Free to Read: Chapter Books for Kids

By Skokie Staff Youth Services

We celebrate the freedom to read by highlighting books that have been banned, censored, or challenged in schools and libraries across the country.

  • Bad Kitty Gets a Bath

    2020 by Bruel, Nick

    This beloved series features the (mis)adventures of a hilariously sassy cat and a very funny set of background characters. It has been banned and challenged for a number of reasons, including implied foul language (cartoon symbols) and for portraying a lesbian couple.

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  • Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice

    2018 by Celano, Marianne

    A police shooting of a local Black man helps two children of different races understand the racial injustices that exist and thrive in their town. This book, challenged for "divisive language and promoting anti-police views" is sixth on the American Library Association's list of books most frequently banned and challenged in 2020.

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  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963

    1995 by Curtis, Christopher Paul

    This delightful book about a Black family traveling north to south during the height of Jim Crow was challenged for "offensive language." The stories are powerful, relatable, and can make you laugh out loud.

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  • James and the Giant Peach

    2016 by Dahl, Roald

    Whimsical and strange (as well as thrilling and beautifully written), this book about a boy hurtling through space in a giant fruit with his insect friends has been frequently banned for general references to drugs and alcohol, and magical elements.

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  • George

    2015 by Gino, Alex

    Also known as "Melissa's Story," this sensitive and insightful book about a transgender child coming to terms with her identity received glowing reviews, stating among other things that it promotes empathy and understanding. It is also routinely challenged, banned, restricted, and hidden for LGBTQIA+ content, including a transgender character, sexual references, and going against traditional family structure.

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  • The Great Gilly Hopkins

    2016 by Paterson, Katherine

    This Newbery Honor book is near the middle of the top 100 list of frequently banned or challenged books and has been challenged in six states (Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado, Connecticut, Texas, and Nevada) primarily for "gutter (explicit) language." It has also been honored by almost the same number of states with their Children's Book Awards.

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  • The Adventures of Captain Underpants: Now in Full Color, the First Epic Novel

    2013 by Pilkey, Dav

    Crude and irreverent humor and misbehavior are among the reasons this is one of the most challenged series of all time. We suspect those are the same reasons the books are so fervently beloved.

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  • In Our Mothers' House

    2009 by Polacco, Patricia

    In this book, three adoptive children of different races are raised by two white women in a loving home. In 2012, it was challenged in a Utah school district for "normaliz[ing] an untraditional family" and homosexual themes, and was also banned in several schools in Texas in 2011.

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  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

    2016 by Rowling, J. K.

    Despite being one of the most popular and beloved fantasy series of all time, these books remain solidly on the American Library Association's Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged list for references to witchcraft and sorcery, "containing actual curses and spells," and for containing disreputable characters.

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  • Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

    2010 by Schwartz, Alvin

    Critics may have loved the recent movie adaptation of these shivery stories, but grisly artwork, disturbing topics, and inappropriate content for children have earned this beloved classic series a spot on the American Library Association's Top 100 Most Banned and Challenged list since its creation in the 1990s.

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  • Bone

    2005 by Smith, Jeff

    This popular, award-winning graphic novel series about three unlikely heroes who must save their valley from evil has been beloved by young fans of comics for years. It has also been challenged for violence, instances of drinking and smoking, and being "politically, racially, or socially offensive."

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  • Drama

    2012 by Telgemeier, Raina

    Challenged for "promoting the homosexual agenda," and containing "subject matter too advanced for elementary students," this sweet and honest graphic novel realistically portrays the trials and tribulations of a middle school theater production.

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  • Charlotte's Web

    2012 by White, E. B.

    This beloved, award-winning classic tale of friendship and love has been treasured for generations, but it has also been challenged. As recently as 2006, it was banned by a school in Kansas because “talking animals are blasphemous and unnatural.” Discussion of life cycles and death were also deemed “inappropriate subject matter for a children’s book."

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  • Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan

    2009 by Winter, Jeanette

    Based on a true story of a young girl who stops speaking after her parents are kidnapped by the Taliban, this book has been challenged for its religious viewpoints, violence, and "references to Islam."

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