Surprising Titles on the Banned Books List

Catherine Crawford

in the night kitchen bookIt seems like every day, week, and month of the year has been claimed as a cause for celebration. It’s impossible keep up and I’m still a little steamed I missed National Taco Day this past Monday. However, I did manage to get in on the hullabaloo of Banned Books Week last week with a fabulous conversation with my 6-year-old. Who knew that banned books could be so fun!

My daughter, who has just recently sprouted her reading wings and is flying high, was adorably incredulous when I introduced the notion of book banning to her: “What?! In the Night Kitchen Mommy? Why wouldn’t people want that book around?”

Why indeed? I guess because Maurice Sendak opted not to cover Mickey’s little weany. 

Of course, the whole purpose of Banned Books Week is to celebrate and protect our freedom to read as, it turns out, bans are still alive and kicking across the U.S.

Although my girl hasn’t read any Harry Potter yet, she was also outraged at the thought that there are people out there trying to keep Harry out of her future list of conquests. Atta girl! I had to fight the urge to tell her of the joys of Judy Blume. If Blume’s books were successfully banned, I might have been completely unprepared for menstruation and sex. Still, my girl is only in first grade, so I think we’ll hold off on Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret for now.

As I looked at many of my favorite novels on the list of once banned books, I started to think about the appropriate age to hand them over to my kids. Already, my budding lit major has been exposed to some heavy themes for a 6-year-old in Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Her Father.  She wanted to know all about unemployment and why the Quimby girls were always trying to throw their father’s cigarettes away. It’s no Dr. Seuss, that’s for sure.

I’m probably getting a little ahead of myself here, but I've made some decisions. Here are my Top 5 once banned books followed by what I think is the appropriate age for reading:

  1. Catcher In the Rye by J.D. Salinger -- My husband likes to give this one out for Bar Mitzvah presents. I think I’ll follow his lead here and say age 13.
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee -- Good God, I love this book. My first instinct was age 11, but then I remembered about that whole rape business. Umm, 13 again?
  3. Lord of the Flies by William Golding -- The only dicey bits in this classic are the dark nature of humanity and acute violence. Lets go with age 11 if they are up for it.
  4. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain -- I still remember the effect of reading Pudd'nhead Wilson and thinking, for the first time with any depth, about the ridiculousness of superiority based on race. Twain is a hilarious genius. The dialect can be a bit hard to follow, so I’ll say age 9.
  5. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov -- Red flag! Red Flag! It’s one of my favorite books ever, and yet the thought of my girls even thinking about a pedophile is unsettling. Age 25? Maybe I should wait a few years and revisit this exercise ….


What do you think of the banned books list?


Image via Amazon

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