This classic of children’s literature is 78th on the best-selling hardcover list; has sold more than 45 million copies; been translated into 23 languages; and been adapted several times on film.
So how did the recipient of the 1953 Newbery Honor end up on the American Library Association’s frequently challenged classics list?
Well, it’s simple, really. In 2006, some parents in a Kansas school district decided that talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural; passages about the spider dying were also criticized as being “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book.”
According to the parent group at the heart of the issue, ‘humans are the highest level of God’s creation and are the only creatures that can communicate vocally. Showing lower life forms with human abilities is sacrilegious and disrespectful to God.’
One has to wonder if they’ve ever seen Bugs Bunny, or ANY Disney film, for that matter.
Sometimes the reasons behind a book being challenged aren’t because a particular group is offended, but because an alternate group might be.
Such was the case at a junior high in Batley, West Yorkshire, England, which became the center of international attention in 2003 when the school’s Headteacher decreed that all books featuring pigs should be removed because it could potentially offend the school’s Muslim students and their parents. No such complaints were ever filed by any parent involved with the school, but the school official felt she was being proactive in her policy.
Islamic leaders in the community asked the school to drop its ban, which included Charlotte’s Web, Winnie the Pooh, and the Three Little Pigs.
The Muslim Council of Britain formally requested an end to the “well-intentioned but misguided” policy, and for all titles to be returned to classroom shelves.
Inayat Bunglawala, of the MCB, said: “It is understandable, but this is a misconception about Islam which is often encountered. The Headteacher has acted sensitively, because there are parents and families who believe that portraying the pig in books is wrong. But there is absolutely no scriptural authority for this view. It is a misunderstanding of the Koranic instruction that Muslims may not eat pork. Drawings and photographs of pigs have always been used in children’s books to teach values common to all the great religions, and these are perfectly legitimate in Islam as well. There can be a cultural misunderstanding, and it is good for everyone to discuss it and clear it up.”
The practice of book banning has occurred in cultures all around the globe and throughout human history. From the advent of the written word, books have enlightened us, instructed us, entertained us, and, yes, even offended us; some works were so skillfully written that they did it all at the same time.
So long as common sense and intellect prevails, they will continue to do just that for generations to come.
Sources: American Library Association, Wikipedia.com, Cornell University, The Guardian (UK)
© 2011 R. Wolf Baldassarro/Deep Forest Productions
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