This 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel has been required reading for the advanced placement English class for six years. (Purchase)

The Bible. William Tyndale, who partially completed translating the Bible into English, was captured, strangled, and burned at the stake (1536) by opponents of the movement to translate the bible into the vernacular. Beginning around 1830, "family friendly" bibles, including Noah Webster's version (1833) began to appear which had excised passages considered to be indelicate. (Purchase the King James version) (Purchase the Revised Standard Catholic version)

Brave New World. Aldous Huxley. Harper. Banned in Ireland (1932). Removed from classroom in Miller, Mo. (1980). Challenged at the Yukon, Okla. High School (1988); challenged as required reading in the Corona-Norco, Calif. Unified School District (1993) because the book "centered around negative activity." (Purchase)

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Dee Brown. Holt. Removed in Wild Rose, Wis. (1974) by a district administrator for being "slanted." The administrator also said "if there's a possibility that something might be controversial, then why not eliminate it." (Purchase)

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The Call of the Wild. Jack London. Ace; Bantam; Grosset; Macmillan; NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks.; Raintree; Tempo. Banned in Italy (1929), Yugoslavia (1929), and burned in Nazi bonfires (1932). Who knew Nazis didn't like sled dogs? (Purchase)

Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer. Bantam; Bobbs-Merrill; Doubleday; Penguin; Raintree Pubs.; NAL; Univ. of Okla. Pr. People have long been squeamish with this one...It was subjected to revisions as 1928, and editions today tend to avoid four letter words. It was removed from a senior college preparatory literature course at the Eureka, Ill. High School (1995) for sexual content. I believe Chaucer would be amused. (Purchase The Riverside Chaucer, complete and untranslated) (Purchase The Canterbury Tales translated)

Catcher in the Rye. J.D. Salinger. Published in 1951, this immediate best seller almost simultaneously became a popular target of censorship. A 1991-92 study by the People for the American Way found that the novel was among those most likely to be censored based on the fact that it is "anti-Christian." Challenged by Concerned Citizens of Florida who wanted the book removed from a high school library (1991) in Leesburg, Florida due to "profanity, reference to suicide, vulgarity, disrespect, and anti-Christian sentiments." They were unsucessful: a review committee voted unanimously to retain the book. (Purchase)

The Celluloid Closet: Homosexuality in the Movies. Vito Russo. Harper. Challenged at the Deschutes County Library in Bend, Oreg. (1993) because it "encourages and condones" homosexuality. (Purchase)

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl. Bantam; Knopf; Penguin. Removed from a locked reference collection at the Boulder, Colo. Public Library (1988), where it had been placed because the librarian thought the book espoused a poor philosophy of life. (Purchase)

Clan of the Cave Bear. Jean Auel. Coronet. Challenged at the Berrien Springs, Mich. High School for its use in classrooms and libraries (1988), Banned from the Cascade Middle School library in Eugene, Oreg. (1992), Challenged, but retained on the Moorpark High School recommended reading list in Simi Valley, Calif. (1993), despite objections that it contains "hardcore graphic sexual content." (Purchase)

The Color Purple. Alice Walker. Harcourt. Challenged as appropriate reading material for an Oakland, Calif. High School honors class (1984) due to the work's "sexual and social explicitness" and its "troubling ideas about race relations, man's relationship to God, African history, and human sexuality." This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was finally approved for use by the Oakland Board of Education after nine months of debate. Banned in the Souderton, Pa. Area School District (1992) as appropriate reading for tenth graders because it is "smut."Removed from the Jackson County, W.Va. school libraries (1997) along with sixteen other titles. (Purchase)

The Complete Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm. Jacob and Wilhelm K. Grimm. Translated by Jack Zipes. Bantam. Restricted to sixth through eighth grade classrooms at the Kyrene, Ariz. elementary schools (1994) due to its excessive violence, negative protrayals of female characters, and anti-Semitic references. (Purchase)

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Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. Galilei Galileo. Univ. of California Pr. Banned by Pope Urban VIII for heresy and breach of good faith (1633). The more things change, the more they stay the same... (Purchase)

Different Seasons. Stephen King. NAL. Removed from the West Lyon Community School library in Larchwood, Iowa (1987) because "it does not meet the standards of the community." Removed from the Washington Middle School library in Meriden, Conn. (1989) after a parental complaint. Challenged at the Eagan High School in Burnsville, Minn. (1992). This collection of novellas, which include the stories on which the acclaimed movies Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption were based, is some of King's best writing. (Purchase)

A Doll's House. Henrik Ibsen. Penguin. Four members of the Alabama State Textbook Committe (1983)--presumably the same who objected to The Diary of Anne Frank --called for the rejection of this work because it propagates feminist views. (Purchase)

Don Quixote. Saavedra Miguel de Cervantes. Methuen; NAL; Norton; Random. Placed on the Index in Madrid for the sentence, "Works of charity negligently performed are of no worth." (Purchase)

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Earth Science. American Book. Challenged at the Plymouth-Canton school system in Canton, Mich. (1987) because it "teaches the theory of evolution exclusively. It completely avoids any mention of Creationism...The evolutionary propaganda also underminds {sic} the parental guidance and teaching the children are receiving at home and from the pulpits." I guess their homes and pulpits didn't teach them how to spell "undermine."

The Egypt Game. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Dell; Macmillan. This award-winning novel was challenged in the Richardson, Tex. schools (1995) because it shows children in dangerous situations, condones tresspassing and lying to parents and ostensibly teaches about the occult. The school board declined to ban this book, but did decide that parents should be notified when it is used in class. (Purchase)

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Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury. Ballentine. Ironically, students at the Venado Middle School in Irvine, Calif. received copies of the book with scores of words--mostly "hells" and "damns"--blacked out. The novel is about book burning and censorship. Thankfully, after receiving complaints from parents and being contacted by reporters, school officials said the censored copies would no longer be used (1992).(Purchase)

The Figure in the Shadows. John Bellairs. Dell. Restricted at the Dysart Unified School District libraries in El Mirage, Ariz. (1990) because of two uses of profanity and because of its link to magic. This book is terrific for middle school readers. It is the second book in a series which starts with The House With a Clock in its Walls. (Purchase Figure) (Purchase House)

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Gone with the Wind. Margaret Mitchell. Avon; Macmillan. This Pulitzer Prize winning novel was banned from the Anaheim, Calif. Union High School District English classrooms (1978). The novel was challenged in the Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because it uses the word "nigger." (Purchase)

Grapes of Wrath. John Steinbeck. Penguin; Viking. Burned by the St. Louis, Mo. Public Library (1939) on the grounds that "vulgar words" were used. Banned in Kansas City, Mo. (1939); Kern County, Calif., the scene of Steinbeck's novel, (1939); Ireland (1953); Kanawha, Iowa High School classes (1980); and Morris, Manitoba (1982). Challenged in the Greenville, S.C. schools (1991) because the book uses the name of God and Jesus in a "vain and profane manner along with inappropriate sexual references." I liked the turtle. (Purchase)

The Graphic Work of M.C. Escher. M.C. Escher. Pan/Ballentine. Retained after being challenged at Maldonado Elementary School in Tucson, Ariz. (1994) for "pornographic", "perverted", and "morbid" themes. I guess they think good art should match your sofa.

Grendel. John C. Gardner. Knopf. This book has been challenged quite a lot, which may explain why the Grendel books my 11th grade English teacher ordered never arrived...Most recently challenged, but retained, on high school reading lists in Douglas, Colo. (1997). Parents, who have obviously never read Beowulf, compained that the novel was too obscene and violent for high school students. (Purchase)

Gulliver's Travels. Jonathan Swift. Airmont; Bantam; Bobbs-Merrill; Dell; Grosset; Houghton; NAL; Norton; Oxford Univ. Pr.; Pocket Bks. Denounced as wicked and obscene in Ireland (1726), which was no doubt the effect Swift was going for. (Purchase)

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Hamlet. William Shakespeare. Airmont; Cambridge Univ. Pr.; NAL; Norton; Penguin; Methuen. Banned in Ethiopia (1978). (Purchase)

The Happy Prince and Other Stories. Oscar Wilde. Penguin. Challenged at the Springfield, Oreg. Public Library (1988) because the stories were "distressing and morbid." (Purchase)

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I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Maya Angelou. Bantam. This book gets challenged quite often, due to the poet's descriptions of being raped as a young girl. (Purchase)

It. Stephen King. Viking. Challenged at the Lincoln, Nebr. school libraries (1987); placed on a "closed shelf" at the Franklinville, N.Y. Central High School library (1992). (Purchase)

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James and the Giant Peach. Roald Dahl. ABC-Clio; Knopf. Challenged at the Deep Creek Elementary School in Charlotte Harbor, Fla. (1991) because it is "not appropriate reading material for young children." Challenged at the Pederson Elementary School in Altoona, Wis. (1991) and at the Morton Elementary School library in Brooksville, Fla. (1992) because the book contains the word "ass" and "promotes" the use of drugs (tobacco, snuff) and whiskey. Removed from classrooms in Stafford County, Va. Schools (1995) and placed in restricted access in the library because the story contains crude language and encourages children to disobey their parents and other adults. (Purchase)

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King Lear. William Shakespeare. Airmont; Methuen;NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks. Now considered to be among Shakespeare's greatest works, Lear was performed in drastically adapted form--Nahum Tate's Restoration version eliminated characters and boasted a happy ending in which Lear is restored to the throne and Cordelia survives. The play was subject to political censorship when it was banned from the English stage from 1788 to 1820, out of respect to King George III's alleged insanity. The tragic ending of King Lear was not restored until 1823, and the character of the fool was finally reintroduced in 1838. (Purchase)

The Koran. Penguin; Tahrike Tarsil; Quran. Ban lifted by the Spanish Index in 1790. Restricted to students of history in the USSR (1926). (Purchase)

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Le Morte D'Arthur. Sir Thomas Malory. Scribner; Collier; Penguin. Challenged as required reading at the Pulaski County High School in Somerset, Ky. (1997) because it is "junk." Granted, Malory has problems with his narrative, but YOU try to translate Medieval French texts into comprehesible Middle English. (Purchase)

The Life and Times of Renoir. Janice Anderson. Shooting Star Pr. Restricted at the Pulaski, Pa. Elementary School Library (1997) because of nude paintings in the book. Well, duh. It's Renoir, people.

A Light in the Attic. Shel Silverstein. Harper. Challenged at the Cunningham Elementary School in Beloit, Wis. (1985) because the book "enourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them." Removed from Minot, N.Dak. Public School libraries when the superintendent found "suggestive illustrations." Challenged at the Big Bend Elementary School library in Mukwonago, Wis. (1986) because some of Silverstein's poems "glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient." (Purchase)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. C.S. Lewis. Macmillan. Challenged in the Howard County, Md. school system (1990) because it depicts "graphic violence, mysticism, and gore." I'm sure the school system would rather have its children reading something which adheres to "good Christian values." I cannot recommend the works of C.S. Lewis highly enough. The Narnia books, in particular, are great for readers of all ages. (Purchase this book) (Purchase the entire Chronicles of Narnia)

Little House in the Big Woods. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Buccaneer; harper; Transaction. Removed from the classrooms, but later reinstated, for third-graders at the Lincoln Unified School District in Stockton, Calif. (1996). Complainants also want the book removed from the library because it "promotes racial epithets and is fueling the fire of racism." (Purchase)

Little House on the Prairie. Laura Ingalls Wilder. Buccaneer; Harper; Transaction. Challenged at the Lafourche Parish elementary school libraries in Thibodaux, La. (1993) because the book is "offensive to Indians." Banned in the Sturgis, S. Dak. elementary school classrooms (1993) due to statements considered derogatory to Native Americans. It always amazes me how people would rather ignore or revile literature from a past era, rather than use it to teach acceptance and tolerance. Obviously the characters depicted in the novel do not have "politically correct" 21st century viewpoints. Why not use the opportunity to discuss how things have (hopefully) changed? (Purchase)

The Lorax. Dr. Seuss. Random. Challenged in the Laytonville, Calif. Unified School District (1989) because it "criminalizes the foresting industry." Isn't that the de-foresting industry? (Purchase)

The Lords of Discipline. Pat Conroy. Bantam. Challenged in the Cobb County, Ga. schools (1992) for profanity and descriptions of sadomasochistic acts. Removed from and elective English course by the WestonKa, Minn. School Board (1992) due to parental complaints about language and sex in the book. (Purchase)

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The Martian Chronicles. Ray Bradbury. Bantam. Challenged at the Haines City, Fla. High School (1982) for profanity and the use of God's name in vain. Challenged at the Newton-Conover, N.C. High School (1987) as supplemental reading due to profanity. Challenged at the Gatlinburg-Pittman, Tenn. High School (1993) due to profanity.(Purchase)

My Friend Flicka. Mary O'Hara. Harper; Lippincott. Removed from fifth and sixth grade optional reading lists in Clay County, Fla. schools (1990) because the book uses the word "bitch" to refer to a female dog, as well as the word "damn." (Purchase)

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The Odyssey. Homer. Airmont; Doubleday; Harper; Macmillan; MAL; Oxford Univ. Pr.; Penguin. Plato suggested expurgating it for immature readers (387 B.C.) and Caligula tried to suppress it because it expressed Greek ideals of freedom. (Purchase)

On the Origin of Species. Charles B. Darwin. Harvard Univ. Pr.; Macmillan; Modern Library; NAL; Morton; Penguin; Rowman; Ungar. Banned from Trinity College in Cambridge, UK (1859); Yugoslavia (1935); Greece (1937). The teaching of evolution was prohibited in Tennessee from 1925-1967. (Purchase)

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Paradise Lost. John Milton. Airmont; Holt; Modern Library/Random; NAL; Norton. Listed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in Rome (1758). (Purchase)

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Raisin in the Sun. Lorraine Hansberry. Random. The Ogden, Utah School District (1979) restricted circulation of Hansberry's play in response to criticism from an anti-pornography organization. Did they read the same play I read? (Purchase)

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll. Jim Miller, ed. Random. Challenged in Jefferson, Ky. (1982) because it "will cause our children to become immoral and indecent." They used to say the very same thing about polyphony. (Purchase)

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The Satanic Verses. Salman Rushdie. Viking. Banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa, and India due to its criticism of Islam. Burned in West Yorkshire, England (1989) and temporarily withdrawn from two bookstores on the advice of police. Five people died in riots against the book in Pakistan. Another man died a day later in Kashmir. Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, or religious edict, stating, "I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of the Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the prophet, and the Koran, and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content, have been sentenced to death." Challenged at the Wichita, Kans. Public Library (1989) because it is "blasphemous to the prophet Mohammed." (Purchase)

Slaughterhouse-Five. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Dell; Dial. Burned in Drake, N. Dak. (1973). Banned in Rochester Mich. because the novel "contains and makes references to religious matters" and thus fell within the ban of the establishment clause. Challenged at the Owensboro, Ky. high School library (1985) because of "foul language, a reference to 'Magic Fingers' attached to the protagonist's bed to help him sleep, and the sentence: 'The gun made a ripping sound like the opening of the fly of God Almighty.' " Challenged, but retained on the Round Rock, Tex. Independent High School reading list (1996) after a challenge that the book was too violent. This particular novel is the recipient of a very cool plug in the movie, Footloose, starring Kevin Bacon. (Purchase)

Song of Solomon. Toni Morrison. Knopf; NAL. Challenged, but retained in the Columbus, Ohio schools (1993). The complainant believed that the book contains language degrading to blacks, and is sexually explicit. Removed from required reading lists and library shelves in the Richmond County, Ga. School District (1994). Challenged at the St. Johns County Schools in St. Augustine, Fla. (1995). Removed from the St. Mary's County, Md. schools' approved text list (1998) by the school superintendant over the objections of the faculty. (Purchase)

The Stand. Stephen King. Doubleday; NAL. Restricted at the Whitford Intermediate School in Beaverton, Oreg. (1989) because of "sexual language, casual sex, and violence." (Purchase)

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The Talmud. Soncino Pr. Burned in Cairo, Egypt (1190); Paris, France (1244); and Salamanca, Spain (1490). The Catholic Church in the Middle Ages tried to suppress this work. Pope Gregory IX ordered it burned (1239); Pope Innocent IV ordered King Louis IX of france to burn all copies (1248 and 1254); Pope Benedict XIII ordered the bishops of the Italian dioceses to confiscate all copies (1415); Pope Julius III ordered that Christians reading the Talmud be excommunicated; Pope Clement VIII forbade both "Christians and Jews from owning, reading, buying or circulating Talmudic or Cabbalistic books or other godless writing." (1592)

To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee. Lippincott/Harper; Popular Library. This novel has been challenged quite a lot due to its racial themes. Challenged--and temporarily banned--in Eden Valley, Minn.(1977); Challenged at the Warren, Ind. Township schools (1981), because the book "represents institutionalized racism under the guise of 'good literature'." After unsuccessfully banning the novel, three black parents resigned from the township human relations advisory council. Banned from the Lindale, Tex. advanced placement English reading list (1996) because the book "conflicted with the values of the community." (Purchase)

Tom Jones. Henry Fielding. NAL; Norton; Penguin. Banned in France (1749). I guess the French have a problem with humor. (Purchase)

Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. Airmont; Cambridge Univ. Pr.; Methuen; NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks.; Washington Square. Removed from a Merrimack, N.H. high school English class (1996) because of a policy that bans instruction which has "the effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative." (Purchase)

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Uncle Tom's Cabin. Harriet Beecher Stowe. Airmont; Bantam; Harper; Houghton; Macmillan; NAL. Challenged in the Waukegan, Ill. School District (1984) because the novel contains the word "nigger." Never mind that the novel is often credited with raising public antislavery sentiment which ultimately led to the emancipation of American slaves. (Purchase)

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Vasilissa the Beautiful: Russian Fairy Tales. Progress Pubns. Challenged at the Mena, Ark. schools (1990) because the book contains "violence, voodoo, and cannibalism."

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Welcome to the Monkey House. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Delacorte; Dell. A teacher was dismissed for assigning this collection of short stories to her eleventh grade English class because the book promoted "the killing off of elderly people and free sex." The teacher brought suit and won in Parducci v. Rutland, 316 F.Supp.352, (M.D.Ala 1970). (Purchase)

Where the Sidewalk Ends. Shel Silverstein. Harper. Challenged at the West Allis-West Milwaukee, Wis. school libraries (1986) because the book "suggests drug use, the occult, suicide, death, violence, disrespect for truth, disrespect for legitimate authority, rebellion against parents." Challenged at the Central Columbia School District in Bloomsburg, Pa. (1993) because a poem titled "Dreadful" talks about how "someone ate the baby." On the other hand, this book does present the negative consequences of not taking the garbage out. (Purchase)

Where's Waldo? Martin Handford. Little. Challenged at the Public Libraries of Saginaw, Mich. (1989), Removed from the Springs Public School library in East Hampton, N.Y. (1993) because there is a tiny drawing of a woman lying on the beach wearing a bikini bottom but no top. Yes, but did they find Waldo? (Purchase)

The Witches of Worm. Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Atheneum. Challenged at the Hays, Kans. Public Library (1989) because it "could lead young readers to embrace satanism." The Newbery Award-winning book was retained on the approved reading list at Matthew Henson Middle School in Waldorf, Md. (1991) despite objections to its references to the occult. (Purchase)

A Wrinkle In Time. Madeleine L'Engle. Dell. Challenged at the Polk City, Fla. Elementary School (1985) by a parent who believed that the story promotes witchcraft, crystal balls, and demons. Challenged in the Anniston Ala. schools (1990). The complainant objected to the book's listing the name of Jesus Christ together with the names of great artists, philosophers, scientists, and religious leaders when referring to those who defend earth against evil. Got it. Let's cross Jesus off that list, shall we? (Purchase)

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Zen Buddhism: Selected Writings. D.T. Suzuki. Doubleday. Challenged at the Plymouth-Canton school system in Canton, Mich. (1987) because "this book details the teachings of the religion of Buddhism in such a way that the reader could very likely embrace its teachings and choose this as his religion." The last thing we need are a bunch of peaceful Buddhists running around. The horror. (Purchase)

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© 1998-2004 by Janet Yanosko. Updated March 6, 2005

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