Embattled comedian Bill Cosby’s award-winning children’s books series has landed on the American Library Association’s list of top 10 books targeted for removal from school libraries.
The annual list from the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tends to include a broad range of titles with the potential to offend. Repeat “honorees” include Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” for depictions of rape and incest, transgender reality TV star Jazz Jenning’s coming out story, “Fifty Shades of Grey” for obvious reasons, and the “Harry Potter” books because of witchcraft.
But Cosby’s “Little Bill” books are believed to the first time a title has been targeted solely for its author and not its content, ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom Director James LaRue said.
“I think it’s our fascination with celebrity. If we love the person we love everything about him. If we hate the person we hate everything about him. We don’t seem to be able to separate the message from the messenger.”
The “Little Bill” books follow the adventures and life lessons of Bill Jr., a 5-year-old Philadelphia boy. The series became an Emmy Award-winning Saturday morning cartoon series that ran on and off from 1999 to 2006.
Cosby’s legacy has been undermined by sexual assault allegations from dozens of women. He is facing trial in Pennsylvania based on allegations from one woman.
The ranking is based on 323 challenges reported to the office in 2016 by school librarians across the country, the ALA said. The ALA’s list does not specify where any of the challenges occurred.
Challenges tend to come from parents or students who choose a book for some reason or another and bring it to the principal to try to remove it permanently.
But LaRue said successful challenges tend never to get reported and the real number is likely much higher.
Books featuring “diverse” characters, such as racial minorities or gay, lesbian and transgender people, have become targets of challenges with increasing frequency this year.
Five of the 10 books on this year’s list included LGBT characters, including Jazz Jennings’ picture book. All five books were successfully removed from library shelves, or, in other words, banned, according to the ALA.
“Critics of this list say no book is banned in America and I beg to differ,” LaRue said. “If a book is removed it’s been banned.”
The complete list includes:
— “This One Summer,” by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
The ALA says this young adult graphic novel, winner of a Printz and a Caldecott Honor Award, was “restricted, relocated and banned” because it includes LGBT characters, drug use and profanity, and it was considered sexually explicit with mature themes.
— “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
Parents, librarians and administrators banned this Stonewall Honor Award-winning graphic novel for young adults because it includes LGBT characters, was deemed sexually explicit and was considered to have an offensive political viewpoint, the ALA said.
–“George,” by Alex Gino
Despite winning a Stonewall Award and a Lambda Literary Award, administrators removed this children’s novel because it includes a transgender child and the “sexuality was not appropriate at elementary levels,” according to the ALA.
— “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
This children’s picture book memoir was challenged and removed because it portrays a transgender child and because of language, sex education, and offensive viewpoints, the ALA said.
— “Two Boys Kissing,” by David Levithan
This young adult novel, a National Book Award longlist and Stonewall Honor Book, was challenged because its cover has an image of two boys kissing and it was considered to include sexually explicit LGBT content.
— “Looking for Alaska,” by John Green
This 2006 Printz Award winner is a young adult novel that was challenged and restricted for a sexually explicit scene that may lead a student to “sexual experimentation.”
— “Big Hard Sex Criminals,” by Matt Fraction, illustrated by Chip Zdarsky
This compilation of adult comic books by two award-winning artists was challenged and banned for being considered sexually explicit by library staff and administrators.
— “Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread,” by Chuck Palahniuk
This collection of adult short stories was challenged for profanity, sexual explicitness, and being “disgusting and all around offensive,” according to the ALA.
— “Little Bill Books” series, by Bill Cosby, illustrated by Varnette P. Honeywood
This children’s book series was challenged because of criminal sexual allegations against the author, the ALA said.
–‘ “Eleanor & Park,” by Rainbow Rowell
A New York Times Notable Children’s Books and a Printz Honor recipient, this young adult novel was challenged for offensive language, the ALA said.