New Series Explores Banned Children’s Literature

children's books "alice in wonderland" and "the lorax" had been banned

By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer

Well-known, classic children’s literature has had a history of being banned as books. Groups concerned with inappropriate material have fought the availability of many titles. Even Winnie the Pooh and Ferdinand the Bull have faced removal.

Schoolgirl choosing book in school library. Smart girl selecting literature for reading. Books on shelves in bookstore. Learning from books. School education. Benefits of everyday reading
A challenge posed for removing a book from school libraries results in the book either being banned or remaining in circulation. Photo by Przemek Klos / Shutterstock

For more than 100 years, the battle of which children’s books are actually appropriate for children has waged all over the United States. In more recent years, the Harry Potter series was banned for promoting witchcraft and sorcery while And Tango Makes Three has been restricted for depicting a pair of male penguins taking turns caring for an orphaned penguin.

Some banned children’s books are more surprising than others. Goodnight Moon, Winnie the Pooh, and The Story of Ferdinand have all faced bans. Why? In her video series Banned Books, Burned Books: Forbidden Literary Works, Dr. Maureen Corrigan, the Nicky and Jamie Grant Distinguished Professor of the Practice in Literary Criticism at Georgetown University, recalls the bans on some undisputed classic children’s books.

Why Was Winnie the Pooh Banned?

Today it may be difficult to imagine a children’s book character more innocent than Winnie the Pooh, created by A. A. Milne in the book Winnie-the-Pooh. The charming, perpetually overweight bear has been the subject of countless books and movies since the first collection of stories was published in 1926. However, the Winnie the Pooh character has made many adults bristle—and not just because he’s half-naked.

“Milne’s books sit at number 22 on the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom’s Top 100 Banned and Challenged Books of the 20th Century,” Dr. Corrigan said. “As with Alice in Wonderland, Winnie-the-Pooh has sometimes been challenged because the idea of animals talking—at the same level as their human counterpart, Christopher Robin—is considered an abomination by some religious groups.”

Additionally, the idea of Piglet being a talking pig has raised concerns that he would offend members of Muslim or Jewish students who don’t eat pork for religious purposes.

A town in Poland refused to install Pooh as a mascot for a playground due to Pooh’s “improper attire.” Not only is he without pants, which they said was wholly inappropriate, but one city official declared that Pooh doesn’t wear underwear because he’s actually “a hermaphrodite.”

Who Challenged The Lorax?

Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax was originally published in 1971.

“It’s a relatively grim book, informed by environmentalist concerns over deforestation in the Pacific Northwest and the recklessness of logging companies,” Dr. Corrigan said. “In The Lorax, the fuzzy, mole-like title character battles an ax-wielding family called the Once-lers who greedily harvest all of its colorful (and completely imaginary) truffula trees to manufacture thneeds—a multi-purpose stocking.”

In the end, the Lorax disappears and the Once-lers cut down the last truffula tree. The only hope for the future is that one Once-ler requests a seed from the last tree so it can be planted and grown. Unsurprisingly, lumber companies took issue with the book immediately upon its publication and controversy over The Lorax has continued ever since, albeit, sporadically.

“One such controversy occurred in 1989, in the small town of Laytonville, California, a three-hour drive north of San Francisco,” Dr. Corrigan said. “Two prominent logging families claimed that the book, which was required reading for second graders, was a thinly veiled attack on the lumber industry, which for decades had been the region’s lifeblood.

“Indeed, two anti-Lorax logging industry members got themselves elected to the local school board in order to push for having the book removed from the ‘required reading’ list.”

The debate over children’s books continues today.

Banned Books, Burned Books: Forbidden Literary Works is now available to stream on Wondrium.

Edited by Angela Shoemaker, Wondrium Daily