Banned Books Week – The Wizard of Oz

Banned Books Week always makes me think about my favorite books. It seems many of my favorite books are ones that have been challenged in some way. Whether this is coincidental or some Pavlovian response to outcries against well-written stories, I can’t tell.

Banned books week also makes me laugh, thinking about the books people have taken issue with over the years. Children’s books about talking animals? Get out of here. Young adult fiction with a gay protagonist? Peace out. Adult books with a hint of magic? Begone!

Books seem to get challenged and banned for sillier and sillier reasons. One of my favorite books since childhood is one of those books challenged for beyond silly reasons.

Harriet the Spy, for instance, was banned because Harriet–wait for it–spies. As in, she does what the title says she’ll do. As in someone saw this book, thought “hmmm, I wonder what happens in this book,” read it, and then got angry because the titular spy spies on people.

Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends was banned for telling children to break plates instead of drying them. I’m sure you’re all aware that this book is actually chock full of real life advice. You know, “Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me too” they went for joyrides in flying shoes. Watch out kids, it’s a slow fade. One day you’re breaking plates and the next you’re breaking the speed limit on the I-10 in a New Balance. It’s a gateway poem.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum was published in 1900. Since its publication it has been met with dissension. Though it was received well enough to inspire a musical movie and a broadway production, many people found it to be unwholesome and of no value to children. The Detroit Public Library went so far as to ban it entirely for 15 year from 1957-1972.

In 1987, it was challenged by a group of fundamentalist Christians in Tennessee for its portrayal of good witches. Because witches can’t be good. (I’m not going to be the one to point out to said fundamentalist Christians that the Witch of Endor mentioned in The Bible is a necromancer and not a wish-granting, slipper-giving magician…)

“A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others.”

-L. Frank Baum

The most bizarre instance of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz being challenged, however, has to do with the series’ protagonist, Dorothy. Dorothy, the precocious, wise-beyond-her-years heroine of Oz. What could she possibly do that was so wrong she may be banned from the public view?

Dorothy made the grave, sad mistake of being a leader. I mean, seriously. Nothing offends me more than women in leadership roles. I am personally offended at strong-willed women. I take issue with books that feature young women thinking for themselves, solving their own problems, and not waiting for men to save them. It’s detestable and deplorable.

How dare L. Frank Baum create such a role modern of feminism at the turn of the century? I hope he was ashamed of himself for the amazing character that he crafted in Dorothy.

Seriously? How can anybody take issue with Dorothy? She truly is a strong, respectable heroine in literature. In literature, I place her alongside respectable female characters like Anne Shirley and Caddie Woodlawn. They’re definitely characters I would not be opposed to my students and my future children reading. So, clearly, they deserve to be banned. Right?

I have so many feelings about this, I think I’ll just sign off now.

Have a beautiful banned book day!

The Plucky Reader

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