Read Banned Books: a Brief List of Books That Have Been Challenged, Restricted, or Banned
Though censorship is nothing new, over the past few years, countless attempts have been made to restrict and ban the types of books kids can read. These challenges happen all over the country, and though often unsuccessful, they are still harmful to children who may identify with the book content that is deemed “objectionable.”
We wholeheartedly believe that all books should be accessible to all children. We want every child to find the book that helps them feel seen, the one that makes them feel a little less alone in the world, and the one that opens their eyes to a new way of being and seeing.
We have compiled a list of books that have been challenged, restricted and/or banned. This list is in no way exhaustive, but it does include a selection of books that have been published across decades, about various topics and by a wide range of authors, illustrators and publishers. We have chosen to include the book descriptions from the publishers so that you can decide for yourself whether these books belong in children’s hands.
Visit our Bookshop for a complete list of book summaries, and to purchase and/or donate.
For more information about book banning and what you can do to advocate against censorship, click the links below.
Books with an asterisk next to the title indicate a top 10 most challenged book.
Board and Picture Books
When Aidan Became a Big Brother
Author: Kyle Lukoff | Illustrator: Kaylani Juanita | Publisher: Lee & Low Books
When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl's room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of his life that didn't fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.
Then Mom and Dad announce that they're going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning--from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does "making things right" actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.
When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.
All Are Welcome
Author: Alexandra Penfold | Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Discover a school where all young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated.
Readers will follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other's traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.
Author: Ibram X. Kendi | Illustrator: Ashley Lukashevsky | Publisher: Kokila
Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby's nine easy steps for building a more equitable world.
With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society.
And Tango Makes Three
Authors: Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell | Illustrators: Henry Cole | Publisher: Little Simon
At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others. But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo got the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own.
Red: a Crayons Story
Author/Illustrator: Michael Hall | Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Funny, insightful, and colorful, Red: A Crayon's Story is about being true to your inner self and following your own path despite obstacles that may come your way. Red will appeal to fans of Lois Ehlert, Eric Carle, and The Day the Crayons Quit, and makes a great gift for readers of any age!
Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let's draw strawberries!), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange!), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can't be red, no matter how hard he tries!
Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He's blue!
The Name Jar
Author/Illustrator: Yangsook Choi | Publisher: Dragonfly Books
Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what happens when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious about fitting in. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she decides to choose an American name from a glass jar. But while Unhei thinks of being a Suzy, Laura, or Amanda, nothing feels right. With the help of a new friend, Unhei will learn that the best name is her own.
From acclaimed creator Yangsook Choi comes the bestselling classic about finding the courage to be yourself and being proud of your background.
Author: Taye Diggs | Illustrator: Shane W. Evans | Publisher: Square Fish
The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.
For years before they both achieved acclaim in their respective professions, good friends Taye Diggs and Shane W. Evans wanted to collaborate on Chocolate Me!, a book based on experiences of being African American, feeling different and trying to fit in as kids. Now, both men are fathers and see more than ever the need for a picture book that encourages all people, especially kids, to love themselves.
A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Author: Jen Bryant | Illustrator: Melissa Sweet | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn't lift his right arm, and couldn't make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint--and paint, and paint! Soon, people—including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth—started noticing Horace's art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country.
Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.
*Something Happened in Our Town: a Child’s Story About Racial Injustice
Authors: Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins & Ann Hazzard | Illustrator: Jennifer Zivoin | Publisher: Magination Press
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.
Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues.
Free, downloadable educator materials (including discussion questions) are available at www.apa.org.
I am Jazz
Authors: Jazz Jennings and Jessica Herthel | Illustrator: Shelagh McNicholas | Publisher: Dial Books
From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl's brain in a boy's body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn't feel like herself in boys' clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz's story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.
Julian is a Mermaid
Author/Illustrator: Jessica Love | Publisher: Candlewick
While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.
The Family Book
Author/Illustrator: Todd Parr | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
The Family Book celebrates the love we feel for our families and all the different varieties they come in. Whether you have two moms or two dads, a big family or a small family, a clean family or a messy one, Todd Parr assures readers that no matter what kind of family you have, every family is special in its own unique way.
Parr's message about the importance of embracing our differences is delivered in a playful way. With his trademark bold, bright colors and silly scenes, this book will encourage children to ask questions about their own families. Perfect for young children just beginning to read, The Family Book is designed to encourage early literacy, enhance emotional development, celebrate multiculturalism, promote character growth, and strengthen family relationships.
A is for Activist
Author/Illustrator: Innosanto Nagara | Publisher: Triangle Square
A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for.
The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents' values of community, equality, and justice. This engaging little book carries huge messages as it inspires hope for the future, and calls children to action while teaching them a love for books.
Introducing Teddy: a Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship
Author: Jessica Walton | Illustrator: Dougal MacPherson | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it's riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party, or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do.
One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can't figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the teddy has been afraid to say: "In my heart, I've always known that I'm a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas." And Errol says, "I don't care if you're a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend."
Jacob’s New Dress
Authors: Sarah Hoffman and Ian Hoffman | Illustrator: Chris Case | Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can't wear "girl" clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by children who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.
Prince and Knight
Author: Daniel Haack | Illustrator: Stevie Lewis | Publisher: little bee books
Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn't quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met.
While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along. This book is published in partnership with GLAAD to accelerate LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.
Middle Grade and Young Adult Books
*The Hate U Give
Author: Angie Thomas | Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.
*Melissa (formerly titled George, republishing April 2022)
Author: Alex Gino | Publisher: Scholastic Press
BE WHO YOU ARE.
When people look at Melissa, they think they see a boy named George. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.
Melissa thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. Melissa really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part... because she's a boy.
With the help of her best friend, Kelly, Melissa comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.
Gender Queer: A Memoir
Author: Maia Kobabe | Publisher: Oni Press
In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.
Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity—what it means and how to think about it—for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.
*Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You
Authors: Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
RACE. Uh-oh. The R-word.
But actually talking about race is one of the most important things to learn how to do.
Adapted from the award-winning, bestselling Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, this book takes readers on a journey from present to past and back again. Kids will discover where racist ideas came from, identify how they impact America today, and meet those who have fought racism with antiracism. Along the way, they’ll learn how to identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their own lives.
Ibram X. Kendi’s research, Jason Reynolds’s and Sonja Cherry-Paul’s writing, and Rachelle Baker’s art come together in this vital read, enhanced with a glossary, timeline, and more.
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson | Publisher: Square Fish
Freshman year at Merryweather High is not going well for Melinda Sordino. She busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, and now her friends—and even strangers—all hate her. So she stops trying, stops talking. She retreats into her head, and all the lies and hypocrisies of high school become magnified, leaving her with no desire to talk to anyone anyway. But it’s not so comfortable in her head, either—there’s something banging around in there that she doesn’t want to think about. She can’t just go on like this forever. Eventually, she’s going to have to confront the thing she’s avoiding, the thing that happened at the party, the thing that nobody but her knows. She’s going to have to speak the truth.
*All American Boys
Authors: Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely | Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books