A Few Banned Picture Books

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. The books featured during Banned Books Week have all been targeted for removal or restrictions in libraries and schools. Banned Books Week highlights the value of free and open access to information.

I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings is a true story about a young transgender individual. In recent years, there have been several other picture books published that tell the stories of young children who break gender norms, however I Am Jazz was one of the very first to do so.

In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak won a Caldecott Honor medal. The book is about a young boy who dreams he is being made into a cake by “night kitchen” cooks. The controversy? Despite having pajamas on while sleeping, the boy dreams in the nude. At first blush, it is just a strange book…however, many of Sendak’s relatives died in the Holocaust. The cooks in the book have Hitler mustaches and want to put the boy in the oven to make him into a cake. There is also a 6-pointed yellow star on one of the cook’s tins of salt. It appears that Sendak was telling the Jewish story throughout¬† his books.

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson is a true story about two penguins that “adopt” an orphaned baby penguin in New York City’s Central Park Zoo. Both of the adult penguins are male penguins and therein lies the controversy.


The Lorax is the most well known of Dr. Seuss’ books to be challenged. That being said, there are a few others of his that have been called into question. The Lorax was challenged for criminalizing the foresting industry. Seuss’ book, If I Ran the Zoo, has also been questioned for racism. Books get challenged for many different reasons; liberal or conservative politics does not matter.


Where’s Waldo¬†by Martin Handford is a perfect example of how illustrations can become the target of a book challenge. There is effectively no plot to the Waldo books, which is why it seems odd to many that this book was problematic to someone. On one of the pages of the original book, there is an illustration of a tiny woman on the beach with a bikini bottom on but no bikini top.


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