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Children’s and Teen Books in Controversy

September 5, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments

Children’s and teen/young adult books that have experienced controversy.


A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Schwarts & Wade)
Depicts families, from England to California and from 1710 to 2010, preparing and enjoying the dessert called blackberry fool. Includes a recipe and historical notes.
Controversy: The way slavery is portrayed in the illustrations. Article at Teaching Tolerance includes lists of recommended books addressing slavery. Follow #slaverywithasmile.


Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Harper 1935)
A family travels from the big woods of Wisconsin to a new home on the prairie, where they build a house, meet neighboring Indians, build a well, and fight a prairie fire.
Controversy: Sterotypical portrayal of Native and African Americans. Article at NPR.


When We Was Fierce by e. E. Charlton-Trujillo (Candlewick)
Publication postponed… not sure if it ever ended up getting published. Blank at Goodreads.
Controversy: “Use of a made-up dialect along with what some deem as stereotypical characters.” Article at SLJ. Collection of Links to the Controversy.

The Continent by Keira Drake (Harlequin Teen 2018)
When a trip of a lifetime to the Continent turns into a nightmare, apprentice cartographer Vaela Sun finds herself face-to-face with the reality of a war she’s only read about after an accident leaves her stranded.
Controversy: Racism. Article at Vulture. Article at American Indians in Children’s Literature. Article at Melville House. Article at Canadian Broadcasting. Article at The Washington Post.

The Black Witch by Laurie Forest (Harlequin Teen 2017)
Controversy: Racism. Article at Vulture. Article at Seven Days, Vermont.

Revealing Eden by Victoria Foyt (Sand Dollar Press 2012)
Controversy: Racism. Trailer features a white character in blackface. Article in the Daily Dot.

A Place for Wolves by Kosoko Jackson ()
James Mills and his Brazilian boyfriend Tomas must rely on each other as they travel through war-torn Kosovo and try to reunite with their families.
Controversy: “Jackson, who is black and gay, wrote an adventure-romance centered on two foreign teenagers trying to escape Kosovo as war breaks out there, and that the villain was an ethnic Albanian Muslim.” Article at Reason.com.

Liar by Justine Larbalestier (Bloomsbury 2009) (this link depicts the REVISED cover. Original cover can be seen here)
Compulsive liar Micah promises to tell the truth after revealing that her boyfriend has been murdered.
Controversy: Cover not true to description of the book’s protagonist. Notes from the author. Article at Publisher’s Weekly.

Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao (Delacorte, rescheduled to November 2019)
A fugitive princess with a deadly Affinity and a charismatic crime lord forge an unlikely alliance in order to save themselves, each other, and the kingdom.
Controversy: “An offensive likeness of American slavery and black oppression.”  Article at Slate. Another Article at Slate.

Articles on the topic:

The Worst Book Controversies off 2016 and What to Read in Response by Zoraida Cordova at Bustle, December 27, 2016.
Many Classic Children’s Books Have Troubling Themes or Language. Should We Read Them Anyway? by Kate Lewis, Washington Post, October 29, 2018.
The Uncomfortable Truth About Children’s Books by Dashka Slater, Mother Jones, September/October 2016.
YA Twitter Can Be Toxic, But It Also Points Out Real Problems by Molly Templeton at BuzzFeed News, June 24, 2019.
In Y.A., Where Is the Line Between Criticism and Cancel Culture? by Katy Waldman at The New Yorker, March 21, 2019.

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