Robot 6

Jeff Smith’s ‘Bone’ among most challenged books of 2013

Bone: Out From BonevilleBone, Jeff Smith’s critically acclaimed fantasy adventure about three cousins swept up in epic populated by dragons, rat creatures and evil forces, was among the books most frequently challenged last year in schools and libraries.

The news comes from the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, which has released its annual Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books as part of National Library Week. In 2013, the organization received 307 reports on attempts to remove or restrict materials from library bookshelves and school curricula across the United States. That’s down from 464 official challenges in 2012.

Bone came in at No. 10 on the list, which was led once again by Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and populated by the likes of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eyes and Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower (see the full rundown below). The last comic to make the list was Kim Dong Hwa’s The Color of Earth in 2011.

The ALA’s 2014 State of American Libraries Report doesn’t cite specific challenges to Bone or reveal how many there have been, but it does offer broad reasons for the objections: “political viewpoint, racism, violence.”

Although the challenges last year apparently failed to attract media attention, there was a good deal of coverage of complaint filed in 2010 by a parent in suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, objecting to the depictions of drinking, smoking, gambling and sexual situations in Bone. However, a school district committee voted 10-1 to keep the books on library shelves. (There’s a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund case study, if you’re interested.)

Here’s the Top 10 List of Frequently Challenged Books of 2013:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
    Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
    Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violenc
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
    Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
    Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone
    Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green Reasons:
    Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
    Reasons: drugs/alcohol/smoking, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya
    Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
    Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence



I don’t even know how to understand this list.

Are we saying that these represent books being pulled from Children’s or Elementary School libraries? If so, then although many have literary claims, one does have to wonder how Hunger Games ends up on the same shelf as Captain Underpants. Totally different audiences, ages, ATOS reading levels, etc.

Even assuming we can keep the books for adults out of the picture book shelves, I’ve read Bone. I’ve read Captain Underpants. To my kids. I’m flummoxed as to what anyone could find even remotely troublesome about either of them. C.U. is pretty hamfisted visual humor, and in a fun, cartoonish way. Bone is simply high epic fantasy made accessible to children. What “political viewpoint” does it espouse? Racism?! Really? I need to go back and re-read that, because clearly I was too dumb to be offended.

My youngest nephew never reads, he’s a video game playing addict and never picks up a book. BONE by Jeff Smith changed that! He became enthralled with Bone and after reading that series he want on to continue reading prose and comics alike. Honestly, the fact that Bone was available to him at his school library is the entire reason that he is into reading now, to take it away would be foolish.

Checking the library web site, there are something like 120,196 libraries with hundreds of millions of books.
There were 307 challenges nationwide on books, or about one for every 400 libraries?

I suppose there are about as diverse a gaggle of reasons as there are challenges, but other than serving as a boon to the sales of any book on the list, the microscopic percentage of challenges to the books available hardly makes this a threat to the republic.

“I suppose there are about as diverse a gaggle of reasons as there are challenges, but other than serving as a boon to the sales of any book on the list, the microscopic percentage of challenges to the books available hardly makes this a threat to the republic.”

I don’t think anyone’s saying that book challenges or bans are “a threat to the republic,” but they’re certainly a threat to public access and intellectual freedom. In the larger scheme of things, 300 or 400 or even 1,000 challenges or bans may not seem like that big of a deal — until it happens in your local library or at your children’s school.

Stupid, stupid censor creatures.

(though I will grant that maybe 50 Shades doesn’t need to be in a high school library. Everything else, though?

I particularly enjoy the irony of a list calling Bone racist — huh? — right after describing the indigenous religion in Bless Me, Ultima as satanism.)

I’m guessing Fifty Shades is in public libraries, not school libraries.

The fact that homosexuality is one of the objections to a book is just fucking disgraceful.

I don’t even know what they mean about Bone’s political viewpoint. Or anything else.

Andrew Collins

April 14, 2014 at 9:35 pm

My wife is a 3rd grade teacher and her kids LOVE Bone. They read it every free reading moment she gives them. I can’t fathom for one second trying to get rid of something that so instills a love of reading like that into kids who are otherwise video game/social media/anything-but-a-book obsessed.

The annual ALA list is faked and harms the LGBT community. I recorded a listed author admitting the former and I exposed the latter. See the link.

Good to know that one of the complaints for an erotic novel is that it’s “sexually explicit.”

Way to go…

Leave a Comment


Browse the Robot 6 Archives