The Briefest Book Ban Ever

The Briefest Book Ban Ever

by | Jul 20, 2022 | Public Education

When I was a little kid, a family friend gave me a hardback copy of James and the Giant Peach.

My mom skimmed the first couple of chapters. In pretty short order, James’s parents are killed by an escaped rhinoceros, he’s enslaved by sadistic aunts, and he goes to live with a bunch of human-sized bugs, including an enormous spider.

Mom inspected Nancy Ekholm Burkert’s beautifully weird illustrations, decided the book would terrify me, and hid it in her bedroom closet.

 My mom was not close-minded. The best piece of parenting advice she ever gave me was “Let your default be yes.” She believed that, within reason, parents should allow their children to explore new worlds, providing the oversight necessary to step in if something goes wrong. (Saying no is a whole lot easier.)

In this rare case, Mom didn’t take her own advice. And she gave in the same day, after I pushed back.

So I read James and the Giant Peach and I loved it. I didn’t see a scary rhinoceros or scary aunts or scary bugs. I saw a scared little boy who magically beat the odds to make strong and caring friends, have exciting adventures with them, and live happily ever after.

Reading was my escape from a childhood that, through no one’s fault, was confusing and stressful. The books that happened to speak to me tended to have a pretty big dose of weird. James and the Giant Peach was one. Harriet the Spy, A Wrinkle in Time, and Catcher in the Rye were others.

All these books were edgy for their time, and they’ve all been banned from various school libraries. I feel bad for the kids who never had a chance to read them because some politician or some parent was allowed to make “no” the default option for every student in the school.

I trust our education experts. That includes our school librarians, whose mission is to create a welcoming space where every child can find books that speak to them.