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Banned or Challenged Books, Grades 5–8

Explore this gallery of banned or challenged books for middle school students. Learn why these books were challenged, and celebrate your freedom to read during Banned Books Week. We've included a literature guide or classroom activity for each book.

Visit http://www.ala.org/bbooks/frequentlychallengedbooks for lists of frequently challenged books by year.

Grades:
5 |
6 |
7 |
8
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Animal Farm by George Orwell

George Orwell's Animal Farm is an allegory of the 1917 Russian Revolution. It was banned in the Soviet Union for being anti-communist while in the U.S. it was challenged for its political theories. In 2002, the Ministry of Education in the United Arab Emirates banned the book in schools for containing materials that contradict Islamic and Arabic values.

Activity: Choose from several activities, discussion questions, and topics for writing assignments in this literature guide for Animal Farm. It also includes a brief synopsis of each chapter, followed by teaching suggestions for use before, during, and after reading the novel.

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

In her diary, thirteen-year-old Anne Frank documents her life in hiding in Amsterdam during two years of the Holocaust. Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl was challenged for being too depressing and for containing sexual content. In 2010, the 50th anniversary edition of the book was removed from classrooms in a Virginia elementary school after a parent complained it contained sexually explicit material.

Activity: Use these enrichment activities with the first-hand account of Anne Frank's experience to learn about the Holocaust and life during World War II.

Crazy Lady! by Jane Leslie Conly
Crazy Lady! by Leslie Conly

The Newbery Honor book Crazy Lady! by Leslie Conly was one of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s. It was censored for containing offensive language.

Activity: Promote discussion and critical thinking before, during, and after reading Crazy Lady! by Leslie Conly with the resources in this teacher's guide.

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

The Great Gilly Hopkins, a Newbery Honor book by Katherine Paterson, was one of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s. The book was banned from school libraries in Albemarle County, Virginia, when a parent complained about offensive language.

Activity: Have students suggest and choose a project idea for The Great Gilly Hopkins.

Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Since it became popular, the Harry Potter series has been among the most frequently challenged books. Parents, libraries, schools and churches have challenged the works claiming they encourage wizardry and sorcery. The series includes Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Activity: Use these lesson plans and activities to get in on the fun for any of the Harry Potter books.

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

In Gary Paulsen's adventure story Hatchet, a teenage boy struggles to survive in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash. The Newbery Honor book was challenged for graphic descriptions of trauma and injury.

Activity: Activities and research topics in this teaching guide to Hatchet will help students explore the events and setting of the novel.

Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George

Julie of the Wolves, the first volume in Jean Craighead George's epic about Julie and her arctic wolf pack, is among the 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s. This Newbery Medal book was challenged and banned for containing sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

 

The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
The Land by Mildred D. Taylor

The Land by Mildred D. Taylor is the prequel to the entire Logan saga. In 2008, a student's parents requested the book be removed from the elementary school library in New Tampa, Florida because of racial language in the story.

Activity: Connect The Land to events in U.S. history with the discussion question in this literature guide to books by Mildred D. Taylor.

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings epic by by J.R.R. Tolkien has captured the hearts and imaginations of fantasy fiction fans around the world. In 2001, a group in Alamagordo, New Mexico claimed the books were satanic and burned copies of The Lord of the Rings and other works by Tolkien in front of a church.

Activity: Plan a unit on Tolkien with these teaching resources for The Lord of the Rings.

Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Monster by Walter Dean Myers

Monster by Walter Dean Myers is the story of sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon—a film student who ends up incarcerated for his alleged role in a robbery in which the store owner was killed. As he stands trial for felony murder, Steve writes a screenplay about the events leading up to his incarceration. Monster has been challenged in school districts across the country. In Kansas, a group of parents challenged the book (along with 13 others) for containing "vulgar language" and "violent imagery that is gratuitously employed."

Activity: Spark a spirited debate about the moral and social dilemmas that arise in Walter Dean Myers's Monster with the group discussion questions in this reading guide.

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier

My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier is the story of a family torn apart by the Revolutionary War. This Newbery Honor book was one of the 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s. My Brother Sam is Dead was challenged in 2009 by a parent in Muscogee County, Georgia, who objected to profanity in it.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck is among the top 10 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s. In 2007, the book was banned by the Appling County School Board in Georgia after a local church minister challenged the book. In 2008, a parent in Appomattox, Virginia tried to have the book removed from the 10th grade high school English curriculum; she objected to the novel's graphic language.

Activity: Help prepare students for what they will read with this literature guide for Of Mice and Men. It contains pre-reading activities, post-reading activities, an overview of the story, and a brief discussion of plot, character development, and theme.

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
The Red Pony by John Steinbeck

The Red Pony by John Steinbeck has been challenged for its violent descriptions. Set in the 1930s, this coming-of-age story about Jody—the son of a California rancher of limited economic means—deals with tragedy, joy, and the harsh lessons of life and death.

Activity: Enhance understanding of Steinbeck's novella with this teaching guide for The Red Pony. It includes pre-reading activities; discussion of plot, character development, and theme; and suggested teaching methodologies.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor was among the top 10 most frequently challenged book of 2002 for offensive language. In 2004, a family attempted to have the novel banned from classrooms for its "harsh depictions of racism and its use of racial slurs."

Activity: These enrichment activities for Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry include project and activities, comprehension tests, and lessons on segregation and African-American heroes.

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox

In 2005, Paula Fox's The Slave Dancer was challenged in a Kentucky middle school when a parent found the depiction of the slave trade to be too graphic. It was also challenged in the early 1990s by parents in Cheshire, Connecticut, who claimed it spoke disparagingly of blacks.

Activity: Students write a letter to the editor of a newspaper expressing their opinion on slavery.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, is the story of a socially isolated teenage rape victim navigating her freshman year of high school. It was among the 100 most frequently challenged books of the 2000s. Objections include claims that the book is inappropriate for young readers because it contains content about rape, sexual assault, and suicidal thoughts.

Activity: Use the resources in this literature guide for Speak to engage students in a thoughtful discussion about the serious and sensitive issue of rape.

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green was among the 100 most frequently challenged books of the 1990s and 2000s. In 2001, it was one of the top ten most frequently challenged book. Reasons cited for censorship include offensive language, racism, and sexually explicit content.

Activity: Use these projects and activities for Summer of My German Soldier to study World War II, learn about Jewish traditions, examine story elements, and research life in Arkansas during the 1940s.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson
Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

In Twisted, the acclaimed Laurie Halse Anderson tackles a very controversial subject: what it means to be a man today. In 2009, the book was removed from a classroom in Mount Sterling, Kentucky after parents claimed the book covers topics unsuitable for a coed high school classroom, contains foul language, and is not intellectually challenging. Parents in Indiana also attempted to have the book removed from the school curriculum.

Activity: This literature guide for Twisted will help you with your classroom discussion of the novel.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman
Unwind by Neal Shusterman

Unwind by Neal Shusterman is about a futuristic world in which parents are allowed to forcibly donate the organs of their difficult or unwanted teenagers. In 2009, the book was removed (along with three others) from a classroom in Mount Sterling, Kentucky after parents claimed it covers topics unsuitable for a coed high school classroom and is not intellectually challenging.

Activity: Use this reading group guide for Unwind to supplement the book. It includes pre-reading research topics and activities, discussion questions, a character list, a slang dictionary, and post-reading activities.

Boy reading in library
More Banned and Challenged Books
Visit our Banned and Challenged Books page to find more titles and literature activities for Banned Books Week.
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