What Do Harper Lee And Captain Underpants Have In Common?
Several weeks ago, the social media world, or the country, or someone out there, celebrated “Banned Books Week.” Essentially, reading and promoting books that have been banned by schools and libraries in the past.
I’m not into starting political arguments on this blog, so I won’t throw out the censorship card. But I will say I’m all for a parent having the right to determine what his or her child reads. I know when my boy gets a little older, I’ll keep an eye on that.
But if you judge the American Library Association’s list of most challenged books from 2000-2009, it’s easy to see that some parents, school administrators, and librarians have lost their collective mind. Here are just a few books that made the ALA’s top 100 list of most challenged books.
Harry Potter (ranked #1): Seriously? I don’t get it. My guess is that Potter is on the list because of “witchcraft” and “wizardry.” And, you know what, it makes total sense. After I read these books, I went out and bought a wand and a robe and an owl and practiced hexing my neighbor’s dog because it barks all night.
These days, I moonlight as a wizard and have been crafting an invisibility cloak in my spare time. If it wouldn’t have been for J.K. Rowling, I would’ve never become the wizard I am today. Stupefy!
Captain Underpants (ranked #13): An overweight fourth grader saves the world in “tightie whities” pulled up to his chest and a cape. Come on, how awesome is that?
According to the always trustworthy Wikipedia, though, the book “was banned in some schools for insensitivity and being unsuited to age group, as well as encouraging children to disobey authority.” As we used to say back in the mid-90s, someone needs to take a chill pill.
To Kill A Mockingbird (ranked #19): This is a classic case of not being able to see the forest because of the trees. Harper Lee’s classic is usually challenged in schools on grounds of racial epithets, racist characters, etc.
Yes, there are racist characters in To Kill A Mockingbird, just like there’s an evil emperor in I, Claudius and a psychopath murderer in Blood Meridian. They’re called antagonists, the bad guys. Evil does exist in the world, and it should also be portrayed realistically in novels. To challenge To Kill A Mockingbird on any grounds is ludicrous.
Bridge to Terabithia (Ranked #28): Another banned kids book. Why? I haven’t read this one, but I’m sure it has something to do with overly-sensitive parents. The book was inspired by The Chronicles of Narnia—what could possibly be wrong with it? And, for once in this post, I’m not being sarcastic.
Slaughterhouse Five (ranked #46): Most parents don’t like the language in this one. Plus, some don’t like the anti-war ideals of the book. It’s easy for me to say because my one-year-old’s reading list right now includes Corduroy, Elmo, and a bunch of pop-up books about barnyard animals, but I hope I don’t parent out of fear when he gets older.
In other words, I hope my wife and I don’t keep him in a bubble. I hope we’re not so insecure in the beliefs and faith we pass down to him that we view anyone or any book that espouses another ideal as a threat. In my opinion, too many parents equate learning about something with approving of it. That’s two totally different things.
Friday Night Lights (ranked #89): Huh? Was the scene where the running back tears his ACL too graphic?
My guess is that probably 95% of the parents who challenged these books read less than a page or two of the contested novel. So frustrating. You see the “N word” used out of context, and suddenly you think Harper Lee is trying to teach kids to be racists? What?
Some others on the list include Of Mice and Men, The Giver, Beloved, Brave New World, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Kite Runner, Fahrenheit 451, and the always-present Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
Take a look at the entire list.
Are you surprised that any of these books have been challenged and/or banned? If you have kids, where do you draw the line (or do you draw a line?) on what they read?