If I Ran the Zoo

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If I Ran the Zoo


Dr. Seuss

Random House, 1950, 1977

From the dust jacket, “Young Gerald McGrew went to the zoo one day and came up with some crazy ideas about how he would change it – maybe there weren’t any crazy ideas, but there are certainly some crazy animals he dreamt up. First, he would open the cages and let all of the ‘old-fashioned’ animals loose (lions, tigers, ducks, etc.) and second, he would travel the world searching for unique animals.

“And what are those unique animals, you ask? Well … how about a ten-footed lion? Or an elephant-cat! Also, there’s an animal known as Bustard and one known as Flustard. And then there’s the very cool, blue-furred Iota and the Tufted Mazurka!”

Dr. Seuss wrote this rhyming book for kittens, not adult cats, so of course, certain cat parents have become upset with it over the years – wanting to ban it because it is derogatory toward one group of humans – but amazingly, I haven’t read any complaints about the illustrations of another group of humans being derogatory (the illustrations depicting Africans are really close to insulting that particular group).

The primary reason the book has been challenged is for the line:

“I’ll hunt in the mountains of Zomba-ma-Tant

With helpers who all wear their eyes at a slant.”

Now, it is of the Library’s opinion that Dr. Seuss chose the ‘offending’ phrase because it rhymed with the line before it – not for any nefarious reason!  This line is also accompanied by a stereotypical-illustration Asians with slanted eyes and ‘Fu-Manchu’ mustaches, circa 1950, which helps to cement the offensive nature of the book to sensitive readers. If you remember any of the movies from the 40s-50s that had folks from the Pacific Rim acting, you’ll get the idea.

So, here’s the thing, my opinion for what it’s worth, before you read a book to a kitten, read it yourself first. If you don’t like it or it goes against your morals, don’t read it to them; but don’t prevent other kitten parents from reading it! It’s okay if you don’t like the book. But it’s not okay if you won’t even let me read it to decide if I like it or not! Okay, I’m off the soapbox, for now, any way!

This book, as are all of Dr. Seuss’ are, is a product of the age in which it was written and illustrated. To change or censor the classic book would be as bad as banning it. I don’t particularly like Dr. Seuss – his nonsensical writing style is cute but also drives me crazy!! And, his creatures all look alike – or mostly alike. But that doesn’t mean other kittens and cats shouldn’t read it! Try it, you may like it!!!

Rating: 3 out of 5 paws – not because it’s offensive (The Library is only occasionally offended by a book or work of art) but because I just don’t like Dr. Seuss – or at least this book! Too nonsensical for me.

I found this one instance of book-challenging: “Stereotypical depictions of Asians, who “all wear their eyes at a slant,” were the reason this book was challenged in Vancouver (BC) in 2014. Vancouver Public Library chose to keep it on the shelves, but will not be reading it at storytimes, and will only promote it as an example of how depictions of other cultures have changed over time.”

And from a review of 6/17/17 from Amazon.com: “This book has lots of racist message, whoever wrote that particular Dr Seuss book is vicious, want to poison kid mind” [sic]



Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian




The Witches

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The Witches

Roald Dahl
Pictures by Quentin Blake
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2013, 1983

From the dust jacket, “When the young hero of The Witches is orphaned by an automobile accident, he is left in the care of his aged grandmother, a formidable cigar-smoking lady who happens to be a retired expert on dealing with witches. In spite of her warnings about how to spot these awful creatures, her grandson accidentally wanders into the annual convocation of the witches of England—and overhears the horrifying plans in store for every child in the country. But before he can escape to reveal the witches’ plot, he is captured and turned into, well … you will have to read and find out. for certain he is no ordinary hero and this is no ordinary tale.”

What a fun book! I read it straight through even though its 202 pages long! But be warned: if you’re afraid of mice or witches or the terrible, awful things they do to youngsters, then you might not want to read the book. Just kidding!!! While the book does portray witches in a terrible light, as the author reminds his reader, the book is written for kittens, not adults. Kittens know not to take anything in Roald Dahl’s books seriously and that his outlandish writing is for fun and laughter. So, if you’re witch without a sense of humor and are unable to laugh at yourself and your fellow witches – DON’T read this book! I promise you – you WILL be offended. If you’re a kitten, then get your minders to check out this book for you as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed!

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws for lots of fun, lots of mice and even a mention of cats!!!



Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian

Banned/Challenged Information

This book was banned by some libraries in England because of perceived misogyny. The reason? Dahl says that witches can only be women. Also challenged because our hero misbehaves and takes retribution on adults without consequences for his action and because it devalues the life of a child.
It was also challenged in:
1987 in Amana, Iowa for being “too sophisticated and did not teach moral values”;

1989 in Billings, Montana because Dahl made a comment indicating parents had no sense of humor;

1990 in Goose Lake, Iowa for violence, turning people into mice and the word “slut” (I don’t remember reading that word);

1991 in Dallas, Oregon for the possibility of enticing kids to study witchcraft or the occult;

1992 in Escondido, California for fear of desensitizing kids to violence and increasing interest in witchcraft;
1992, La Mesa-Spring Valley, California for depiction of witches as ordinary women that children cannot defend against and for promoting the Wiccan religion and witchcraft;

1993 in Spenser, Wisconsin for desensitizing children to crimes related to witchcraft;

1994 in Battle Creek, Michigan a parent claimed the book was “satanic”;

1995 in Stafford, Virginia for crude language and encouraging children to be disobedient;

1997 in Wichita Falls, Texas for satanic themes;

1998 in Dublin, Ohio because the book is “derogatory to children hurtful to self-esteem and conflicted with religious and moral beliefs.”

Now, if all of that nonsense doesn’t want to make you read the book, just because, well, I don’t know what else to say!


The Rabbits’ Wedding

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The Rabbits’ Wedding

Story and Pictures by Garth Williams
Harper & Row Publishers, 1958, 1990

From the dust jacket, “Two little rabbits, one white and the other black, played together happily in the forest. But in between the games of Hop, Skip and Jump Me and Race around the Blackberry Bush the black rabbit stopped and signed, “I’m just thinking,” he would say, when the white rabbit asked him what was the matter. …”

Totally cute story of two bunnies who are friends and each has a secret crush on the other. When they both realize this, they decide to get married and all their forest friends are invited. The illustrations are charming and colored in muted tones of green and yellow, with the black and white bunnies. A perfect little picture book for kittens – especially the ones who love rabbits and romantic stories.

Rating: 4 out of 5 paws because who doesn’t love a wedding!?!



Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian

Why this book was challenged and then banned (info from Wikipedia):  “The Rabbits’ Wedding was published on April 30, 1958, and depicted the love affair and wedding of two bunnies, one white and one black.

“The book’s publication led to controversy in the state of Alabama in 1959: the local White Citizens Council of Montgomery, Alabama, attacked the book which, they said, promoted interracial marriage in defiance of the laws against miscegenation. Against such attacks, the book found an advocate in Emily Wheelock Reed, director of the Alabama Public Library Service Division, whose job it was to provide libraries throughout the state with the books they requested.

“Representative E. O. Eddins of Marengo County, Alabama, together with the White Citizen’s Council, led the battle against Williams’ book, and suggested Reed “put stock in racial incorporation” and “This book and many others should be taken off the shelves and burned.” As a result, the library system banned the book from all libraries in Alabama.

“Reed (who said she enjoyed the book) complied to the extent that she moved it away from general circulation and instead put it on reserve, available upon request; this made the book still accessible to local librarians and thus was not a ban of the book: “We have had difficulty with the book, but we have not lost our integrity”. Before the year was over segregationists again found fault with Reed, who distributed a reading list that included various controversial titles including Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story.

“During an interview with The New York Times in 1959, Garth Williams said, “[The Rabbits’ Wedding] was not written for adults who will not understand it, because it is only about a soft, furry love and has no hidden messages of hate.” Williams denied that his story, intended for children ages 3 to 7, was a purposeful anecdote of racial integration. “I was completely unaware that animals with white furs, such as white polar bears and white dogs and white rabbits, were considered blood relations of white human beings,” Williams commented. Williams further explained to The New York Times: “I was only aware that a white horse next to a black horse looks very picturesque—and my rabbits were inspired by early Chinese paintings of black and white horses in misty landscapes.”



Crow Boy

crow boy

Crow Boy

Taro Yashima
Viking, 1955, 1983

From the dust jacket, “Chibi has been an outcast since that frightening first day of school when he hid under the schoolhouse. Afraid of the teacher and unable make any friends, Chibi passes his free time along—alone at study time, alone at playtime, always a “forlorn little tag-along.” But when Mr. Isobe arrives, the teacher sees things in Chibi that no one else has ever noticed….


Chibi is a little boy who is bullied and ignored by kids his own age. He grows from the first year of school to the final 6th year and never makes a childhood friend. But he seems happy with himself and in his final school year he blossoms under the attention of a caring teacher. Even his fellow classmates admit their wrong in how they treated him.

The lessons in acceptance and tolerance of those who don’t follow the main stream is subtle but clear. It would be nice to think that, like in the book, the bullies of our lives would come to the realization that every cat and kitten are important – regardless of who they are or what they look like. The illustrations are colorful and crudely drawn. I don’t mind this type of illustration every once in a while, but I wouldn’t want a steady diet of it; it’s too abstract for my tastes. But don’t let the illustrations keep you from reading this book to yourself and your kittens. We all need a lesson in acceptance – it seems to be a skill lacking in many toms, queens and kittens of all ages.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws because the positive ending to a potentially very sad story of bullying.

For banned/challenged book information, please scroll past the illustrations!


This book was challenged by a school board member in Queens (NY) in 1994 because it “denigrates white American culture, promotes racial separation and discourages assimilation.” The rest of the school board voted to retain the book.

So…this is a book written and illustrated by a Japanese writer/artist, it’s setting an unnamed village in rural Japan, peopled only by Japanese – and it denigrates American white culture? Promotes racial separation and discourages assimilation? Really? Was the American school board member so egotistical that he (or she) felt the American white culture is so superior to anything else in the world that all other cultures pale by comparison? Thank the Lord for the other board members who voted to retain this book. Were they not more broadly minded, this precious story would’ve been consigned to the book graveyard.

I really try to stay neutral on the subject of banning/challenging books in reviewing them, but some charges are just too ludicrous not to speak up.



Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian

And Tango Makes Three

and tango makes three

And Tango Makes Three

Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

From the dust jacket, “In the zoo there are all kinds of animal families. But Tango’s family is not like any of the others.”

This is a true story of 2 male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who became a couple and built a nest for an egg that never came. One of the zookeepers placed an extra fertilized egg in the boy penguin’s empty nest and they each took turns to sit on it and eventually, a female chick, Tango, was hatched.

The penguins in the story are so sweet – they’re like any other animal couple – playing, sleeping and eating together; and, most of all, their inborn desire to have a chick. When I was reading it, my heart hurt a little when Roy and Silo built their little nest and tried to hatch a rock – which of course, didn’t hatch. Thank goodness for attentive zookeepers who care for their charges and want to provide the best for them.

Rating 4 out of 5 paws for cuteness of the penguins, of course, but more importantly, for the honesty and forthrightness with which the story is told. No apologies or excuses, here. Just the facts, ‘mam, just the facts. Two boys can make a family!!

If you want to read about the multiple times this book has been challenged and banned, please scroll past the adorable illustrations!




You can imagine why this book is banned and challenged… The ALA reports that And Tango Makes Three was the most frequently challenged book from 2006 to 2010, except for 2009 when it was the second most frequently challenged…and thank you to the ALA for the following information.

2014 –
• One of three books about gay couples withdrawn from libraries in Singapore (2014), where gay sex is illegal. In a statement, the National Library Board suggested that gayness and family values are incompatible. And that copies of the book would be pulped. It was announced later that authorities in Singapore reversed their decision and stopped the national library from destroying the children’s books, after its decision in July produced a public outcry over literary censorship. Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim ordered that the books be moved to the adult section, where parents can borrow them for their children.
• Frequently challenged in the U.S. for the following reasons: anti-family, homosexuality, political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, unsuited for age group, as well as “promotes the homosexual agenda”

2011 –
• Pulled from the Gibbs Elementary School in Rochester, Minn. (2011) as inappropriate for elementary school students and removed from school library shelves. This decision was later reversed as a mistake for failing to follow district policy. Eventually, a “temporary resolution” was reached requiring that one of the parents who challenged the book be present when their child checks out books from the school media center in the future.

2009 –
• Challenged, but retained in the North Kansas City, Mo. schools despite a parent’s concern that the book wasn’t age-appropriate, didn’t follow the district’s policy on human sexuality education, and tries to indoctrinate children about homosexuality. In subsequent discussions, the schools appear to be headed towards segregating elementary school libraries according to “age appropriateness.” Students might be restricted to view or check out materials in their own age-class or younger.

2008 –
• Returned to the general circulation shelves in the 16 elementary school libraries in Loudoun County, Va. despite a complaint about its subject matter.
• Withdrawn from two Bristol, England, U.K., primary schools following objections from parents who claimed the book was unsuitable for children and that they had not been consulted on their opinions.
• Challenged, but retained at the Eli Pinney Elementary School in Dublin, Ohio despite a parent’s concerns that the book “is based on one of those subjects that is best left to be discovered by students at another time or in another place.”
• Challenged in the elementary school library in Ankeny, Iowa by parents who do not want their children to read the story of two male penguin parents in the Central Park Zoo due to concerns that it promotes homosexuality. On Dec. 15, 2008, the Ankeny school board members voted six to one to keep the book.
• Retained in the Chico, Calif. Unified School District, over complaints that the book is inappropriate for elementary school students. The district review committee determined that the book meets library selection standards and district policy.
• Retained by the Calvert County Library in Prince Frederick, MD after requests that the book be removed from the children’s section and shelved in a labeled alternative section.
• Retained in the Meadowview Elementary School in Farmington, Minn. despite a parent’s concern that “a topic such as sexual preference does not belong in a library where it can be obtained by young elementary students.”

2007 –
• Challenged at the Lodi, Calif. Public Library by a resident deriding what she called its “homosexual story line that has been sugarcoated with cute penguins.”

2006 –
• Moved from the children’s fiction section to children’s nonfiction at 2 Rolling Hill’s Consolidated Library’s branches in Savannah and St. Joseph, Mo after parents complained of its homosexual undertones.
• Challenged at the Shiloh, Ill Elementary School library. A committee of school employees and a parent suggested the book be moved to a separate shelf, requiring parent permission before checkout. The school’s superintendent, however, rejected the proposal and the book remained on the library shelf.
• Pulled from 4 elementary school libraries in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, NC area after a few parents and Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James questioned the controversial but true story. The books were returned after the local paper questioned the ban. It should be noted that there was no formal request for the book’s removal.



Jack, North Carolina Division Chief and Banned Books Librarian