Where’s Waldo? Oh, Busy Being Challenged For Being “Subversive”

It’s Banned Books Week. Otherwise known as: The Week That Reminds Us of How Great it is to Read What We Like When We like, and How Sad It Is That There Are Such Fearful Boneheads In the World.

Below, find a list of “the The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000”.

I do have some questions: challenged from where? To be in a school curriculum? Why would Nancy Friday’s book about women’s sexual fantasies be on a school curriculum? Or – do certain groups want these books to be banned everywhere? Public libraries, book stores, etc.?

Many of these books are old favorites of mine, life-changing books, books that are almost like old friends, as opposed to the printed word. I’ll bold the ones I read. (Thanks for the idea, Llamas…)

[Heads up: I don’t even think Mein Kampf should be banned. I am against banning books. Completely. Normally I don’t do this, but I’ll say it now: If you are pro-banning-books in any way, please don’t comment. I don’t want to hear it.]

Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
Daddy’s Roommate by Michael Willhoite
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier GREAT book. Robert Cormier is scarily good. I’ll never forget reading After the First Death – I probably read it too soon, it’s an upsetting book – but I experienced true soul-growth reading it. Soul-growth doesn’t always feel GOOD. Robert Cormier’s a great writer.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain Fantastic book. One of my all-time faves..
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck Oooh, what a scary dangerous book.
Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
Forever by Judy Blume
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger grrrrr
The Giver by Lois Lowry
It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
A Day No Pigs Would Dieby Robert Newton Peck
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Sex by Madonna (I actually agree that this book should be banned. No, just kidding. The book, however, sucked, and the production values were absolutely amateurish. The damn thing fell apart almost immediately. However – the crappy book is obviously for ADULTS. Not kids. Why be so afraid of it?)
Earth’s Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle One of my favorite books ever written.
Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (an anonymous diary of a drug-user. I read it waaaayyyyy too early – I was probably 12, or 13 – there’s a lot of sex in it, hallucinogenic drugs, etc. And she ends up dying in the end. The book BURNED itself into my brain. I probably shouldn’t have read it, but it sure made me fear hallucinogenic drugs and getting in with the wrong crowd and succumbing to peer pressure. It served its purpose.)
Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak Why on earth would this lovely crazy book be banned?
The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
The Witches by Roald Dahl
The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
The Goats by Brock Cole
Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
Blubber by Judy Blume
Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
Final Exit by Derek Humphry
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras (Now I haven’t read this, but it pisses me off that it’s on here. I’m seeing red right now. God forbid pre-teen girls should find out what is happening to their bodies.)
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Pigman by Paul Zindel One of my favorite books ever written.
Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
Deenie by Judy Blume
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice) (This is pornography, erotica. I’ve read it. But … it’s obviously an adult book. It has nothing to do with kids. Why would anyone want to keep an ADULT from reading it? Grrrr)
Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
Cujo by Stephen King
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
Ordinary People by Judith Guest what????? This is a lovely book, heartfelt, well-written. Is it because it deals with suicide? Why? But also – this is a book for ADULTS. Why ban it?
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
What’s Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras (Again: see my comment above about the same book only for girls. GRRRRRRR)
Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume This book is a great book, a classic of childhood. Not only is it a good story, but it prepared me, emotionally, for getting my period. I think it prepared millions of girls of my generation for the transition into adulthood. When my period came along, I knew what was happening to me not only because of my mother telling me about it, but also because Judy Blume wrote a whole book about it. God bless Judy Blume.
Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
Fade by Robert Cormier
Guess What? by Mem Fox
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Native Son by Richard Wright
Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women’s Fantasies by Nancy Friday Yeah, I have a copy. A lot of women I know do. It’s just one of those books passed around – a classic of the genre. Again – this is obviously a book for adults. Why ban it? What is WRONG with these people?
Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
Jack by A.M. Homes
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
Carrie by Stephen King
Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume Wonderful book. My favorite book of Judy Blume’s actually.
On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
Family Secrets by Norma Klein
Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
The Dead Zone by Stephen King
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
Private Parts by Howard Stern
Where’s Waldo? by Martin Hanford Uh – what?? Could someone please explain to me the rationale here?
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
Sex Education by Jenny Davis
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell Bwahahahaha! I LOVE this book! It was actually read to us in 4th grade. Guess we couldn’t get away with that now!
View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

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52 Responses to Where’s Waldo? Oh, Busy Being Challenged For Being “Subversive”

  1. Ken Hall says:

    What? The bluenoses haven’t caught up with Captain Underpants yet?

  2. Bryan says:

    Fun stuff. Personally, I’m not all that much against the banning of books because it would destroy my ambition of writing a banned book myself someday ;)

  3. red says:

    Bryan – ha! I see what you mean. You know you’ve written a great book if they ban it.

    Madeleine L’Engle tells great stories about the response to Wrinkle in Time – how people just didn’t … GET IT … WHAT IS SHE SAYING? WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?? Kids of course got it, but it was the unimaginative folks who thought she was up to no good …


  4. red says:

    Looking at this list again – Robert Cormier should be very proud. He has a lot of people really scared.

    Member I am the Cheese? The guy wrote for teenagers and didn’t talk down to them. Like Paul Zindel, too. Everything wasn’t wrapped up in a neat bow, with a lesson, or a moral.

    He just told a great yarn.

  5. Bryan says:


    Exactly. Also, if there were no banning of books, how would we know what the most interesting new books were?

    J. Mitchell Morse, an obscure Joyce scholar who became one of my culture heroes on the force of a little book called The Irrelevant English Teacher once asked why it is that when the government launches a crusade against pornography, they go after James Joyce, D. H. Lawrence, and Charles Baudelaire rather than the skin magazines. His answer was that great literature is inherently subversive.

  6. Mark says:

    Some of these just baffle me. How To Eat Fried Worms? Where they worried there would be a big worm eating epidemic among the nation’s youth? Honestly, I wasn’t tempted.

    And Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat? It’s about old wives cures and other folksy stuff like that. What…what…just WHAT? GAH!

    And, of course, Where’s Waldo…huh?! I’ll show them! I’m going to put on a striped shirt and hang around large crowds! Don’t try and talk me out of it!

    I was going to question Harry Potter and The Witches also, but then I realized it was the work of the Bible-thumpers.

  7. Kaptin Marko says:

    My son (12) just read, I Am The Cheese. I read it (again) along with him and he loved it.

    What I would like to know is, Who is advocating banning these books? Is this in America or over in Iran or someplace? Might be interesting to know.

  8. red says:

    Christian groups are huge on banning a lot of these. You know – any book that suggests magic, or the supernatural has got to go. Wrinkle in Time’s message is that love wins over darkness – but you have to fight for it, be willing to die for it – However, it never mentions God or Christ – and so that’s gotta be banned. Any book that shows kids disrespecting their parents, or being rebels … that might explain the How to Eat Fried Worms book and a couple others.

    Roald Dahl is notorious for being banned, because he usually writes about naughty rebellious unconventional little kids.

  9. red says:

    One of the scariest and most upsetting books I have read recently is The Language Police – about the censorship of books and language in school text books and school curriculums.

    In this case – far-left ideologues and far-right ideologues join together – in their fascistic thought-control way – and pressure schools to ban this book, ban that book.

  10. Alex says:

    I’m going to write a book called “Religious Extremists Are Stupid”.

    I want to see if it gets banned.

  11. jackie says:

    Sheila, this whole subject makes me so mad. “Adults” are so into “protecting” our children. BITE ME! Henry LOVES the Goosebumps series. He went through a brief obession with it, last year in kindergarten. When the class went to the library, the school librarian (oh, excuse me, meeeeeeeeedia specialist) wouldn’t let him take out any Goosebumps or R.L. Stine books. “You have to be in 2nd grade, young man”. What? A child wants to read a book! Support that please!! I also got a lot of shit from other parents because Henry talked about The Goosebumps books all the time. He wrote to R.L. Stine and got back a wonderful letter encouraging him to write his own stories and keep reading. I was really shocked to see some of those titles on the list………… thanks for letting me vent. Keep on reading!

  12. David Foster says:

    My nephew wanted to read “Old Yeller” for school. They told him that it would be too upsetting for a kid his age to read.

    He pointed out that, the previous week, they had been discussing the Holocaust.

    The teacher relented.

  13. David Foster says:

    Also: the ALA would have a lot more credibility in talking about “banned books” if they had not refused to stand up for the imprisoned librarians of Cuba:


  14. dad says:

    Dearest: the work of timid little crackpots, although I can’t say that I have ever heard of many of the books listed. There was a time in Ireland [40s and 50s]when a serious writer was ashamed if his or her[one thinks of Kate O’Brien]book was not blacklisted. The religious right here in the US seem to be doing the same today[although the pc crowd must be responsible for Little Black Sambo]. Love, dad

  15. red says:

    I had the same thought, Dad, in re: Little Black Sambo.

    This is where the crackpots on the right and left join hands.

  16. red says:

    About books being ‘too upsetting’ for kids –

    I have some thoughts on that. Not entirely rational. I don’t think kids being “upset” is the worst thing in the world. I remember reading Diary of Anne Frank when I was 13 years old, and when it was done, I remember kneeling beside my bed, crying and crying and crying, and I was praying to God – well, it wasn’t really a prayer. It was more of an angry accusation.


    I have never ever forgotten how upset I was that day. I couldn’t get past it – I was haunted by Anne Frank for months.

    But do I wish I didn’t have that experience? Do I wish that … I had read happy-pretty-butterfly books and not gotten to know Anne Frank?

    Getting upset that day was a landmark moment for me. In that moment, I joined the human race – or – the part of the human race that is compassionate, empathetic, and able to feel outrage. I left my own little world, and realized the pain of the universe … and I was a different person forevermore.

    Thank God.

    I mean – I don’t think a 13 year old should read Last Exit to Brooklyn, or Less than Zero … but sometimes, being “upset” is the most appropriate thing a child could feel.

    And kids can handle being upset! They just need to be allowed to feel it, to experience it.

  17. red says:

    Oh and Jackie – of COURSE Henry wrote to RL Stine. Of COURSE he did. Henry never ceases to amaze me.

  18. Mark says:

    Actually, I assumed The Witches had been banned because witches are the tool of Satan. That a book could be banned just because it’s about naughty children is even more distressing.

  19. Bryan says:


    Your anecdote about reading The Diary of Anne Frank is beautiful. Thanks for sharing that.

    Since I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist church (I am the only person in my family who does not still hold that creed), I thought it might be amusing to relate a humorous story about one rather ineffectual attempt to censor my reading. My Christian friends were always very concerned about my reading habits and frequently accused me of the great sin of “intellectualism” (HA). One of my former pastors once strongly recommended that I not read Nietzsche (coward), and an assistant pastor once became extremely uneasy when he saw me reading a commentary of Plato’s Symposium, as if Christian theology were not massively indebted to Platonism (not that he knew that). My favorite incident, however, was when a Christian friend caught me reading St. Augustine’s City of God and with a concerned expression asked, “Does he believe what we teach about the kingdom of God?”


  20. red says:

    “does he believe what we teach”….hahaha!!

  21. red says:

    Mark –

    I am not kidding when I say that the scariest book I have read (scarier than any Stephen King novel) is The Language Police. You would be SHOCKED what people want to ban.

    Kids who live near the ocean shouldn’t be subjected to books about the mountains because they would feel “geographically handicapped”.


    I’m not exaggerating.


  22. Bryan says:

    Geographically handicapped…” Wow. It truly takes an interesting kind of mind to think of something like that.

    Maybe Shakespeare should be banned because he causes us to feel linguistically handicapped. And all political books should be banned since they mention people who have more political power than I do and therefore make me feel disempowered.

    Political correctness is so much fun.

  23. red says:

    Bryan – it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    VERY important book, and I was really glad to see it got so much press. Maybe it will help change this politically correct madness.

  24. ricki says:

    I wonder how many book “challenges” are the work of lazy parents who don’t want to keep tabs on what their kids are reading, to make sure it’s appropriate for that particular kid at that particular age.

    Although I suspect (sadly) that most of them are simply the work of busybodies who want to save people from themselves.

    I will say I’m pretty puzzled as to why “To Kill a Mockingbird” would be banned. Yeah, there are some not-very-complimentary references to “foot-washing Baptists” in there, and the n-word is in there, but it’s actually a very anti-racist book. I’m wondering if the people who recommend these books for banning EVER actually read them?

    “Mockingbird” was one of my favorite books when I was a young teenager.

  25. red says:

    Ricki – me too.

    Huck Finn as well. Huck Finn has that dreaded word in it, too – and I think that’s why people ban it. But the context of the book and the actual theme of the book is the complete OPPOSITE.

    Huck Finn shouting, “All right then, I’ll go to hell!”

    People are afraid. They are afraid of things they don’t understand, and they would rather reject it, than try to understand. They also want to create little tiny statuette children, filled with all the “correct” beliefs.


  26. Mark says:

    I’ve been meaning to get The Language Police since it came out. I guess this would be the appropriate week to finally do so.

  27. red says:

    This is obviously such a touchy topic for me – I won’t even allow a pro and con discussion on the blog about it!

    I had a hard time even getting through Language Police.

    I literally threw the book across the room at one point.

    Heh heh. Important eye-opening book.

  28. Obscurorant says:

    Small Minds Think Alike

    Evidently we’re in the middle of Banned Books Week; below is a list of the 100 most challenged books (1990-2000).

  29. Steve says:

    I find it funny that A Wrinkle in Time is banned. It’s very allusional to the Bible. And no, there are no centaurs in Revelation, but still. You don’t have to have a literal Jesus saying the exact same quotes from the book of John to have decent “Christian” fiction.

    And like Bryan said, I hope to write a banned book someday as well. :)

  30. dad says:

    Dearest: I think the banners of Mockingbird object to the integration of races [or simply the equality of races], not the pc crowd. love, dad

  31. re banning Shakespeare:

    I knew a high school english teacher who had a shirt that I found amusing. Sadly I can’t remember the exact quote and can’t find it on the ‘net but it went along the lines of: Read about murder, rape, witchcraft, masterbation, incest, (etc)… read Shakespeare.

  32. red says:

    scott: Exactly!! heh heh heh

    And Shakespeare wasn’t exactly pro-religion, or overly pious … The priests in his plays are, in general, pretty ineffectual.

  33. Bill McCabe says:

    I just got a 10% coupon from Barnes and Noble and may very well pick up The Language Police.

    As long as I get to that aisle before the one that has Sharpe’s Escape.

  34. red says:

    Bill –

    Aren’t you close to the end of the Sharpe’s series? I think I remember you mentioning that …

    If you buy The Language Police, you can put off reaching the end of Sharpe … at least for a little while longer!

  35. BSTommy says:

    There was a Where’s Waldo fiasco going on back where I used to live, just south of Nashville.

    In one of books, there’s a Where’s Waldo puzzle where you find Waldo on a beach.

    Somewhere in the cartoon, there is a smiling prankster who has just pulled the bikini top off a cartoon woman. She is topless.

    This was the basis of the furor in my neck of the woods. Not sure it’s the reason elsewhere, but I’d be willing to bet it’s somewhere along those lines…

    Also, How to Eat Fried Worms is a favorite from my youth. Thanks to the book banners for making me remember a book I’d nearly forgotten….

  36. red says:


    Interesting. A topless woman in one of the Waldo cartoons. Wow.

    And about fried worms: I even remember the pictures from that old book. Such a fun read!

  37. red says:

    Speaking of topless women in cartoons:

    Does anyone remember the TRULY subversive nature of those Mad magazine cartoons??

    I do not know if there was outrage “back then” – but those cartoons were filled with sexually sketchy images, crammed off in the corners …

    But there we all were, on the school bus, devouring that magazine.

    I don’t feel scarred by that experience.

  38. Dave J says:

    MAD Magazine was (and I don’t know, may well remain) truly and deliberately subversive in a way that even most of these books aren’t. Which is why I’m sure it’s been banned, too.

  39. Laura says:

    It sickens me to see Are You There, God?… is on that list. Every woman that I know read that as a pre-teen or teenager. Despite or school doing everything it could to discourage us from reading it, it was a rite of passage. Should I have a daughter someday, that is one book that not only will I tolerate her reading, but I’ll buy her the book and encourage her to read it.

  40. Wayne, the hypocrite comment is as lame as it is inaccurate.

  41. Dave J says:

    Wayne, since you’re a self-professed First Amendment purist, I would think you’d grasp that the First Amendment only binds government, not private parties. For Sheila to prohibit (in a VERY limitied manner, i.e., one post) certain expressions in her own private forum is, in fact, an EXERCISE of her free speech/press rights, not a contravention of anyone else’s.

  42. Sigivald says:

    Bryan: Well, these days, the State does go after hardcore porn, and doesn’t give a fig for “literature”, when it gets on an anti-porn crusade.

    Funny, that.

    Ricki: As “dad” says, Mockingbird gets challenged for containing the N-word, just like Huck Finn.

    We should remember that not all of these challenges are necessarily wrong; if we’re talking about a K-6 school library, well, you know, maybe Private Parts might actually NOT be appropriate? Ditto “Woman on Top”, which is as stated an adult book, likewise Anne Rice’s pseudonymous porn.

    The ALA website tells us that “Seventy-one percent of the challenges were to material in schools or school libraries.” If what we admit is a pornographic adult book ends up in a junior-high and high-school library, maybe it should be challenged, and kept in the main city library, restricted to, well, adult checkout? Otherwise there’s no point in admitting that some content is “adult” in nature, and that some venues are not “adult”.

    Remember that not all “bans” (“bans and challenges”, more accurately, and quite probably none of these in any case) are calls for the book’s publishing or sale to be banned. In fact, pretty all but 5% of the challenges were to libraries or curriculums.

    Mostly, as documented above, they’re calls for removal from a school curriculum or library. That is much less offensive than an actual Nazi-style ban, and as stated can actually be appropriate in specific cases. That said, most of these challenges are still stupid.

    (And I imagine this should slip in past the “do not support book-banning” clause, since I maintain that actual banning of books’ printing, sale, possession, or reading by the State is vile and wicked. Even when following the book will get you hurt or killed (Anarchist Cookbook, famous for containing sabotaged recipes.))

  43. mere says:

    “In the night kitchen”???????????????????

    thats my favorite!!! Calvin (my now 11 yr old) used to read that to me before he could read, he knew it so well he would turn the pages and recite it by memory.

    just cause there’s a little pee pee showing…?

  44. red says:

    It’s funny how people feel they MUST ignore a simple request. I made a simple request – a request I NEVER make.

    I just don’t understand it. You pay for the bandwidth, you write what you want to write, and I don’t want to hear other opinions on this personal issue. What is the big deal? What is so difficult to understand? I see this over and over again with bloggers.


    You got a problem with how I run the blog? Write a letter to the editor complaining of my bias. There ain’t no editor, there’s just me. I am not a major newspaper, or a news network, or a message board.

    Once again: I am not required to give an equal platform to the opposite side. Ever.

    Normally, I like the conversation, the intelligence of the comments, the back and forth, – which is why I have comments on my blog – but on this particular issue, LIKE I SAID IN THE BEGINNING: I don’t want to hear it.

    Guess I should have closed comments from the start since certain people couldn’t restrain themselves.

    Love it that he was from the “religious right”, too. Typical.

  45. red says:

    Mere – I bet you’re right. It’s the little pee-pee that shows.

  46. I consider a person’s blog to be an extension of their home. If I go to a person’s home and start insulting that person or their guests and the host tells me to knock it off, it’s not censorship.

  47. Mark says:

    I think some folks need a reminder that Sheila’s web site is not a democracy; at best, it’s a benevolent dictatorship.

    At least, that’s how I run my sites.

  48. red says:

    Mark – Couldn’t have said it better myself. I make no bones about it. This place is MINE. I appreciate and love that you all visit me every day, and in general – I think we all have a really good time together.

    But insult me? Insult another commenter in a rude or offensive way?

    Dictator-Sheila sends you to the gulag in an instant.

  49. In Their Own Prison

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  50. Banned Books Meme – Update

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  51. Dave J says:

    “I am continuously amazed at…”

    Continuously or continually? The former is constant; the latter is a series of repeated but distinct and separate occurrences. Now I’m REALLY splitting hairs. ;-)

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