Heidi Stevens: School draws clothing onto children's book illustrations after latest book ban attempt. We're not powerless to stop this madness

Heidi Stevens, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Who knew kids reading books could cause such panic?

First, a school district in Florida banned dictionaries from its libraries on the grounds that allowing students to read them violates HB 1069, which lets residents demand the removal of any library book that “depicts or describes sexual conduct.”

Now, elementary school libraries in Indian River County, Florida, are drawing overalls on a goblin and little shorts on a Maurice Sendak character—all in response to a Moms for Liberty complaint that a handful of children’s books showing figures drawn without clothing are “pornographic.”

Maybe you know Sendak’s “In the Night Kitchen,” a Caldecott Honor Award Winner first published in 1970, about a little boy named Mickey. Mickey’s dream world takes him overnight to the inner workings of a bakers’ kitchen, where the bakers sing, "Milk in the batter! Milk in the batter! We bake cake and nothing’s the matter!"

Except Mickey didn’t have clothes on. And a goblin washing glitter out of his artist’s smock in Alex Willan’s “Unicorns Are the Worst” didn’t have clothes on. And the man and woman in Carle’s “Draw Me a Star” didn’t have clothes on. And David in David Shannon’s “No, David!” didn’t have clothes on.

And Jennifer Pippin, the chair of the local Moms for Liberty chapter, decided that mattered.


“Pippin said she challenged these books, in part, because she believed the unaltered books violated two Florida statutes,” Popular Information reports. “The first is Florida's obscenity law, which prohibits distributing to minors ‘any picture…which depicts nudity or sexual conduct, sexual excitement, sexual battery, bestiality, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors.’ Pippin claims the law prohibits all nudity in school library books.”

The law actually only prohibits nudity that specifically harms minors, Popular Information points out, which legally means that it appeals primarily to prurient, shameful or morbid interests, is patently offensive, and is without serious literary or artistic merit for minors.

But in an interview with Popular Information, Pippen said she worries that if a “5-year-old picks up this book and has never seen a picture of a penis…the parent wouldn’t be able to discuss this with the child.”

So officials suggested the school district draw little clothes on the characters.


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