Banned books week crept up on me! I usually keep an eye on bookish “holidays” but with my busy schedule this one almost passed me by. ALMOST! Luckily I have some friends who help me remember these things.

Banned Book Week, this year from September 24 to 30, celebrates so many things I love and believe in all wrapped up in one simple concept – we shouldn’t ban books!

What is banned book week?

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign promoted by the American Library Association and Amnesty International, that celebrates the freedom to read, draws attention to banned and challenged books, and highlights persecuted individuals.

Banned Book Week has been around for over three decades. Started in 1982, it’s been held the last week of September every year. Given all attacks on free speech recently around the world and even in the US, where it’s supposed to be a first amendment right, celebrating this week of banned books feels more important than ever.

The campaign “stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them and the requirement to keep material publicly available so that people can develop their own conclusions and opinions.”

Banned Books Game

How about a fun game to celebrate Banned Books Week? Can you guess which of the following books were once banned? (See below for answers.)

  1. The Dictionary
  2. The Harry Potter Series
  3. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
  4. Where’s Waldo
  5. My Friend Flicka


Answer Key

All of the above!

Dictionary: Who would have thought definitions would be so scandalous! Well, they are. In fact more than one dictionary has been banned on more than one occasion! Various libraries and schools have taken offense to some entries in the dictionary. The Anchorage School Board systems gives us a great example. In 1987 they banned the American Heritage Dictionary for its “objectionable” entries, including “bed,” “knocker,” and “balls.”

Harry Potter: Harry Potter fans, brace yourselves. Someone once had the audacity to remove these books from the clutches of young readers. In Wakefield, Massachusetts, a pastor at the St. Joseph School decided that sorcery was inappropriate for a Catholic school. (Don’t they celebrate Christmas in the books?) Apparently, the pastor didn’t care. He thought most children were “strong enough to resist the temptation,” but his job was to “protect the weak and the strong.” Uh, OK.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?: While the banning of children’s books isn’t uncommon, I had to mention this one because of a certain adorable almost-3-year-old who frequently visits our house. It’s one of her favorite books and I’ve, therefore, read it many, many times. Why someone would feel the need to ban this book is unfathomable to me. Not surprisingly, this ban comes from the Texas Board of Education. (Sorry Texas education system, you’re not exactly known for your enlightened views or apparently research skills.) The author, Bill Martin Jr., happens to have the same name as an obscure Marxist theorist. No one in the Texas education system apparently thought it was possible there was more than one person with the very atypical name of Bill Martin…So they banned the book.

Where’s Waldo: This one isn’t a joke, but it sounds like one. Thanks to a beach scene in the 1987 version of the book, it got banned. Why? Apparently because one of the women showed too much skin. Yes, some very astute (read seriously in need of a hobby) person felt that one of those tiny little characters was showing too much cleavage. Don’t get me started on a rant about this, it could take up a whole blog…

My Friend Flicka:  Why on earth would someone ban a sweet book about a boy and his horse? Oh, because someone had the audacity to use the word “bitch” in its proper context, in reference to an actual female dog and not the derogatory way it’s used to describe human women.