Technically, Banned Books Week was last month, but I’m still catching up here.  My house was on fire last month, for Pete’s sake.

This is the ALA’s list of the 100 Most Challenged Books of 1990-2000.  Click on the linkies to see the most challenged books of 2006 and the most challenged books of the twenty-first century (so far).  (Hat tip:  Ziff of Zelophehad’s Daughters.)  I decided to see how many of these infamous books I had read.  At the bottom I’ll paste the lists and bold the titles of those tomes I have graced with my reading pleasure (or something like that). 

BUT FIRST!!!  Some random notes because otherwise this is a pretty weak entry:

  • The most challenged book of 2006 was And Tango Makes Three, which is apparently a children’s book about a couple of gay penguins who adopt a chick.  I don’t mean to be offensive, but doesn’t this sound like a joke?  If I wanted to make a joke about an offensive kids’ book, I’d definitely use penguins.  Penguins are just inherently funny.
  • Some regulars on the Challenged Books List are missing this year.  Apparently there is enough gay penguin sex flying around out there that there is less time and energy left to get upset about the N-word in Huckleberry Finn.  Maybe that’s a good thing.
  • The top three reasons for challenging material are 1) sexual explicitness, 2) offensive language and 3) unsuitability for age group.  You can see (below) that I haven’t read any of the books with the word “sex” in the title.  I have, however, read a lot of stuff that was unsuitable for my age group.
  • The book that jumps out at me is Bridge to Terabithia.  I imagine that gets challenged for age-unsuitability, in the event that it is part of a grade-school curriculum.  I can’t imagine anyone would object to having it on a shelf in a grade school.  But then, I can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that it would be unsuitable for a grade-school curriculum.  If they’re old enough to read the words, they can probably handle what the words say.  But what do I know, my entire sex education consisted of about thirty pages in The Thorn Birds (totally unsuitable for a twelve-year-old, in case you were wondering).
  • I read The Catcher in the Rye my senior year of high school.  It wasn’t part of the curriculum at my high school, but the ninth-graders at a neighboring high school had to read it, and parents were upset aplenty.  So, feeling left out of the controversy, I decided to pick up a copy.  I remember getting to the end and thinking, “Is that it?”  I mean, it’s a good book, but I was expecting something a lot more scandalous.  (Reminds me of that old Simpsons episode when Bart, Milhouse and Nelson walk out of the movie house where Naked Lunch is playing and Nelson says, “There were two things wrong with that title!”) 
  • My mother thought Judy Blume was a scandal.  So did I, in the third grade, which is why I read her.  I actually read part of Forever in, like, seventh grade–but it was too gross.  (The Thorn Birds was better.)
  • A taste of irony:  I was actually going to have Princess Zurg read Anastasia Krupnik because I remembered enjoying it so much at her age.  Then I glanced through it again and saw that it had the s*** word in it, and I changed my mind.  Mainly because PZ is such a prude.  Part of me is hoping she’ll outgrow that, but part of me isn’t.
  • My mother told me that she tried to read Slaughterhouse 5 once, but she was so disgusted by it that she actually threw it in the garbage.  Not only did she throw it in the garbage, but she wrapped it in a plain brown wrapper before putting it in the garbage so that the garbage man wouldn’t know she was reading such a disgusting book.  This from a woman who regularly came home from the library with psycho-killer paperbacks, the kind with blood dripping off the titles.  Well, whatever.  When I finally read it, in my mother’s home no less, I had a similar reaction as with The Catcher in the Rye.  I didn’t get what all the fuss was over.
  • Flannery O’Connor said that if you took out the rape, To Kill a Mockingbird would be a very fine children’s book.  Apparently she didn’t see what all the fuss was over, either.
  • Brave New World was the only scandalous book I had to read at school.  A lot of the kids I went to seminary with objected to reading that book.  They thought it was really immoral.  In other words, they totally missed the point of the book (gee, Madhousewife, book snob much? snort)–which I guess is usually the case with books that are prone to being challenged.  With the possible exception of Where’s Waldo.
  • I would never have guessed that Ordinary People would be causing such a stir so many years after its initial publication.  Where is this book being challenged?  Idaho?  (Not that Idaho is behind the times or anything…just wondering.  Yeah, I’m one to talk about “behind the times,” Miss Three Weeks Late for Banned Books Week.  Just get off my back, okay?)
  1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
  2. Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
  3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
  5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  8. Forever by Judy Blume
  9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
  10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  11. Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
  12. My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  15. It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
  16. Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
  17. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
  18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  19. Sex by Madonna (What the hell???)
  20. Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
  21. The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
  22. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  23. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  24. Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
  25. In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
  26. The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
  27. The Witches by Roald Dahl
  28. The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
  29. Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
  30. The Goats by Brock Cole
  31. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
  32. Blubber by Judy Blume
  33. Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
  34. Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
  35. We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
  36. Final Exit by Derek Humphry
  37. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  38. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
  39. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  40. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
  41. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  43. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  44. The Pigman by Paul Zindel
  45. Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
  46. Deenie by Judy Blume
  47. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  48. Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
  49. The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
  50. Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
  51. A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
  52. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  53. Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
  54. Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
  55. Cujo by Stephen King
  56. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
  57. The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
  58. Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  59. Ordinary People by Judith Guest
  60. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  61. What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
  62. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  63. Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
  64. Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
  65. Fade by Robert Cormier
  66. Guess What? by Mem Fox
  67. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  68. The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
  69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  70. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  71. Native Son by Richard Wright
  72. Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday
  73. Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
  74. Jack by A.M. Homes
  75. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
  76. Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
  77. Carrie by Stephen King
  78. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
  79. On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
  80. Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
  81. Family Secrets by Norma Klein
  82. Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
  83. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
  84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
  86. Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
  87. Private Parts by Howard Stern
  88. Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford (I’m glad someone’s trying to purge our school libraries of this book.  It’s a scourge on our educational system.)
  89. Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
  90. Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
  91. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  92. Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
  93. Sex Education by Jenny Davis
  94. The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
  95. Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
  96. How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
  97. View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
  98. The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  99. The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
  100. Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

So–31 out of 100.  I have indeed led a sheltered life.  What’s your purity score?

P.S.  Feel free to recommend a scandalous book of your own choosing.  No literary merit required!

For some reason only the ones column will show up on those numbers above.  WordPress is funny about the cutting and pasting.  Trust me, I do know how to count.

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