The Canadian Library Association, while not mounting a campaign per se, also keeps a list of all book challenges. You can find the Canadian list for 2009 here: Challenges to Canadian Library Resources and Policies. If you're from somewhere other than Canada or the US, there's a good chance your own library association keeps a list of books challenged in your country. Go have a look; you're sure to find a book or two on it that will appeal.
In honour of Banned Books Week, I'll be reviewing three picture books which have been challenged repeatedly. Here's the first:
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Author/Illustrator: Maurice Sendak
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Format: Paperback, also available in hardcover
Age Range: Toddler, Preschooler, Early Reader
Kid Love Factor: 4/5
Adult Sanity Factor: 4.5/5
In the Night Kitchen is of course a classic. Mickey, a child of about two or three, is awoken by noises in the night and falls out of his clothes and into a giant bowl of batter the Night Kitchen. There are three bakers who apparently mistake Mickey for milk and mix him into the bowl and place it in the oven. Luckily, Mickey escapes the oven, tells off the bakers, and turns some bread dough into an airplane, which he flies to the top of a giant bottle of milk. Mickey swims in the milk and then pours some down for the bakers to make their cake. Mickey then crows like a rooster and slides down the milk bottle and back into bed.
And he grabbed the cup as he flew up
And over the top of the Milky Way in the Night Kitchen.
Whew. I wish I had more awesome dreams like that. You know the ones: they enchanted you when you were a child and still do to a certain extent, though now you wonder what exactly it was you ate/drank/smoked yesterday to cause them.
The rhythm of the text is fantastic, but it's really the illustrations that carry the day here. To me, the three bakers look like they're the identical triplet cousins of Oliver Hardy, although apparently Selmek may have been referring to the Holocaust with their small black mustaches and their baking of Mickey. In any case, Mickey's irritation, frustration, wonder, and mischief all come through brilliantly. The backgrounds are amazing, resembling the depression or wartime era Manhattan skyline made completely out of kitchen products and utensils. The detail is astounding with Hosmer's Free Running Sugar, Kneitel's Fandango, Woody's Kosher Salt, and whatever Ta-Ka-Kake is supposed to be. On second thought, I'm fairly sure I don't want to know...
The illustrations are also the reason the book has made challenged and banned book lists for years. See, Sendak had the audacity to keep little naked Mickey anatomically correct. It's not detailed, but Mickey definitely has a penis and testicles. I'm not entirely sure what the problem of a naked three-year-old is, given that half the real ones on the planet would run around naked every day if given the choice, but apparently it's highly offensive in a children's book.
Boo loves the rhythm and rhyme of the text and the sing-song way in which we read it. He's been fascinated with the pictures from well before he was speaking, and he continues to love pointing out the stars and moon and milk et al.
And that's why, thanks to Mickey
We have cake every morning.
For a hint of irony on the whole book banning thing, I must admit to verbally editing the end of the book when we read it to say "we have milk every morning", but only because I don't want to start an argument with my literal little man on why pancakes aren't going to happen every day.
Autism Spectrum Bonus: In the Night Kitchen is almost a comic book in the way it relies on the pictures to tell the story which might appeal to more visual learners, while the rhythm and rhyme of the text might encourage vocalizations, especially during the bakers' two chants and the rooster crow at the end. The incredibly detailed backgrounds give you plenty of opportunity to encourage pointing and interaction with Where's Waldo type questions like "Can you find an egg-beater? What about a tomato?" And for those just learning to name body parts, especially little boys, there aren't too many other picture books that allow you to practice "bum" and "penis" identification.
Boo takes the book to the reading nook
And climbs into Sam's lap for The Night Kitchen.
In the Night Kitchen at Amazon.com
|Banned Books Week 2010|