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Contact: Mark Gould or Larra Clark
ALA Public Information Office
800-545-2433, ext. 5042/1546
mgould@ala.org or lclark@ala.org

ALA News Release
For Immediate Release
January 18, 2000

Harry Potter series tops list of most challenged books of 1999

The best-selling Harry Potter series of children's books by J.K. Rowling tops the list of books most challenged in 1999, according to the American Library Association's (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom. The Potter series drew complaints from parents and others concerned about the books' focus on wizardry and magic.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom received a total of 472 reports of challenged titles last year. A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint filed with a library or school about a book's content or appropriateness. The majority of challenges are reported by public libraries, schools and school libraries. According to Judith F. Krug, director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, the number of challenges reflects only incidents reported. She says that for each challenge reported, as many as four or five remain unreported.

The “Ten Most Challenged Books of 1999” reflect a wide variety of themes. The books, in order of most frequently challenged are:

  • Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, for its focus on wizardry and magic.
  • Alice series, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.
  • “The Chocolate War” by Robert Cormier (the “Most Challenged” fiction book of 1998), for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.
  • “Blubber,” by Judy Blume, for offensive language and unsuited to age group.
  • “Fallen Angels,” by Walter Dean Myers, for offensive language and unsuited to age group.
  • “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck, for using offensive language and being unsuited to age group.
  • “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou, for being too explicit in the book's portrayal of rape and other sexual abuse.
  • “The Handmaid's Tale,” by Margaret Atwood, for its sexual content.
  • “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker, for sexual content and offensive language.
  • “Snow Falling on Cedars,” by David Guterson, for sexual content and offensive language.
O ff the list this year, but on the list for several years past, are The “Goosebumps” and “Fear Street” series, by R. L. Stine, which were challenged for being too frightening for young people and depicting occult or “Satanic” themes, and “It's Perfectly Normal,” a sex education book by Robie Harris, for being too explicit, especially for children.
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