Two Graphic Novels on Toronto Public Library’s Annual Challenged Books Report

Toronto Public Library recently released their yearly Reconsideration of Materials Summary, recapping the books and movies challenged in one of Canada’s largest library systems, and two graphic novels were among the books challenged.

Similar to the American Library Association’s yearly Top Ten List of Frequently Challenged Books, the Materials Review Committee of the Toronto Public Library system published their summary for 2015, and it includes two graphic novel. The popular web comic collection Cyanide and Happiness: Punching Zoo was challenged for inappropriate language and “humor related to pornography, racism, and sex.” Gilbert Hernandez’s acclaimed graphic novel The Troublemakers also made the list with complaints regarding inappropriate language and “depictions of prostitution and violence.”

Hernandez is no stranger to controversy here in the States, either. In 2015, his highly praised graphic novel Palomar became the target of one New Mexico mother and biased press coverage, which labeled the book “child porn” and “sexual, graphic, and not suitable for children,” and Rio Rancho High School initially violated the district’s challenge policy by deleting the title from the computerized library catalog without review.

Here is the complete list of titles included in the Reconsideration of Materials Summary along with reported reasons the books were challenged, the complainant’s propositions for handling the books, and the result:

  1. Atonement, by Ian McEwan Reasons: Poor grammar and sentence structure. Remove from collection. Form a committee to review all books before they are added to the collection. Retained in the adult DVD collection.
  2. Soraida, A Woman of Palestine (DVD), directed by Tahani Rached Reasons: Propaganda—not based on factual events. No artistic or educational merit. Remove from the collection. Retained in the adult DVD collection.
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers Reasons: Contains profanity and poor grammar and sentence structure. Remove from the collection. Retained in the adult nonfiction collection.
  4. The Troublemakers, by Gilbert Hernandez Reasons: Sexual language and depictions of prostitution and violence. Institute a labeling system for graphic books so children cannot borrow them and victims of violence can avoid them. Retained in the adult graphic book collection.
  5. Cyanide and Happiness: Punching Zoo, by Ron DenBleyher, Kris Wilson, Dave McElfatrick and Matt Melvin, Boom! Box Reasons: Contains vulgar language, humor related to pornography, racism, and sex. Move to adult collection. Consider dividing teen graphic book section into younger and older teens. Transferred to the adult graphic book collection.
  6. The Black Hole (DVD), by Disney Enterprises Reason: Some images too violent and frightening for children. Move to the adult collection. Transferred to the adult DVD collection.

Help support CBLDF’s important First Amendment work in 2015 by visiting the Rewards Zonemaking a donation, or becoming a member of CBLDF!

Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!