Monday, September 28, 2009
Where's Waldo? Too racy for the library...
Who is "him?" Why, it's Waldo, of course. Our favorite time-traveling, globetrotting, striped-shirt wearing everyman. Who would attempt to ban Where's Waldo?, and why? Can anyone explain this?
Well, I can at least provide some assurance that yes, it is true that Where's Waldo? is one of the most challenged books of the 1990s. I did a little research at the library this afternoon and found printed corroboration of one particular story of the book's removal from a public school library in New York, and the reasoning behind it.
As reported in both the New York Times and US News & World Report, as well as confirmed by the American Library Association's lists of the most challenged books in the United States, Where's Waldo? is a problem for libraries all over the country. The usual concern is that on the beach page of the original Where's Waldo? book, there is a topless woman lying face down on a beach towel, one extremely tiny illustrated breast partially exposed amidst thousands of other illustrated beach goers.
Author Anna Quindlen responded to the book's removal from the Springs Public School library in Long Island (and expressed frustration over challenges of other books) in her New York Times column, saying, "Winnie the Pooh does not wear pants. Just a warning."
It's been a long time since I've opened a Where's Waldo? book. However, what I remember about them was that I had a great time searching for the bespectacled world-and-time traveler in scenes from around the world. I never found anything about it offensive (and indeed, never noticed the topless woman on the beach page). High art they are not (there were no words, so fine literature is out too), but they were well-drawn in a cartoony style appealing to kids. The settings were always new and interesting, and every time you looked at a page it was possible to find something new in your search for good old Waldo.
Where's Waldo? was a perennial favorite in my elementary school library, and I hope kids today have the chance to search for him, too.
ANNA QUINDLEN. (1993, April 7). The Breast Ban. New York Times (1857-Current file),A23. Retrieved September 28, 2009, from ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851 - 2006). (Document ID: 116337167).
(UPDATED to add 25th anniversary book cover from 2012.)