Books·Freedom to Read Week

29 books you may be surprised to learn were challenged in Canada

Freedom to Read Week, which takes place Feb. 24 to March 2, 2019, highlights the importance of free speech, free expression and how censorship affects us all.

Freedom to Read Week, which takes place Feb. 24 to March 2, 2019, highlights the importance of free speech, free expression and how censorship affects us all.

Here are 29 books you may be surprised to learn have have battled attempts at censorship in Canada. The information was provided by Freedom to Read Week and the Book and Periodical Council. 

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale is a bestselling novel by Margaret Atwood, recently adapted into a TV series. (Aaron Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

What it's about: In a not-too-distant dystopian future, the United States government has been overtaken by a Christian totalitarian theonomy called Gilead. Prohibited from reading, working or forming relationships, the singular purpose of women in this state is to breed. The book, set in New England, follows one of these women's stories and her attempts at survival in the repressive environment.

Reason for censorship: Violence and offensive language

​Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

Katherine Paterson is the author of the children's novel Bridge to Terabithia. (Katherine Paterson/Thomas Crowell)

What it's about: The book is the story of two lonely children who become fast friends and spend their days after school creating their own magical kingdom in the forest.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling 

J.K. Rowling the creator of the Harry Potter Series, a collection of fantasy novels for children, which was adapted into a film series. (Mary McCartney/Bloomsbury)

What it's about: The bestselling YA series about a boy wizard who is admitted to a magic boarding school and his battle against the dark forces that linger in this world. The stories were later adapted into a popular film series.

Reason for censorship: Satanism and witchcraft

The Holy Bible

The Bible is considered to be the bestselling book of all time.

What it's about: A collection of sacred texts regarded by Christians as a true record of the relationship between humans and God. It contains the new and old testaments.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

Star Wars: A New Hope by George Lucas 

George Lucas is a filmmaker and the creator of the Star Wars franchise. (Chris Pizzello/AP Photo/Random House)

What it's about: Originally entitled Star Wars: From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, this book is a novelization of George Lucas' first Star Wars film in the original trilogy, released in 1977. The story centres on the life of Luke Skywalker.

Reason for censorship: Unknown reasons

The Wars by Timothy Findley  

The Wars by Timothy Findley won the 1977 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. (Penguin)

What it's about: After the death of his sister, Robert Ross, a 19-year-old Canadian, decides to enlist in the First World War to escape his grief and downtrodden life in the Victorian era. The story follows his submersion in the realities of the war.

Reason for censorship: Sex and violence

Chicken Soup for the Unsinkable Soul by Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen

Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hansen are the author behind the Chicken Soup book series. (HCI)

What it's about: This book is a compilation of inspirational stories from people who have overcome obstacles and dealt with life's challenges.

Reason for censorship: Unknown reasons

Essex County by Jeff Lemire 

Jeff Lemire is the author of graphic novel Essex County. (The Canadian Press/Cole Burston/Top Shelf Productions)

What it's about: This graphic novel explores what it means to live, work, dream and even die in a Southwestern Ontario rural community. The population of this fictional landscape is represented from childhood to old age through its characters Lester, Lou and Anne. The illustrated black and white panels show the characters' stark external world and the vividness of their interior lives.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess 

English writer Anthony Burgess is the author of A Clockwork Orange, first published in 1962. (Evening Standard/Getty Images/Penguin Modern Classics)

What it's about: In Anthony Burgess' depiction of the future, criminals wreak havoc when the sun sets. The book follows Alex, a sadistic 15-year-old boy and member of a street gang, who begins to commit heinous crimes against people. State authorities attempt to reform him with little success.

Reason for censorship: Unknown reasons

Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson 

David Guterson is a novelist and essayist, best known for his book Snow Falling on Cedars. (Harcourt)

What it's about: Set in an isolated community called San Piedro Island, Snow Falling on Cedars follows the death of a local fisherman in 1954, and a Japanese American named Kabuo Miyamoto charged with the murder. In the trial, it becomes clear that there is more at stake then deciding Miyamoto's fate. The community is faced the memory of its Japanese population being exiled as their neighbours watched.

Reason for censorship: Sex

His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman's fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials is about a girl on a quest in a parallel universe. (Sarah Lee/Random House)

What it's about: This is a three-part series of fantasy books, including The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, that follows two children as they wander through parallel universes.

Reason for censorship: Sex, violence, offensive language, satanism and witchcraft

The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine 

R.L. Stine is the creator of Goosebumps, a series of children's horror fiction novellas. (Getty Images/Scholastic)

What it's about: This is a horror fiction series for kids, in which the stories follow children who find themselves in scary situations, coming face to face with monsters and supernatural forces.

Reason for censorship: Violence

On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder

On the Banks of Plum Creek is the fourth of nine books in Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series, a collection of autobiographical children's novels. (HarperCollins)

What it's about: In the fourth book of the Little House series, Laura Ingalls and her family leave their little house on the prairie and settle in a little house made of sod beside the banks of beautiful Plum Creek. Their father builds a sturdier house with real glass windows and a hinged door. A grasshopper plague and unforgiving blizzard cause trouble.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a literary classic by Mark Twain. (Legend Times Group)

What it's about: This literary classic tells the story of 13-year-old Huckleberry Finn, who in an attempt to escape from his abusive father clasp, fakes his own death. He meets a runaway slave and they down the Mississippi River together on a raft. This book is still considered one of the great American novels of all-time and compulsory for fiction readers.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

The Best of Drawn & Quarterly edited by Chris Oliveros

Chris Oliveros is the founder of Drawn & Quarterly and was the publisher for over 25 years, from 1989 to 2015. (Drawn and Quarterly)

What it's about: This book is a collection of the best entries from Drawn & Quarterly's first two years in print. The magazine later flourished into a comic and cartoon publishing company.

Reason for censorship: Sex and violence

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes 

Daniel Keyes, given the Author Emeritus honor by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2000, is the author of science fiction novel Flowers for Algernon. (Aurea/Houghton Mifflin Harcour/Harcourt Brace)

What it's about: The story, originally written as a novella and published by The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, centres on a man with an intellectual disability who goes through an experimental operation to artificially increase his intelligence. In the process, his IQ shoots from 68 to 185, and the effects are life changing.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee 

Harper Lee smiles before receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House in 2007 in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

What it's about: This classic novel, translated into more than 40 languages, is a gripping, coming-of-age story set in the South, where prejudice and inequality are prevalent. It centres on the perspective of a young girl whose father, a lawyer, risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger 

J.D. Salinger was an American writer best known for his novel, The Catcher in the Rye. (Hulton Archive/Little, Brown And Company)

What it's about: In this literary classic, dejected 16-year-old Holden Caulfield leaves his preparatory school in Pennsylvania and travels to New York for three days, where he has encounters with colourful characters and experiences that get him into trouble.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2013. (The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito/Penguin Modern Classics)

What it's about: This book by Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro chronicles a young girl's experience growing up in rural Ontario in the 1940s. The protagonist, Del Jordan, grapples with the crises that accompany the journey into womanhood.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry, who's written over 30 children's books, is the author of The Giver, a YA dystopian novel. (Larry D. Moore/HMH Books for Young Readers)

What it's about: This novel, set in a dystopian society, tells the story of 12-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly idyllic, albeit dull, uniform world — until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory. He begins to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

Princess on the Brink by Meg Cabot 

Meg Cabot is the creator of The Princess Diaries. Princess on the Brink is part of the series of books. (Thesupermat/HarperCollins)

What it's about: This is the eighth book in the Princess Diaries series, which inspired the featured films of the same name. The story follows Mia, now a junior in high school, as she faces all the challenges that come with being an upperclassman, including her boyfriend's possible move to Japan.

Reason for censorship: Sex and offensive language

Foxfire by Joyce Carol Oates

Foxfire, published in 1993, is by novellist and short story writer Joyce Carol Oates. (Oregon State University/Plume)

What it's about: Set in a blue-collar town in 1950s upstate New York, this novel follows five high school girls who form a gang dedicated to pride, power and vengeance against a world riddled with male oppressors that seems made to denigrate and destroy them.

Reason for censorship: Sex, violence and offensive language

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

Mordecai Richler was a Canadian journalist and author best known for his novels The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Barney's Version. (Ryan Remiorz/CP/Penguin)

What it's about: Duddy is a third-generation member of a Jewish immigrant family in Montreal and a brash young man, who would torment teachers at the Jewish academy. He takes on four jobs in an effort to "be somebody" and eventually develop the lakeshore property of his dreams. In the process, he learns a few lessons about living.

Reason for censorship: Unknown reasons

The Diviners by Margaret Laurence 

Margaret Laurence was a Canadian novelist and short story writer. She authored The Diviners, published in 1974. (New Canadian Library)

What it's about: This novel, part of a five-book fiction series, tells the story of Morag Gunn, a writer and single mother who grew up on the Canadian prairies and has no intention of leaving, because she believes the experience makes her tough. She struggles to understand the loneliness her teenage daughter feels.

Reason for censorship: Sex and offensive language

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

British novelist and playright William Golding was best known for his book Lord of the Flies, published in 1954. (Faber & Faber)

What it's about: A group of young boys are marooned on a deserted island. Once order is gone and resources become scarce, divisions form and chaos ensues among them as they each attempt to survive in the wild. 

Reason for censorship: Offensive language 

Hold Fast by Kevin Major 

Hold Fast, first published in 1978, was the first book by Kevin Major. (Victoria Wells/Groundwood Books)

What it's about: The novel is about two brothers, Michael and Brent, who are uprooted from their tight-knit Newfoundland community and eventually separated when their parents are killed in a car accident. Michael moves to a larger city to live with his Aunt Ellen and his stern Uncle Ted, where he forms a close friendship with his cousin Curtis, but continues to struggle with grief, bullying at school and accepting his new environment. They both escape to the woodlands in search of freedom.

Reason for censorship: Unknown reasons

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker won the Canada Council Children's Literature Prize in 1979. (Penguin)

What it's about: This historical novel tells the story of escaped slaves from the United States who travelled into Canada through the underground railroad.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language

Gossip Girl by Cecily von Ziegesar 

Cecily von Ziegesar is best known for her novel Gossip Girl, which was adapted into a popular TV teen drama series. (Cecily von Ziegesar/Poppy)

What it's about: Set in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, this series of novels gives an inside look into the glamorous, yet tumultuous, lives of a group of teenage socialites and all the drama that ensues within their circle.

Reason for censorship: Unknown reasons

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

John Steinbeck was the author of novella and literary classic Of Mice and Men, first published in 1937. (Penguin Random House Canada)

What it's about: This novella tells the story of two migrant ranch workers, George Milton and Lennie Small, who travel through California during the Great Depression in search of new job opportunities.

Reason for censorship: Offensive language and religious issues


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