NEW YORK – The potty humor of Captain Underpants children’s books and the mature exploration of race and family violence by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison in The Bluest Eye would seem to have little in common.
But among some parents, educators and other people who worry about what books are stocked at their local libraries, the works fall into the same category – they’re just too offensive and should be restricted or removed from the shelves.
The American Library Association published its annual State of the Libraries report Sunday, which included its list of works most frequently challenged last year at schools and libraries.
Dav Pilkey’s picture-book series topped the list, just as his Captain Underpants did in 2012. The reasons cited included offensive language and material unsuited for its targeted age group.
The Bluest Eye, Morrison’s first novel, was runner-up, criticized for language, violence and sexual content. Sherman Alexie’s prize-winning The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a perennial on the list, was No. 3, for drug references, sexual content and racism.
Pilkey said in a statement issued by his publisher, Scholastic Inc., that he found it surprising that a series with no sex, no nudity, no drugs, no profanity and no more violence than a Superman cartoon has caused such an uproar.
Of course, only a tiny percentage of adults are complaining. Kids love the books, and fortunately most parents and educators do, too, he said.
E L James’ ultra-explicit Fifty Shades of Grey was No. 4, followed by the violent world of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.
Others in the top 10 were Tanya Lee Stone’s A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl (drugs, sex); John Green’s Looking for Alaska (drugs, sex); Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (drugs, homosexuality); Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima (Satanism, offensive language, sex); and Jeff Smith’s Bone series (political viewpoint, racism, violence).
The list shows the wide range of books that can get people rattled and touch upon their deepest fears and antagonisms, said Barbara Jones, who directs the library association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom.