And the Banned Played On

It’s Banned Books Week once again, the American Library Association’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. As you might imagine, LGBT-inclusive children’s books are high on the list of works that have people have tried to have removed from libraries and schools across the country.

Each year, the ALA tracks the books that have garnered such challenges. And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins who raise a chick together, has topped the list in both 2006 and 2007.


Other LGBT-inclusive works among the 100 most-challenged books between 2000 and 2007 include Heather Has Two Mommies, King & King, and, for older readers, The Color Purple and Rainbow Boys.

Not yet on the list, but sure to be included when the 2008 challenges are totaled after the end of the year, is Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, about two gay guinea pigs and their niece. I’ve written about this book and its challenges several times before.

Uncle Bobby can at least take comfort that he is not the first furry creature to face controversy over his nuptials. The Rabbits’ Wedding, Garth Williams’ 1958 story of a black and a white rabbit who marry, caused something of an uproar in the South at the time, where it was removed from libraries or transferred to reserve shelves because people saw it as promoting interracial marriage.

Plus ça change. . . .

What are your favorite challenged books? Does Harry Potter really make you want to abandon a mainstream faith and turn to witchcraft? If so, is that really such a bad thing?

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Maurice Sendak Comes Out

Maurice Sendak, author of beloved children’s classics such as Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen has just come out as gay. He revealed this in an interview with the New York Times in honor of his 80th birthday, which will be celebrated Monday by a benefit in Manhattan. Sendak has kept his sexuality a secret for his entire career; his partner of 50 years died last year.

I am delighted that Sendak feels able to come out now. He is a welcome addition to the pantheon of LGBT people who have enriched our world and that of our children.

Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, a 1971 Caldecott Honor Book, is listed on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 because the young boy protagonist appears naked on several pages. This is ridiculous. The fact is, children get naked and play sometimes, and Sendak’s portrayal of the boy is full of nothing more than childlike exuberance. I just know the ultra-right is going to connect this with his sexuality, though, and roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth.

Sendak had the right response: “BE STILL!”

(Thanks, PageOneQ. Crossposted at Mombian.)

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Penguins Threaten Traditional Family Values

And Tango Makes Three, the children’s book based on a true story about two male penguins who adopt an abandoned egg, tops the American Library Association’s list of “10 Most Challenged Books of 2006,” “for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group.” A challenge, according to the ALA, is “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” Other books on the list include Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Beloved, based on “sexual content and offensive language.”

As I’ve said before, it seems the right has felt particularly sensitive about penguins ever since they claimed March of the Penguins as an example of “traditional family values.”

Personally, I think it’s time for a March of the Penguins on Washington.

What’s your favorite book from the ALA list, this year or in the past?

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