Eight banned classic children's books

By Marilynn McLachlan

Photo / Martin Woodhall
Photo / Martin Woodhall

Blasphemy, homosexual ideas and psychological damage have all been used as reasons to remove some of the most-loved children's books from shelves.

Here are eight treasured children's books that have been banned at various times and places around the world.

1. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll

With all of the books twists and adventures, it was the fact that the animals were able to use human language, therefore putting animals on the same level as humans, that caused the book to be banned in China.

It was also banned in 1900 by a school in New Hampshire for containing "expletives, sexual content and derogatory characterisations of teachers and of religious ceremonies".

2. Green Eggs and Ham - Dr. Seuss

"That Sam-I-am, that Sam-I-am, I do not like that Sam-I-am" - the words that are part of so many children's lives were deemed to be a portrayal of early Marxism and included homosexual ideas by the People's Republic of China and the book was banned until 1991 as a result.

3. Where the Wild Things Are - Maurice Sendak

When it went to print in 1967, there were many objections over the dark nature of this classic children's book. A child psychologist, Bruno Bettelheim, wrote in his 1969 column for Ladies' Home Journal that the book was psychologically damaging for three and four year-olds. He believed that depriving children of food was an inappropriate form of punishment and would traumatize young readers.

It was banned by all US libraries for the first few years after its release.

4. Winnie-the Pooh - A.A. Milne

The delightful adventures of Pooh and his friends have captured the hearts of many children, but they have been banned by numerous countries around the world. Like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, talking animals were deemed inappropriate and this led to its ban in parts of the US. In other parts of the world the book has caused no end of offence - in Turkey because allegedly Piglet is offensive to Muslims, in Russia because of alleged Nazi ties and a Californian school sent a 14-year-old to an in-school suspension program because of her Tigger-embroided socks.

5. Charlotte's Web - E.B. White

It has sold more than 45 million copies worldwide, but it has been banned in parts of both Britain and in the US. In 2006, a group of parents in Kansas found the book blasphemous and unnatural, saying "humans are the highest level of God's creation and are the only creatures that can communicate vocally. Showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God."

In another school in Britain, the book was banned because it "might" be offensive to Muslim students. The Muslim Council of Britain stepped in and the book returned to the library shelves.

6. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl

This childhood favourite caused controversy over alleged racism when it was published in 1964. In the original book, Oompa-Loompas work for a wage of beans, sing chants while they do their work, and allow numerous experiments to be conducted on them - but they were not small orange-skinned creatures - they were African pygmies. Dahl, after hearing the criticisms, revised the book to how it is known today.

The book was also banned from a library in Colorado as it "espouses a poor philosophy of life".

Read more here.

7. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz - Frank Baum

This timeless classic has been shrouded in debate for many years as various groups have found ways to deem it to be offensive. In 1928 it was banned in Chicago for its ungodly influence in depicting women in strong leadership roles.

Decades later, in 1957 the Detroit Public Library banned it for having "no value for children today" because it supports negativism and "for bringing children's minds to a cowardly level".

8. Harriet the Spy - Louise Fitzhugh

A self-proclaimed spy, Harriet takes studious notes about life with striking honesty, making her a firm favourite of children. Her flawed character has caused controversy since the book publication 50 years ago. It was banned in some schools and libraries in the US because "it set a bad example for children". In 1983 another wanted the book banned in Xenia, Ohio, saying that the book "teaches children to lie, spy, back-talk and curse".

- nzherald.co.nz

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