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1. Aldi Australia Pulls Roald Dahl Book From Shelves

Grocery store chain Aldi has pulled Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book Revolting Rhymes from bookshelves in its stores in Australia after a customer complained  on Facebook that the book includes the word ‘slut.’

“Poor Cindy’s heart was torn to shreds. My Prince! she thought. He chops off heads! How could I marry anyone who does that sort of thing for fun? The Prince cried, ‘Who’s this dirty slut? Off with her nut! Off with her nut!’,”  reads the nursery rhyme.

The store’s move has caused an uproar among Aldi customers, who have been commenting negatively about the censorship on the store’s Facebook page. “Is it true that you withdrew Roald Dahl’s ‘Revolting Rhymes’ (an all-time classic from one of the world’s most popular children’s authors EVER) after ONE complaint? SHAME, ALDI, SHAME!,” wrote one Facebook user. “It is on every public library shelf, and in most schools. No one HAS to read it or buy it – don’t show ignorance and weakness by depriving other customers.” (Via The Guardian).

 

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2. Banned Books Week T-Shirts

Banned Books Week is right around the corner. This year the celebration of censored books will take place from September 21st to 27th.

To celebrate, designer Anne Simon has create a t-shirt promoting the event and is selling them on Zazzle for $37.95 each. The t-shirsts come in a variety of colors and styles.

For more information about Banned Books Week, check out our post How to Participate in Banned Books Week.

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3. English Teacher Under Investigation For Writing a Fiction Featuring School Shootings

A school district in Maryland has placed an 8th grade English teacher on administrative leave after finding out that the teacher had written two works of fiction which dealt with the subject of school shootings.

Patrick McLaw, published two books under the pseudonym Dr. K.S. Voltaer – The Insurrectionist and Lilith’s Heir. The books deal with a fictitious high school shooting set in the year 2902 in which 947 people are killed.

McLaw is not allowed on campus until the school and local law enforcement investigate the matter. Here is more from RT.com:

“While on administrative leave, he is not allowed to come onto school property or participate in school events,” the statement continues. “Mr. McLaw’s teaching duties have been assigned to qualified personnel to insure the smooth transition of students into the fall semester.” Additionally, Wager wrote that an officer from the Cambridge Police Department will be at Mace’s Lane middle school “for as long as we deem it necessary.”

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4. How to Participate in Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week (BBW) is coming up next month and the American Booksellers Foundation For Free Expression is encouraging booksellers, librarians, authors, publishers and teachers to get involved.

The theme of this year’s event, which runs Sept. 21-27, is the censorship of graphic novels and comic books. Booksellers are encouraged to promote specific banned titles. Here is more information on how booksellers can participate:

Booksellers have always played a key role in Banned Books Week by creating displays that show customers that some of their favorite books are under attack. For the second year, ABFFE and Ingram Content Group are making it easy for booksellers to mount their displays by distributing a free promotional kit that contains everything they need. To qualify, booksellers choose 30 or more titles from 450 banned and challenged titles listed on Ingram’s iPage. They also receive additional discounts on initial and subsequent orders.

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5. Ohio Pastor Urges Library to Pull Twilight Books

A pastor in Ohio has filed a complaint about vampire books in the YA section of his local library and asked that the titles be removed. Rachel Mead’s Blood Promise, Matsuri Hino’s Vampire Knight and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series were all cited in his complaint.

Pastor Phillip Missick claims that the titles are “dark,” “sexual” and “dangerous for our kids.” ABC News has more:

Cleveland City Manager Kelly McDonald declined an interview but we have Library Director, Mary Cohn’s response to Missick’s complaint, as well as to a petition he had signed by a handful of local pastors. She noted only five percent of all the 1,500 titles in the teen section deal with occult, vampires and the supernatural, and then spoke to the mission of a public library saying materials should not be chosen or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

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6. British Justice Ministers Defend Prison Book Ban

British justice ministers have defended their push to prevent prisoners in England and Wales from having family and friends send them books.

They argue that prisoners can earn the right to buy books through the prison’s book selling program through a new ”incentives and earned privileges” regime.

The Guardian has more: “Justice ministry officials say lifting the ban on sending in books would undermine the basis of the new regime. The prisons minister, Jeremy Wright, said: ‘The notion that we are banning books in prisons is complete nonsense. All prisoners can have up to 12 books in their cells at any one time, and all prisoners have access to the prison library. ‘Under the incentives and earned privileges scheme, if prisoners engage with their rehabilitation and comply with the regime, they can have greater access to funds to buy items, including books.’”

Writers have called the move barbaric, stressing the importance of reading as part of a prisoner’s rehabilitation.

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7. ’1984′ Becomes a Symbol of Protest in Thailand

George Orwell’s 1984 has become an object of controversy in Thailand.

Thrillist reports that tourists encountered a warning in a travel guide; displaying Orwell’s book in public could mark a reader as an “anti-coup protester.” In fact, a public screening of the 1984 movie adaptation was recently cancelled because the police had informed the organizers that their event would be considered an illegal political assembly.

Here’s more from The Bangkok Post: “One form of resistance to the coup has been ‘reader’ – individuals or small groups sitting on public walkways reading Orwell’s novel. Last week, protesters unfurled a giant poster of Gen Prayuth’s face with the words ‘Thailand 1984′ written below. Opponents of the new regime claim the book’s depiction of a dystopian state where authorities exert absolute control over the lives of citizens compares with Thailand today.”

(more…)

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8. Singapore Comes Around on Banning Gay Children’s Books

The National Library Board of Singapore has stopped plans to destroy and remove children’s books featuring gay and lesbian characters from its shelves. While one of the three banned titles has already been destroyed, the other two will not be destroyed and will instead be moved to an adult section of the library.

NBC News has more: “‘I have also asked NLB to review the process by which they deal with such books,” [Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob] Ibrahim said. The library had previously said that the books went against ‘social norms’, with the majority of Singaporeans appearing to be against same-sex relationships.”

The books in question include: And Tango Makes Three; The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption; and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families. It is not clear, which book was destroyed and which remain.

The change of heart comes after fierce opposition to the ban from activists on Twitter with the hashtag #FreeMyLibrary, as well as an open letter criticizing the decision published online which collected thousands of signatures.

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9. Singapore Bans Children’s Books Featuring Gay Characters

The government of Singapore has banned children’s books featuring gay and lesbian characters.

The regime has required the National Library Board (NLB) to destroy three children’s books including: And Tango Makes Three; The White Swan Express: A Story About Adoption; and Who’s In My Family: All About Our Families.

TIME has more: “The ban was reportedly spurred by a complaint from a single library user who is also a member of the Facebook group “We Are Against Pinkdot in Singapore.” The NLB boasts a collection of more than five million books and audio-visual materials, and a spokesperson toldChannel News Asia that it acts on less than a third of the 20 or so removal requests received each year. (James Patterson’s Kill Me If You Can, which depicts incest, was the subject of a complaint but remains on the shelves.)”

The ban has prompted outrage from activists who have taken to Twitter to express their dismay with the decision using the hashtag #FreeMyLibrary. In addition, activists have written a letter criticizing the decision, which collected 4,600 signatures as of 8:00am on July 10th.

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10. Thanks for Annie, Nancy.

AnnieOnMyMind 198x300 Thanks for <i />Annie</p>, Nancy.I was very sorry to read that Nancy Garden died on Monday. While she wrote in just about every children’s-book genre there is, it’s Annie on My Mind that made her immortal, and led to her parallel, equally admirable, career as a defender of intellectual freedom in libraries and communities across the nation.

The first starred review I ever wrote was for Annie, for SLJ back in 1982. I revisited the book twenty-five years later for the Horn Book.

share save 171 16 Thanks for <i />Annie</a></p>, Nancy.

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11. This is not just about opera

klinghoffer 300x199 This is not just about opera

from the English National Opera production of The Death of Klinghoffer

The Metropolitan Opera’s cancellation of the announced HD broadcast of The Death of Klinghoffer is galling for a number of reasons. The Met’s decision to stage the opera (albeit with a note in the program by Leon Klinghoffer’s daughters, who have condemned the work as anti-Semitic)  but not broadcast it will please nobody. It is also alarming to see Met General Manager Peter Gelb cave so easily, especially in light of his reaction to those who, because of Russia’s anti-gay antics, protested the Met’s opening night performance last year of Eugene Onegin, featuring Putin supporters Anna Netrebko and Valery Gergiev:

We stand against the significant human rights abuses that take place every day in many countries. But as an arts institution, the Met is not the appropriate vehicle for waging nightly battles against the social injustices of the world.

He was right then and therefore he’s wrong now. But if you are still with me and not wondering when this blog turned into Parterre Box, the cynical and specious reasoning Gelb gives for the cancellation of the broadcast is exactly what libraries hear every damn time somebody challenges a book:

I’m convinced that the opera is not anti-Semitic,” said the Met’s General Manager, Peter Gelb. “But I’ve also become convinced that there is genuine concern in the international Jewish community that the live transmission of The Death of Klinghoffer would be inappropriate at this time of rising anti-Semitism, particularly in Europe.

Censors are almost never worried about the dangers poised by a book to themselves, or to their own invariably brilliant children. They worry about other children. Even leaving aside Gelb’s attempt to grease himself out of the argument and blame it on the Jews, the idea that somehow unthinking anti-Semitic hordes were going to attend an HD broadcast of the Metropolitan Opera across Europe and then–well, and then what, exactly? Censors are also never very clear about just what they expect to happen to people upon reading or viewing an objectionable work. But apparently Americans with enough cash to attend a live Met performance of this opera will be fine; it’s those Other People we have to worry about. It’s ALWAYS the Other People they’re worried about.

share save 171 16 This is not just about opera

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12. Florida School Cancels Reading Program Over Cory Doctorow Book

The principal of a Pensacola, FL-based high school has cancelled its One School/One Book summer reading program citing concerns that the approved reading assignment promoted hacker culture. Students were going to read Cory Doctorow's bestselling YA novel Little Brother, but the school pulled the book after receiving complaints from parents. Doctorow blogged about the issue on BoingBoing: In an email conversation with Ms Griffith, the principal cited reviews that emphasized the book's positive view of questioning authority, lauding "hacker culture", and discussing sex and sexuality in passing. He mentioned that a parent had complained about profanity (there's no profanity in the book, though there's a reference to a swear word). In short, he made it clear that the book was being challenged because of its politics and its content." In response, Doctorow made the above video in which he explains that he and his publisher Tor Books are donating books directly to the students.

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13. Fan Fiction Site Defends Itself After Wisconsin Stabbing

Wikipasta, a community writing site dedicated to horror stories, has defended itself after two preteens viciously stabbed their friend claiming they were inspired by Slenderman mythology. Slenderman is a fictional character was created as part of a "paranormal pictures" contest hosted by the Something Awful forums in 2009, according to KnowYourMeme. He is featured in tons of fan fiction online and known for his tall thin demeanor and excessively long appendages. After calls to shut down or censor the site, Wikipasta has pointed out that all works on the site are fiction. "This is an isolated incident, and does not represent or attribute the Creepypasta community as a whole," explained an administrator in a post on the site. "This wiki does not endorse or advocate for the killing, worship, and otherwise replication of rituals of fictional works. There is a line of between fiction and reality, and it is up to you to realize where the line is. We are a literature site, not a crazy satanic cult."

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14. Tennessee School District Bans ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’

A Tennessee school district has banned British author Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for its use of profanity. The Wilson County School Board in Tennesee pulled the mystery novel, which is about an autistic teenager investigating the death of his neighbor's dog, from a 9th grade reading list this week. The Tennesseean reports: "The board voted 3-1 to remove the book from the list of approved reading in the school district. One board member was absent. 'The F-bomb is pretty common in that book, and that’s what I have a problem with,' said board member Wayne McNeese, who received complaints about the book from some of his constituents. 'I’m not dumb enough to think students don’t hear that language, but it doesn’t mean we should promote it.'"

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15. Parents Protest Sex Ed eBook in Missouri School Library

itsperfectlynormalPerfectly Normal, a middle school sexual education digital textbook by Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley, is has received some complaints from parents in Missouri.

The book shows graphic representations of people having sex, which is leading some local parents to petition to have the eBook removed from a school library in the Francis Howell School District. USA Today has the story:

District officials say “it was determined to keep the ebook available as a resource for check-out in the library. If a parent determines that he/she does not want to their child to have access to certain materials, we honor that request.”

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16. Freedom to Read by Savita Kalhan


Last week I read about a girl, a teenager from Idaho, who, after her school banned Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, decided to start up a petition to campaign for the book to be unbanned. The book was on the curriculum for many schools in Idaho, but following a campaign by some parents it was removed on the grounds that it contained profanity and sexual and anti-Christian content.

 
The teenager, Brady Kissel, decided to mount a petition and got 350 signatures from fellow pupils asking the school to re-instate the book, but to no avail. The issue was picked up by Rediscovered Books, a local book store, who ran a crowd funding exercise to raise money to buy each of the 350 signatories a copy of the book. They raised $3,400, which was more than enough. Brady and the bookshop gave away copies of the book outside her school on World Book Day, but the story escalated further when some parents called the police to stop her, stating that Brady was giving children books without their parents’ consent.

The police, however, saw nothing wrong in what she was doing and let her carry on.

The national press then picked up the story and, eventually, the publishers of the book became involved and decided to provide a free copy of the book for anyone who wanted it. The American Library Association cites the book as the third most challenged/banned book in the States. Strangely enough, the Captain Underpants series tops the list, with Hunger Games coming in at number five. Most of the books that are challenged by parents fall into books aimed at the 14-18 age group. The expanding Teen/YA market probably has something to do with that.

You might say, well that’s the USA for you. But I’ve heard stories from authors in the UK whose books are sometimes excluded from a school because of their content. A “book ban” in the UK would happen, if at all, at school level, usually following a head teacher’s decision, not a formalised complaint or challenge to a school board or the American Library Association as in the States.

The States has a constitution which protects freedom of speech. Brady Kissel argued that, as teens, they too have the same rights as adults and banning a book contravened that. What actually happened every time a book was banned was that teenagers went out and got hold of a copy in another way.

I know some writers in the SAS have had their books banned in the States. But has anyone had their books banned by a school here?

I hope not...

Twitter @savitakalhan
My website
 

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17. Patron Tried to Ban Dr. Seuss’ ‘Hop on Pop’ From Toronto Library

hoponpopA Canadian parent filed a complaint to the Toronto library last year, asking to ban Dr. Seuss’ classic children’s book Hop on Pop because it “encourages children to use violence against their fathers.” The complaint was revealed this week when the Toronto Library released its Materials Review Committee report for 2013.

The person suggested that the library remove the book from the library’s collection and “issue an apology to fathers in the GTA and pay for damages resulting from the book.”

The committee rejected the complaint and retained the book in the children’s book finding that ”the book is a humorous and well-loved children’s book” and has maintained its popularity since it was published in 1963. The committee also pointed out that, “the children are actually told not to hop on pop.” (Via TIME).

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18. Sherman Alexie Novel Distrbution During World Book Night

truediaryStudents in Idaho celebrated World Book Night last week by handing out free copies of Sherman Alexie‘s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The National Book Award winning title was recently banned by the Idaho school district. Members of the district that disapproved of the book called the police on the teens distributing the free copies last week.

Shelf Awareness has more: “KBOI-2 reported that ‘the police asked Kissel about passing out the book. They said they found nothing wrong with what was going on in the park.’ Case closed. Kissel said they had 350 books to give away at the park, along with 350 donated by publisher Little, Brown Books for Young Readers. Another book giveaway is planned for next week.”

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19. Iran to Review Book Censorship

iranThe Iranian cultural minister Ali Jannati has said that the government will reconsider allowing books that had previously been censored in the country. According to a report in The Guardian, Jannati said that “books subjected to censorship or denied permission to be published in the past will be reviewed again.”

The move comes as a new president has taken power in Iran. Here is more from The Guardian: “The new move come under The minister’s words suggested an opening-up of the country’s publishing industry under new president Hassan Rouhani, who has already signalled his willingness to make changes by agreeing to the first presidential telephone conversation with America since the 1979 revolution.

Under the former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran censored many books including Tracy Chevalier’s Girl With a Pearl Earring and Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

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20. Moving moment No. 6

Jake 375x500 Moving moment No. 6Ooh, who remembers this one? In 1982, the library systems of Chicago, Milwaukee, and San Francisco banned Margot Zemach’s Jake and Honeybunch Go to Heaven from their collections (Chicago, from where I followed the whole story avidly, did include it in its two regional research libraries). Unlike the headlines, still popular today, that too-loosely use the term “censorship” to describe any effort to remove a book from a library (it ain’t censorship unless the effort succeeds), this was the real thing: local governments, through their libraries, actively refusing to stock a book because of “partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” This was the book that made me realize that librarians could be their own worst enemies: I recall one librarian interviewed in an NPR story about the flap who actually said, “when WE do it, it’s selection, not censorship.” That is exactly backwards.

share save 171 16 Moving moment No. 6

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21. Authors Fight Ban on Books in UK Prisons

photoBritish authors Phillip Pullman and Mark Haddon are among many that have spoken out to stop new rules that restrict access to books among prisoners in the UK.

“Any government worth having would countermand this loathsome and revolting decision at once, sack the man responsible, and withdraw the whip from him,” Pullman told The Guardian.

Mary Sweeney launched a Change.org petition today urging Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling MP to “review and amend” the new rules. The petition has already generated more than 5,000 signatures. Here is an excerpt from the petition: “Access to books can be crucial for education and rehabilitation. Access to family items are important for continued family connection, and should not additionally punish children of prisoners who need contact.” (Via The Guardian).

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22. Reddit Admits Book Banning Was April Fool’s Day Joke

reddit304Last week Reddit said that it was updating its policy and banning discussions of classic books from the subreddit discussion of books. The site has now come clean and admitted that this was just an April Fool’s Day joke.

“Well, you probably guessed it. We’re not actually going to ban any books from discussion in /r/Books,” explains the site. ”It was our hope that our early prank would foster discussion about popular books, other literary subreddits, and how bad it is to ban books. Happily, it was a success!”

The joke wasn’t all in vain though. The moderators did admit that they want to idea to get across that readers should expand their discussions beyond  very popular books. “It has always been the largest complaint about /r/Books that we bring up the same books over and over,” reads the site. “But, to defend that, of course the most popular books are going to be brought up the most. It’s a difficult issue to address in a large subreddit, and we are happy that it was discussed so much this weekend.”

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23. ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ Banned in Idaho School District

truediaryThe Meridian School District in Idaho has voted to ban The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie from a 10th grade English reading list.

The controversial book won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2007. The Idaho Statesman has the story about why the book was banned. Check it out:

Trustees say they want school officials to look for a book covering Native American cultural issues, but written at a higher reading level than Alexie’s book. They also want the district to review its curriculum on cultural diversity, which has included the book. Alexie’s novel tells the story of a Native American who ends up going to high school at a mostly white urban school and faces bullying and other problems. The book makes reference to masturbation, contains profanity and has been viewed by many as anti-Christian.

According to the Kids’ Right to Read Project, book censorship in school districts across the U.S. rose last year.

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24. Dav Pilkey, Toni Morrison & Sherman Alexie Lead ALA’s Frequently Challenged Books List

captainunderpantsCaptain Underpants by Dav Pilkey, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie led the  most challenged books of the year list this year.

This is according to the Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books, compiled annually by the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF). The list explores books that have received the most complaints. Check it out:

The OIF collects reports on book challenges from librarians, teachers, concerned individuals and press reports. A challenge is defined 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. In 2013, the OIF received hundreds of reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from school curricula and library bookshelves.

We’ve got the whole list after the jump. continued…

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25. Bone gives Shades of Grey a run as one of the 10 Most Banned Books of 2013

201404141732.jpg
If you were to guess what the 10 most banned or challenged books in the US in 2013 were, you might guess 50 Shades of Grey for its class-consciousness tinged bondage romance; or John Green’s Looking for Alaska with its classic themes of coming of age and the required drugs and sexuality. And yes both those books are on the list, released today by the American LIbrary Association. But also on the list? Jeff Smith’s Bone series, which we’re told by the CBLDF, has been cited for “Political viewpoint, racism, violence.”

Racism? Is this that anti-Rat Creature party we’ve been hearing about? Or the Rockjaw Defense League?

While Bone is a bit of a shock to be on the list, the first one is also odd because it’s so clearly a kids book: Captain Underpants. I mean sure kids shouldn’t be exposed to underpants, unless they are being told to put on a clean pair because it’s Tuesday already, but…honestly don’t the censors of America have better things to do?

Here’s the complete Top Ten:

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, violence.)
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.)

According to the CBLDF,

This is Bone’s first appearance on ALA’s annual list of challenged books, but it isn’t the first time it’s run affoul of censors. In 2012, it was banned in Texas at Crestview Elementary and moved to the junior high library because it was deemed unsuited to the age group. In April of 2010, a Minnesota parentpetitioned for the series’ removal from her son’s school library, when she discovered images she believed to be promoting drinking and smoking. A letter from Smith decrying the ban attempt was read aloud at the committee’s hearing, and the challenge was ultimately rejected by a 10-1 vote, to the praise of Smith and CBLDF.

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