In recognition of Banned Books Week (September 25 to October 2) I went searching to see if any early readers had been kept off the library shelves. Truthfully I didn't expect to find any. I know that plenty of middle-grade and YA novels make up the lists and even certain picture books, but early readers? What was there to ban? Hop on Pop encourages parental abuse?
Well, dear readers, I was wrong. I did find two books, and very likely there are more.
Walking through the woods one day is Sasha, a little girl. Her aunt has sent her on an errand to borrow some needle and thread. When Sasha spots the strange house, she decides to go inside. As she makes her way to the house, she helps a gate (by greasing it with butter), a hungry dog (by giving him her bread) and a cat (by giving her some meat). After Sasha is taken captive by Bony-legs, the cat, dog, and gate help her to escape, repaying her for her kindness.
So why was this book banned? Because it deals with magic and witchcraft. So, of course, does Snow White and countless other fairy and folk tales. But I guess the reasoning is that young children should be kept away from such things. Someone should have told that to Walt Disney. The real reason, I think, is because the illustrations are so deliciously scary. Zimmer's witch is truly a horror with her long warty nose and witchy grin. And the details in this book are wonderful. In the bathroom where Bony-legs locks Sasha, the bathtub has gnarly feet and the bath tiles show skulls and skeleton bones.
And the reason this book was banned? Someone, somewhere decided it was too morbid for children. And you know what, maybe for some kids it is. That's why those boys and girls who don't like to be scared won't check it out of the library. But for those who do (and my daughter's name is scrawled inside our worn copy) let them read it.
So go out there and celebrate Banned Books Week. Read a banned book or two or three. Check out a bunch from your library and read them to your kids--or to someone else's kids. If they don't like it, they'll let you know.