Top 5 Controversial and Banned Children's Books

Despite their cult-like following and almost universal admiration, not everyone loves these popular children's classics. Accused of promoting witchcraft and many other such supernaturalisms, disobedience and use of mild curse words, these are the top controversial and banned children's books which we think deserve a place on every child's bookshelf - whatever the haters may say.

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

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L. Frank Baum

This beloved book follows young Dorothy Gale, a girl from Kansas whose house is whisked away by a cyclone to the weird and wonderful Land of Oz. In order to get back home, she must follow the Yellow Brick Road, find the Wizard of Oz and ask for his help. On her way, she goes on several adventures with a Scarecrow, a Cowardly Lion and a Tin Woodman, and must take down the Wicked Witch of the West. There are 14 original books in the Oz series.

What many would consider a magical tale has been deemed irreligious and dangerously subversive by some. In 1928, a US city library banned the book, denouncing it as ungodly for 'depicting women in strong leadership roles'. Another banned the books from 1957 until 1972; the library directors claimed they had 'no value for children of today' and promoted 'negativism'. In 1986, a religious group tried to have The Wizard of Oz removed from their schools' curriculum, protesting the novel's depiction of 'benevolent witches', which they asserted is 'theologically impossible'. Indeed, the books have frequently been accused of 'godless supernaturalism'.


2. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

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Anne Frank

This fascinating and poignant diary was written by Anne Frank, a young Dutch girl who hid in an annexe to escape the Nazis during the Second World War. However, she was eventually captured, and most likely died from disease and ill health, caused by the horrendous conditions of the concentration camps she was sent to. The diary was published in 1947, but it has been challenged and banned in various locations around the world since then.

This invaluable insight into the extraordinary life of a young Jewish girl during the Second World War has been banned in various US schools over the years due to passages considered 'sexually offensive' and because many deem the book simply too depressing for children. In 1983, four members of a US state textbook committee called for the rejection of the book, calling it 'a real downer'. In 1998, it was removed for two months from a US middle school after two parents claimed the book was pornographic. However, students waged a letter-writing campaign to have it reinstated, and they were successful. Most recently, in January 2010, officials of a southern US state stopped assigning the book after a lone parent complained of sexually explicit material and homosexual themes.


3. Lord of the Flies

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William Golding

This classic tale about a group of boys stranded on an uninhabited island has been accused of many wrongdoings over the years. In 1981, it was judged to be 'demoralizing insomuch as it implies that man is little more than an animal'. In 1988, a committee in Canada deemed the novel racist and recommended it was removed from all schools. In 1992, it was challenged in US schools due to profanity, lewd passages about sex, and statements offensive to minorities, God, women and the disabled.


4. James and the Giant Peach

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Roald Dahl

This exciting, fantastical story, which features a young boy who goes on an adventure with a group of human-sized invertebrates in a gigantic peach (as you do), has been accused of many crimes over the years, including mysticism, sexual inferences, profanity, racism, tobacco and alcohol references and promoting disobedience, drugs and communism.

In 1986, a small US town banned the book due to a scene depicting a spider licking her lips. Religious groups argued it could be 'taken in two ways, including sexual'. In 1987, a woman from the southern United States argued that the book was racist and criticised it for its depiction of snuff, tobacco and whisky. Consequently, the book was temporarily banned from a local school's reading list. In the early 1990s, another US public school system banned the book because the district superintendent argued it was inappropriate for children due to curse words like 'ass'.


5. The Harry Potter series

The Complete Harry Potter Collection - 7-Book Box Set - Collection - 9781408856772 - JK Rowling
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J. K. Rowling

In 2000, this spellbinding series topped the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom's list of most frequently banned books. Parents and teachers have complained about the story's supposed occult and satanic themes.

In 2001, a group of US parents organised a book burning, arguing that the books promoted violence, witchcraft and devil worship. The fire department arrived to shut them down, but the group then resorted to cutting up the books with scissors. In 2000, a headteacher at a UK school banned children from reading the books, stating that: 'The Bible is very clear and consistent in its teachings that wizards, devils and demons exist and are very real, powerful and dangerous and God's people are told to have nothing to do with them.' In July 2006, a teaching assistant at a school in the southern UK quit her job after she was suspended for refusing to listen to a pupil read from a Harry Potter book in class. She stated, 'I don't do witchcraft in any form', and that she would be 'cursed' if she heard it recited. She took her case to the Employment Tribunal, which found in favour of the school.


  • AAASQ 14 years +
    14 years +
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    Classic, challenging, controversial, iconic, dazzling... There are just not enough adjectives to describe William Golding's classic 1954 novel, Lord of the Flies.

    Telling the story of a group of boys who are stranded on an uninhabited island after a plane crash, the book offers a commentary on society that still stands up today, posing many questions about how we live...

    After setting up a community on the island, cracks do not take long to appear. The boys' primal urges take over and all memories of home and family vanish as they become excited by pig hunts and regress into a primitive, dangerous way of life...

    This book has been hand-picked for the Book People's FaberShop, in partnership with Faber & Faber.
  • 6DYG 11 years +
    11 years +
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    Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl is a haunting book that will stay with the reader for ever. Thirteen-year-old Anne spent two years in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Her diary combines honesty and humour with typical teenage enthusiasm, but ultimately it's a harrowing and poignant read as it ends abruptly when she and her family are discovered by the Nazis and taken to a concentration camp. Suitable for readers from 11+.

    This children's book has been hand-picked for you by Red House.
  • WOZ2 9 years +
    9 years +
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    The Wizard of Oz by Frank L. Baum is more than 100 years old but still has the power to transport its reader to another world.

    Dorothy and her dog Toto are hit by a tornado which deposits them in the strange and magical Land of Oz. To return home to Kansas, Dorothy must follow the Yellow Brick Road and find the elusive Wizard of Oz but her journey is full of obstacles - not least the Wicked Witch of the West...

    The Wizard of Oz is an unmissable read for children aged 9+ and a must-read book for fans of classic The Wizard of Oz film starring Judy Garland and the hit Disney prequel Oz: The Great and Powerful, starring James Franco, Mila Kunis and Rachel Weisz.
  • The Complete Harry Potter Collection - 7-Book Box Set - Collection - 9781408856772 - JK Rowling
    HRYP 9 years +
    9 years +
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    Head back to Platform 9 3/4, climb aboard the Hogwarts Express and enjoy the Complete Harry Potter Collection for a magical price. Presented in a gorgeous slipcase, these editions of J. K. Rowling's classics come complete with stunning cover illustrations from Jonny Duddle.

    A phenomenon like no other, Harry's incredible journey begins with The Philosopher's Stone. Unhappily living in a cupboard under the stairs at his aunt's, he's visited by a giant called Rubeus Hagrid who delivers the most astonishing news - Harry's a wizard. As he heads to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry makes friends with Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger, meets oh-so-wise Professor Dumbledore and the complex Severus Snape and their incredible adventure begins. But evil in the shape of Lord Voldemort is getting ever closer - and the Dark Lord has his sights set firmly on Harry.

    Throughout the seven books, Harry learns what it means to be a Gryffindor student and the value of friendship and trust. The eight films starring Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint were a record-breaking success and now you can relive the stories where it all began time and time again with this amazing Harry Potter box set - Expecto Patronum!

    Format: paperback
  • JGH2 7 years +
    7 years +
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    Phizz-whizzing new branding for the world's No.1 storyteller, Roald Dahl! Exciting, bold and instantly recognisable with Quentin Blake's inimitable artwork. James Henry Trotter lives with two ghastly hags. Aunt Sponge is enormously fat with a face that looks boiled and Aunt Spiker is bony and screeching. He's very lonely until one day something peculiar happens. At the end of the garden a peach starts to grow and Grow and Grow. Inside that peach are seven very unusual insects - all waiting to take James on a magical adventure. But where will they go in their Giant Peach and what will happen to the horrible aunts if they stand in their way? There's only one way to find out. "A true genius...Roald Dahl is my hero". (David Walliams). Now you can listen to James and the Giant Peach and other Roald Dahl Audiobooks read by some very famous voices, including Kate Winslet, David Walliams and Steven Fry - plus there are added squelchy sound effects from Pinewood Studios! Also look out for new Roald Dahl apps in the App store and Google Play- including the disgusting Twit or Miss! and House of Twits inspired by the revolting Twits.