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>Yes, I do want fries with that.

>Galleycat links to a thoughtfully cranky piece about booksellers who pat themselves on the back for selling “banned” books such as Huckleberry Finn while simultaneously refusing to sell Tintin in the Congo:

Providing unencumbered access to the literary works created under the auspices of free speech (all of ’em — not just the ones we agree with or approve of) is our business. Bookstores shouldn’t have to rally around themselves once a year to proclaim that they hate censorship and the banning of books.

While I agree with the scorn directed at the sometimes unseemly preening that accompanies Banned Books Week, I’ve never thought that booksellers should have to stock anything they didn’t want to. What I would really, really, like to know is how many of the 546 challenges recorded by the OIF in 2006 resulted in restrictions or banning, a hardly-irrelevant statistic that seems absent from ALA’s press materials. “Banned Books Week” is certainly a catchy slogan, but are they selling sizzle or steak?

Roger Sutton About Roger Sutton

Roger Sutton has been the editor in chief of The Horn Book, Inc, since 1996. He was previously editor of The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books and a children's and young adult librarian. He received his M.A. in library science from the University of Chicago in 1982 and a B.A. from Pitzer College in 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @RogerReads.



  1. Andy Laties says:

    >Goodness I always keep a healthy selection of appalling books in my inventory. The caveat is that they have to be brilliant along some dimension or other. Genius and nastiness are certainly not mutually exclusive.

    In the case of my current store at Eric Carle Museum, this means that any appalling books in stock feature significant and powerful illustration.

    What’s interesting of course is that customers disagree about what’s appalling. What I find appalling turns out to be perfectly acceptable to part of my customer base.

    Eric Carle has two books that have been regularly banned: DRAW ME A STAR which features adult nudity, and THE GROUCHY LADYBUG which is sometimes banned because it supposedly encourages bullying!

  2. Anonymous says:

    >Until I read this I didn’t realize that a “challenged” book was simply one about which someone has written a cranky letter. I feel a little used, ALA!

  3. Roger Sutton says:

    >To its credit, ALA has tightened up and made very clear what it considers a challenge: “a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school, requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness.” It used to be that a simple oral objection would count.

    I’m bothered, though, that ALA does not tell us how these challenges were decided, which is surely more salient than the challenges themselves. After all, ALA encourages libraries to have in place a procedure for handling challenges, and it advises that a written complaint by the petitioner should be key to the process. So the fact that people use this procedure should be expected, not grounds for outrage.

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