Black and white photo of author Shel Silverstein

Happy Birthday, Shel Silverstein!

Silverstein’s children’s poetry is known for its fantastical humor and thoughtful lessons. His words often make the reader laugh out loud, and sometimes even cry. With such a beloved reputation, you would think there’s no way Silverstein also had a reputation for banned books. However, he is a frequently banned and challenged author, and his book, A Light in the Attic comes in at number 51 on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books List, 1990-1999.

Photo of John Green on a stage, smiling and giving a thumbs up to the audience.

Happy Birthday, John Green!

I first encountered Green’s books after I took a course on children’s literature in graduate school in 2012. One of the final sections of the class featured banned and challenged books, and I selected Looking for Alaska, not knowing anything about Green or his books. I really enjoyed the novel, and though I hadn’t attended a boarding school like Miles and Alaska, felt a sense of understanding at Miles’ awkward and anxious high school experiences. I recall reading it and thinking, Okay, so what’s wrong with it?!

Photo of Brandi Levy in high school, wearing a Mahoney High School cheerleading uniform and holding gold pom poms. in front of the supreme court

Mahoney v. Levy: the Evolution of Students’ First Amendment Rights

On Wednesday, June 23, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 in favor of Brandi Levy and public school students’ speech rights, in the case Mahoney School Board v. Brandi Levy. In 2017, Levy, then a 14 year old high school student in Pennsylvania, tried out for her school’s varsity cheering squad. After not making the team, she vented her frustrations in a Snapchat video, where she flipped off the camera and dropped a few swearwords. The school, after seeing the video, subsequently suspended her from the junior varsity cheer squad, saying that her video and its message violated the cheerleading code of conduct. After failing to come to a resolution with the school, Levy and her parents sued, arguing that punishing her for off campus speech violated Levy’s First Amendment rights.

Jamaica Kincaid

Banned Author Highlight: Jamaica Kincaid

When I was researching more about Lucy and Kincaid’s other works, I was struck by the number of criticisms that labeled her work as “angry”. Considering her childhood trauma and that many of her works contain autobiographical elements, it is not surprising that her characters are angry, or experience passionate feelings. That is true of many coming of age stories or memoirs.

Photo of Barbara Park and her dog, Maggie.

Happy Birthday Barbara Park!

We are used to seeing censorship attempts for heavy, controversial topics: drugs, LGBTQ+ themes, sexual content, religion, death, ect. But the Junie B. Jones series is aimed at young readers. She’s a kindergartener, worried about riding the bus on her first day of school and getting up to hilarious, albeit a bit questionable, antics. To what, exactly, are people objecting in these books?

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

Challenge to Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: Q&A with Aidan Larson

Recently, I was able to speak to Ms. Larson regarding this situation. Her commitment to intellectual freedom and dedication to fostering an antiracist learning environment for her students is evident in her discussion of the challenge to Stamped. Not every educator is in the position to fight back against a challenge: it can be a risk to their professional reputation or even their job security. But if they’re able to do so, it always makes a difference, even if censorship prevails in that particular incident. As Ms. Larson states below: “Fight for the kids. They will know. They always know.”

Roald Dahl

Condemning without Cancelling: A Response to Roald Dahl Family’s Apology for His Anti-Semitic Comments

In early December 2020, news outlets reported on a statement made by the Roald Dahl Story Company (RDSC). At some point, Roald Dahl’s family quietly issued an apology on the official Roald Dahl website, denouncing the famous children’s author’s anti-Semitic views and statements. They made it clear they do not condone Dahl’s views, and they lament the “lasting and understanding hurt” these comments may have caused the Jewish community. The official statement also implies that his prejudicial comments were not in keeping with the beloved man they knew, even though Dahl’s comments were made very publicly and with no remorse, even towards the end of his life.

Christmas lights wrapped around a stack of books

Bah Humbug: a List of Censored Christmas Stories

There will always be silly reasons for attempting to ban a book, but I would have thought that there wasn’t anything to challenge about holiday books. I mean, Santa, reindeer, twinkly lights, Hallmark movies, present exchanges, good will towards men? What is there to object? However, as it turns out, I was wrong; there are attempts to challenge books about the most wonderful time of the year.