By: guest contributor Brian E. Wilson, ALSC Liaison for the ALA Committee on Professional Ethics
Every year the American Library Association’s Office of Intellectual Freedom (OIF) releases information about frequently challenged books as well as a Top Ten Most Challenged Books list. During the past decade, the number of kid/YA books containing LGBTQIAP+ themes, characters, and/or content have steadily increased. On the 2019 Top Ten list, a record-breaking 8 of the 10 titles were being challenged for this reason. The list included everything from real-life accounts of trans activists speaking out (I Am Jazz, Beyond Magenta) to a hip colorful non-fiction comic book (Sex Is a Funny Word) to a political satire about a gay bunny (A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo). Books starring a transgender girl (George), a girl crushed out on a boy who likes another boy (Drama), two heroes falling in love after experiencing a fantastical adventure (Prince & Knight), and a male penguin couple who become dads (And Tango Makes Three) also appear.
While looking at the decade’s Top Ten Most Challenged Books and more expansive Frequently Challenged Books lists, the idea of creating a new list came to mind. In honor of Pride Month and ALA’s Rainbow Book Month, here is a list of Twelve Terrific Books that have ended up on these lists during the past decade.
Haack, Daniel. Prince & Knight, illustrated by Stevie Lewis, published by little bee books. 978-1499805529. A new addition to the Top 10 Most Challenged Book list, this riff on “and they lived happily ever after” classic fairy tales serves up lively writing and dynamic illustrations (just look at that dragon!).
Herthel, Jessica and Jazz Jennings. I Am Jazz, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas, published by Dial Books, 978-0803741072. An upbeat look at transgender activist Jazz Jennings who, with co-author Herthel, talks about her life in an inspirational manner.
Pitman, Gayle E. This Day in June, illustrated by Kristyna Litten, published by Magination Press, 978-1433816598. The jubilant Stonewall winner captures the excitement and liveliness of a Pride parade.
Richardson, Justin and Peter Parnall. And Tango Makes Three, illustrated by Henry Cole, published by Simon & Schuster, 978-0689878459. This gentle account of two male penguins who raise a chick (based on real zoo penguins) has made the Top Ten Most Challenged Books list 9 times.
Gino, Alex. George, published by Scholastic Press, 978-0545812542. Gino’s compassionate Stonewall winning story of a transgender girl who wants to play Charlotte in her school’s production of Charlotte’s Web keeps topping the Most Challenged Books list.
Howe, James. Totally Joe, published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 978-0689839580. Howe’s warm and funny character study of a 12-year-old boy dealing with family, friends and crushes as he gets through life in middle school.
Peck, Richard. The Best Man, published by Dial Books, 978-0803738393. Like Totally Joe, the late Peck’s sensitive novel about a kid who cannot believe his beloved gay dad and favorite teacher are getting married has not made the Top Ten yet but has faced challenges.
Telgemeier, Raina. Drama, published by Graphix, 978-0545326995. Like George, Telgemeier’s bubbly and entertaining Stonewall Honor winning graphic novel first entered the Top Ten in the mid-10s and pretty much has never left mainly because of the subplot with a boy at a drama camp crushing out on another boy.
Chbosky, Stephen. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, published by Gallery Books, 978-1982110994. A powerful novel about an introspective teen with a queer pal has been perpetually challenged since it was first published.
Levithan, David. Two Boys Kissing, published by Ember, 978-0307931917. This inventive and compelling Stonewall Honor winner stars two boys about to enter a competitive kissing contest while a Greek chorus of men who lost their lives to AIDS watch and narrate.
Sanchez, Alex. The Rainbow Boys, published by Simon & Schuster, 978-0689857706. Told from different POVs, this groundbreaking (and soapy) novel about three gay young men in high school dealing with various coming out issues still receives challenges.
Tamaki, Mariko. This One Summer, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, published by First Second, 978-1596437746. The LGBTQIAP+ content is very brief but enough for some to challenge this Printz and Caldecott Honor winning graphic novel about a 12-year-old girl confused by the behavior of the teens and adults surrounding her during an eventful summer vacation.
Brian E. Wilson is a children’s librarian at the Evanston Public Library. He served on the 2015 Odyssey Committee, the 2017 Caldecott Committee, and is currently the ALSC liaison to ALA’s Committee on Professional Ethics.
The Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE), a standing ALA Council committee, is charged with maintaining, revising, and augmenting the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association. The committee accomplishes this be regularly reviewing the code and by developing explanatory interpretations and additional resources such as “Conflicts of Interest Q&A,” “Ethics and Social Media Q&A,” and “Speech in the Workplace Q&A.” COPE meets at ALA conferences and develops educational programs on ethical issues for the library profession.