Americans have been banning books since at least the 1800's, when Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin was met with widespread censorship in the south over its abolitionist message. Since then, hundereds of books have been challenged and banned by libraries, school districts, and even federal courts. Banned Books Week began in 1982 to draw attention to these widespread challenges to the free distribution of literature. The event was intended to show that banning attempts haven't been levelled only at famously controversial books, but also at beloved titles like Charlotte's Web and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Check out some of the banned, challenged, and contested books The Strand has on our Banned Books table below. Is your favorite book on the list?

A Wrinkle in Time Madeleine L'Engle
$9.99
Ranked #22 in the ALA's list of most banned books 1990-2000. The most common claim asserts that it contains occult elements like witches, crystal balls, and unusual abilities that do not come from God. Jerry Falwell Ministries claimed that it undermines religious beliefs and contains offensive language. While many argue that IT and the planet Camazotz serve as anti-communist symbolism, the book has also been challenged for pro-communist sentiments.
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All Quiet on the Western Front Erich Maria Remarque
$6.29
Some said it portrayed Germans as whimpering and cowardly; others, mostly Germans, said the novel exaggerated the horrors of war in order to advance Remarque's so-called 'pacifist agenda'.
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Animal Farm George Orwell
$12.60
Animal Farm is an allegory for the rise and decline of socialism in the Soviet Union and the emergence of the totalitarian rule of Stalin. It was banned in the USSR until the 1980s for being anti-Communist but also banned in the USA for the Communist text in its introduction. Published in 1945, it is arguably one of Orwell's best known works and among the most important books of the 20th century.
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Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl Anne Frank
$3.00-$6.29
In November 2010, Culpepper County Public Schools stopped assigning the 50th anniversary “definitive” version of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl to eighth grade students after a parent complained that it contains inappropriate sexual and homosexual themes. The contested version will remain in the school's library, but a different version, shorn of the sexual language, is now being assigned. According to the ALA, there have been six challenges to the book since 1990, most concerning “sexually explicit” material.
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As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
$7.50-$13.45
Banned in the Graves County School District in Mayfield, KY (1986) because it contained “offensive and obscene passages referring to abortion and used God's name in vain.” The decision was reversed a week later after intense pressure from the ACLU and considerable negative publicity. Banned at Central High School in Louisville, KY (1994) temporarily because the book uses profanity and questions the existence of God.
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Beloved Toni Morrison
$14.40
Challenged in multiple places across the United States, Morrison’s book about an escaped slave who rears her children in a world of fright and lack of freedom includes instances of violence and sexual abuse. Challenges cite violence, sexual content, bestiality, and racism as reasons for removing the Pulitzer Prize winning work from curricula.
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Brave New World Aldous Huxley
$8.00-$14.39
Huxley’s dystopian view of society depicts adults dulling their senses with pacifying drugs and casual sex. What Huxley uses as a tool to illustrate what he felt was wrong with society is exactly what those opposed to the book latch on to when challenging it.
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Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Bill Martin
$7.15
The Texas Education Board banned the picture book Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? this month because they confused its author, Bill Martin Jr., and Bill Martin, the author of a book called Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.
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Carrie Stephen King
$7.19
This novel is one of the most commonly banned books in schools in the US. Because of Carrie’s violence, cursing, underage sex and negative view of religion, many schools refuse to carry the book.
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Catch-22 Joseph Heller
$16.20
This anti-war satire is surprisingly not challenged due to that theme, but because of the depiction of women in the novel. It was challenged in Dallas, TX and Snoqualmie, WA because of the frequent use of the word “whore.” The novel was banned in Strongville, OH in 1972 for indecent language but the ban was reversed in 1976
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Charlotte's Web E.B. White
$4.50-$7.95
In 2006, some parents in a Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural - specifically “showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God”. Passages about the spider dying were also criticized as being “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book”.
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The Color Purple Alice Walker
$5.95
Some of the reasons this book is challenged include the violence, profanity, and sexuality in the book, including a rape scene. However, it has also been challenged and banned in various states because of its depictions of racism and race relations, including in Oregon for the “book's negative image of black men.”
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Doctor Zhivago Boris Pasternak
$6.95
Doctor Zhivago was refused publication in the Soviet Union because of its criticism of the October Revolution and was never published there during the author’s lifetime. It finally appeared in serialized form in 1988, 28 years after Pasternak's death. According to declassified CIA documents, the book was intentionally used as a tool to “provoke dissent in the USSR.”
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Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
$8.50-$15.29
In 1640, it was condemned by the Spanish Inquisition for one sentence which supposedly reflected Lutheran beliefs: 'Works of charity performed negligently have neither merit nor value.' The sentence was removed in a reprinted edition, which continued to sell. General Pinochet banned the book in 1981 in Chile because it advocated individual freedom and an attack on authority.
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Fahrenheit 451 Ray Bradbury
$8.00-$14.39
Perhaps one of the most ironic banned books, Fahrenheit 451 deals with the issue of censorship in a dystopian society that sends firefighters out to burn down houses discovered to have books inside. Those opposed to this book claim various reasons for banning it including profanity, portrayal of smoking and drinking, and anti-religious and anti-establishment sentiments. In Irvine, CA students were given a censored version of the book with “hell” and “damn” blacked out.
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Flowers for Algernon Daniel Keyes
$11.65
Challenges generally center on the protagonist's struggle to understand and express his sexuality, citing language and explicit content. The book has been removed from libraries in Pennsylvania and Texas, and unsuccessfully challenged elsewhere.
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Forever... Judy Blume
$7.99
Blume is frequently the target of censorship as many of her books deal with teen issues revolving around sexuality. Forever documents a high school girl’s loss of virginity and delves into the emotional aspects of her choice. Challenged for being anti-monogamy, discussion of birth control and pre-marital sex, and a lack of moral tone.
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Go Ask Alice Anonymous
$5.00-$8.95
Due to its frequent and strong references to sex, heavy drug usage, and teen pregnancy, libraries and schools across the country have banned the novel. Ironically, the book was published by the parents of a high schooler who committed suicide in the hopes that it would dissuade other teens from trying drugs.
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Gone With the Wind Margaret Mitchell
$8.95
The controversial classic was banned in a California school district for its depiction of the immoral behavior of Scarlett O'Hara and the freed slaves in the novel. Challenged in 1984 for the use of the n-word.
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The Grapes of Wrath John Steinbeck
$16.20
In 1939, by a vote of 4 to 1, the county board of supervisors in Kern County, CA (the county where the novel is set) approved a resolution banning The Grapes Of Wrath from libraries and schools. They called the book “libel and a lie” for unfairly depicting the government's treatment of migrant workers. It has also been banned and challenged for sexual content and profanity.
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Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and His Struggle with India Joseph Lelyveld
$16.95
Banned in parts of India, including Gandhi's home state of Gujarat, because of interpretations that the work alleged a homosexual relationship between Gadhi and a German named Hermann Kallenbach. Author Lelyveld claimed this was a misinterpretation of his writing.
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Green Eggs and Ham Dr. Seuss
$7.95
Green Eggs and Ham was banned in China for its portrayal of “early Marxism” from 1965 until Dr. Seuss’ death in 1991.
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Hamlet William Shakespeare
$7.20
Early prints of Hamlet in the 1800s were frequently censored, cutting out references to incest or sex. Other censored scenes include the gravediggers discussions of how class defines burial rites and passages perceived to give offense to the monarchy or clergy. Hamlet was also banned by Stalin's regime in the USSR for Hamlet's “indecisiveness and depression incompatible with the Soviet spirit.”
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone J.K. Rowling
$11.69
Harry Potter has been challenged in many places across the United States and around the world for supposed subtextual references to Satanism and the occult, and that it glorifies witchcraft. Other grounds for banning include objections to inappropriate or anti-authoritarian behavior, and the criticism that the series is too dark and therefore unsuited for children.
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Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
$7.77
Its violent content, and use of the n-word have seen it banned from many US schools.
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In Cold Blood Truman Capote
$8.00-$14.40
This true story details the violent murder of an entire family by two criminals in search of money that they were wrongly informed existed at the family’s farmhouse. This book is considered to be the first true crime book. Banned from school libraries for a short time from 1999-2000 in Savannah, GA after a parent complained about violence, sex, and profanity in the book.
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The Jungle Upton Sinclair
$6.00
...the dangerous and purportedly socialist views expressed in the book and Sinclair’s Oil led to its being banned in Yugoslavia, East Germany, South Korea and Boston.
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Leaves of Grass Walt Whitman
$14.40
Whitman published several versions of this book filled with his poetry that often celebrates sexuality, both homosexual and heterosexual. From the late 1800's to the present day, these poems have faced challenges to be read. Banned legally in Boston in 1880, in 1870 the President of Yale compared the poems to Whitman “waking naked through the streets”. Libraries refused to buy the book, and in 1881 Whitman's publisher was threatened with legal action by the Boston District Attorney.
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Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
$8.00-$14.35
First published by a pornographic press in France, Nabokov explores the life of Humbert Humbert, a pedophile who runs away with the 12 year-old daughter of his landlady. The book was banned from many countries and still experiences challenges today.
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Lysistrata Aristophanes
$5.95
Banned in the US in 1873 as obscene material, in Greece by the Nazis in 1942, and by the Greek military junta in 1967. Lysistrata is an account of one woman's mission to end The Peloponnesian War - she convinces the women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace. Even when it was written, it was considered “unacceptably subversive” by Greek authorities.
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Macbeth William Shakespeare
$4.95
The Savannah Morning News reported in November 1999 that a teacher at the Windsor Forest High School required seniors to obtain permission slips before they could read Hamlet, Macbeth, or King Lear. The teacher's school board had pulled the books from class reading lists, citing “adult language” and references to sex and violence.
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The Merchant of Venice William Shakespeare
$3.00-$7.20
Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice was banned from classrooms in Midland, Michigan in 1980, due to its portrayal of the Jewish character Shylock. It has been similarly banned in the 1930s in schools in Buffalo and Manchester, NY. Many of Shakespeare's plays have also often been “cleansed” of crude words and phrases.
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Of Mice and Men John Steinbeck
$9.90
Steinbeck’s portrayal of an unusual friendship between two men, one of whom is developmentally challenged, has prompted many to oppose the book due to the language, social and racial implications, and violence in the book. Challenged in Chattanooga, TN for in 1989 because “Steinbeck is known to have had an anti business attitude” and “he was very questionable as to his patriotism.”
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Operation Dark Heart Anthony Shaffer
$13.00
In September 2010 the U.S. Department of Defense overrode the Army's January approval for publication. The DoD then purchased and destroyed all 9,500 first edition copies citing concerns that it contained classified information which could damage the integrity of U.S. National Security. The publisher, St. Martin's Press, in conjunction with the DoD created a censored second edition; which contains blackened out words, lines, paragraphs, and even portions of the index. In 2013 198 of the 433 redactions were declassified by the Pentagon.
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Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Marjane Satrapi
$7.50
Was removed from classrooms in a Chicago district for “graphic language and images that are not appropriate for general use.”
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Push Sapphire
$5.95-$7.00
Challenged on an extracurricular reading list in the Horry County, S.C. school library (2011). The 1996 novel is based on the story of Precious Jones, an illiterate sixteen-year-old, who grows up in poverty. Precious is raped by her father, battered by her mother, and dismissed by social workers. The story follows Precious, pregnant with a second child by her father, through her journey of learning how to read and be on her own. Challengers objected to the lack of “good family values” in the novel
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Prep Curtis Sittenfeld
$14.40
This story about a ninth grade girl who attends a New England boarding school was pulled from a few reading lists and summer reading programs because it wasn't age appropriate or was viewed as “pornographic.”
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Running With Scissors: A Memoir Augusten Burroughs
$5.00
Challenged as a suggested reading in Hillsborough County, FL. One high school's report stated: “This book has extremely inappropriate content for a high school media center collection. The book contained explicit homosexual and heterosexual situations, profanity, underage drinking and smoking, extreme moral shortcomings, child molesters, graphic pedophile situations and total lack of negative consequences throughout the book.”
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Slaughterhouse-Five Kurt Vonnegut
$13.50-$14.40
Kurt Vonnegut's classic describes the adventures of Billy Pilgrim, chaplain's assistant and reluctant soldier, who becomes “unstuck in time” after being captured during the Battle of the Bulge. The book has been challenged multiple times for sexual content and language, including blasphemy and accusations that it promotes “deviant sexual behavior”.
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Tess of the D'Urbervilles Thomas Hardy
$20.70
One of the original reasons for censorship was that Hardy was breaking the sexual norms of his society, and challenging the sexual double standard that existed. He proclaimed to all that the rape of Tess, his epitome of nature, made her no less a good woman than those in “decent” society.
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The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
$8.00-$14.40
Tuscon Unified School district in Arizona voted to ban the Mexican American Studies curriculum, including books by authors like Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie. Tucson officials did this in response to the threat by state Education Department officials to withhold millions of dollars in funding. Administrators “informed Mexican-American studies teachers to stay away from any units where “race, ethnicity and oppression are central themes.”
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The Autobiography of Malcolm X Malcolm X, Alex Haley
$16.00
Objectors have called this seminal work a “how-to-manual” for crime and decried because of “anti-white statements” present in the book.
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The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer
$9.90
Banned from the U.S. mail under the Federal Anti-Obscenity Act (Comstock Law) of 1873, which banned the sending or receiving of works containing “obscene,” “filthy,” or “inappropriate” material.
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The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
$7.95
The Catcher in the Rye has been one of the most opposed books in the US over the years due to its profanity and references to sex. According the ALA, it was the 10th most frequently challenged book between 1990 and 1999.
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The Clan of the Cave Bear Jean M. Auel
$7.95
The Clan of the Cave Bear, a novel set in prehistoric times, was banned from a middle-school library after a parent objected to a rape scene in the book. The Bethel School Board voted two weeks ago to ban the book from the Cascade Middle School library after a parent complained.
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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Mark Haddon
$13.45
Mark Haddon's novel about a 15-year-old boy with Asperger's Syndrome who investigates the death of his neighbor's dog was pulled from a summer reading list over concerns about swearing and taking God's name in vain.
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The Da Vinci Code Dan Brown
$4.95-$5.00
Banned in September 2004 in Lebanon after Catholic leaders deemed it offensive to Christianity. Muslim groups in India also objected to the book over its depiction of Jesus Christ.
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The First Circle Aleksandr I Solzhenitsyn
$7.50
In 1964, all current and future works by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn were banned in the Soviet Union because of his outspoken critiques of the Soviet regime. This work details the lives of scientists forced to work in a Stalinist research center.
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The Giver Lois Lowry
$7.95
The award-winning book that depicts a society driven to maintain an amazing amount of control over its members, including euthanasia and suicide. Some parents have reacted strongly to these themes in the book and seek to ban it as “unsuited to the age group” (too dark for children) or as excessively violent. Some parents called the book 'lewd' and 'twisted.'
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The Handmaid's Tale Margaret Atwood
$14.35
A dystopian fictional world where women's only function is to breed. It was #37 on the American Library Association's 100 most frequently challenged books, claimed to be anti-Christian and pornographic.
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The Kite Runner Khaled Hosseini
$7.00
Besides the Afghanistan government’s upset over the content of the book, including the depiction of ethnic conflict, others around the world have challenged the book due to claims of offensive language, religious viewpoints, homosexuality and a sexually explicit scene in which a young boy is raped.
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The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
$14.39
Profanity and the use of God's name in vain sparked opposition to this science fiction novel. Another challenge cited racist language levied against black citizens seeking to start their own outer space colony by their racist neighbors.
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Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America Barbara Ehrenreich
$7.00
Nickel and Dimed was challenged in a couple of Pennsylvania schools, citing the book as faddish, having no moral value, and being obscene. It has also been criticized as promoting economic fallacies and socialist ideas, as well as profanity, offensive references to Christianity, and a biased portrayal of capitalism. In Topeka and Shawnee County, Kansas Public Library, the book was restricted because the organization Kansans for Common Sense deemed the book “harmful to minors under state law”. (Source: Marshall University Library)
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The Odyssey Homer
$5.50-$5.95
Homer's The Odyssey was targeted by famous philosopher Plato as an exhibition of the potentially corrupting influence of literature on the mind. It also ran into trouble in A.D. 35 in Rome, where according to Suetonius Emperor Caligula tried to ban it because of its expression of Greek ideals of freedom.
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Stranger in a Strange Land Robert A. Heinlein
$8.95
The book was actually retained after a 2003 challenge in Mercedes, TX to the book’s adult themes. However, parents were subsequently given more control over what their child was assigned to read in class, a common school board response to a challenge.
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The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky
$12.60
The book was banned and is frequently challenged because of controversial topics such as homosexuality, drug use by teenagers, sexual behavior and abortion. It has appeared 6 times on the ALA's 10 Most Frequently Challenged Books list.
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The Namesake Jhumpa Lahiri
$7.95 - $8.00
Challenged in Idaho for explicit sexual references and language.
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The Satanic Verses Salman Rushdie
$9.95
Rushdie wrote a novel that satirized some of the more narrow-minded and (to Westerners, at least) antiquated aspects of zealotous Islam. He included a murderous, fringe, irrational, power-abusing character modeled after Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. Ayatollah decreed a fatwa, calling on “all good Muslims” to kill Rushdie. Rushdie went into hiding after repeated attempts on his life (and the lives of others connected to the book, like the translator).
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Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston
$7.50
When it was first published, the novel was controversial because of its sexual content, which Hurston brought to life through Janie, the main character, and her struggle through three marriages and poverty. Janie tries to find her identity and voice in a society where, because of her gender and race, she is brought down to the lowest social class. According to the ALA, the book was unsuccessfully “challenged for sexual explicitness” at Stonewall Jackson High School in Virginia, where a parent requested it be removed from the academically advanced reading list.
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To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
$13.49
Racism, language, and a rape scene are the usual culprits when banning this book. Many black community members have protested the racist language used in the book, especially the n-word. Harper Lee was attempting to highlight the rampant racism of her time in this much beloved book in an attempt to change the wrongs she saw in society.
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Water for Elephants Sara Gruen
$6.95-$7.00
Removed from a spring break elective course after a parent complained about sexual content. The complainant further suggested that the school only allow “youth versions” of particular books or organize a parental review system over the summer that would look at books that students need parental permission to read. A checklist was proposed for use to review books and other instructional materials.
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Where's Waldo? Martin Handford
$15.29
In the original 1987 edition of “Where’s Waldo?”, a topless woman can be seen sunbathing in the beach scene.
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A Light in the Attic Shel Silverstein
$17.95
Shel Silverstein's book of poetry A Light in the Attic (1981) was challenged and then banned at Cunningham Elementary School in Wisconsin because it “encourages children to break dishes so they won't have to dry them.” Another elementary school concurred: some of Silverstein's poems, according to them, “glorified Satan, suicide and cannibalism, and also encouraged children to be disobedient.”
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The Giving Tree Shel Silverstein
$8.50-$15.29
Everyone's favorite childhood book was banned from a public library in Colorado because it was considered “sexist” since the boy keeps returning to the female tree, taking more and more from her without giving anything back. It was also challenged by several schools because it “criminalized the foresting agency.”
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