April 16, 2014

ALA releases their list of the most challenged books of 2013


captain underpants

Hide your kids! Captain Underpants can stll be found in the nation’s libraries.

The American Library Association just released their annual “State of America’s Libraries” report, and with it, their annual list of the country’s most challenged books. According to the ALA, the Office for Intellectual Freedom gathers the data, and defines a challenge as “a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that a book or other material be restricted or removed because of its content or appropriateness.”  Last year, the OIF “received hundreds of reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.”

Top of the 2013 list was Captain Underpants, the series by Dav Pilkey, for reasons including offensive language and violence. Sherman Alexie‘s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian also made the list, fairly unsurprising considering that just last week, one Idaho school district pulled it from the curriculum, with parents complaining of “filthy words” and an “anti-Christian” viewpoint.

In perhaps the only instance of E.L. James and Toni Morrison appearing anywhere together, both Fifty Shades of Grey and The Bluest Eye made the list.  The Guardian points us to this letter from a Colorado parent, in which it’s claimed that “medical and social science research has demonstrated that exposure to the kinds of material found in The Bluest Eye is harmful to minors.” The parent was objecting to The Bluest Eye being assigned in Advanced Placement English. (We wrote last year about an earlier attempt, in Alabama, to ban The Bluest Eye.)

The full list is below, and can also be found on the ALA website.

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violenc
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green 
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence


Julia Fleischaker is the director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.