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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

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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.