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Banned Books Week 2021: Harry Potter: The Most Challenged Book of the 21st Century

Posted 09/26/21 by Jozlyn H

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

If you asked most people in 1997 if they thought this new, magic-themed children’s novel just published in the UK would become an entire universe, complete with eight movies, a London studio tour experience, a massive amusement park, and more, they probably would have said no. In fact, when Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was first published, many parents and teachers did not want this book in their schools, homes, or libraries. At. All. The book promoted “witchcraft, the occult, and anti-family themes” just to name a few. It was successfully banned from thousands of places. How could this so familiar, childhood staple, much loved book series, go from ban after ban to world-renowned family favorite?

The first Harry Potter book was published in the United States in 1998 and was immediately challenged. Challenging a book means that someone raised the idea that the book should not be readily available for the public audience. After a challenge is voiced at a school, library or bookstore, that entity may choose to ban the book or dismiss the challenge.

Even though it was published at the end of the decade, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone made the list of top 100 challenged books of the decade (1990-1999), ranking at number 48. Of course, the series continued to be challenged into the new millennium where it topped the most frequently challenged list for 2000-2009. Reasons for challenging the book included: glorifying witchcraft, promoting the occult, tones of death, hate, lack of respect and sheer evil, leading children to hatred and rebellion, confusing children, and leading them astray. Some were also concerned about the increasing dark tone in the later books but overall, most of the challengers’ reasons based on religious beliefs. Luckily for us fans, libraries and intellectual freedom fighters fought censorship attempts and eventually overcame them. According to the American Library Association, Harry Potter books are now the most challenged books of the entire 21st century. The books continue to be challenged and banned across the United States, the most recent occurrence in a Nashville Catholic school in 2019. Take a look at Harry Potter and the Bible: The Menace Behind the Magick for more in-depth reasoning about censoring this series.

Since its initial publication, the Harry Potter series has been translated into over 79 different languages, the most recent translation being into Scots in 2017. TLCPL has most of the series in French, Spanish, and German. If you want a different language, just ask your local librarian -- they can probably get it for you.

Over 500 million copies of the Harry Potter books have sold worldwide, with more than 180 million in the United States. This makes Harry Potter the bestselling book series of all time.

Today, the Harry Potter universe can be found in almost all aspects of life and entertainment. Besides Rowling’s seven-novel series, there are screenplays, guides, and spin-off books.  Authors have gone wild writing about Harry Potter’s world in many facets. There are cookbooks, knitting books, craft books, guides, quiz books, indexes, and much more published all regarding the Harry Potter universe. Video game companies have created action, adventure, and puzzle video games for all ages. LEGO has a whole line of Harry Potter universe buildable toys. Companies have created collectible (and edible) merchandise, toys, clothes, costumes, candies, foods and more.

One of the biggest, most stand out creations of this universe is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando Resort (Florida). At this massive theme park, you can shop for your wand at Ollivanders’, enjoy butterbeer with your lunch at the Leaky Cauldron, ride the Hogwarts Express, see a fire breathing dragon on top of Gringotts Bank, buy a prank at Weasley Wizard Wheezes, and much, much more. It brings Diagon Ally, Knockturn Ally, and Harry’s world to life.

Discover the magic of filmmaking at the Warner Brother’s Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter (London, UK). Props, costumes, and entire scenes fill your eyes as you walk through the studio where the magic happened. The Great Hall is ready for a feast, see the robotic Dobby the Elf, a Miniature of Hogwarts Castle that magically lights, and of course, enjoy some butterbeer as you sit outside Number 4 Privet Lane, the night bus, and the flying car.

Wizarding World (previous known as: Pottermore), is the website where all things Harry Potter (& Fantastic Beasts) reside. JK Rowling herself communicates with fans via this website, answering questions, sharing unpublished writing, and offering up news and events. The site is also famous for its Sorting Hat Quiz which will leave no doubt as to which Hogwarts House you belong (I’m a Ravenclaw, if you were curious).

As we consider book censorship and celebrate our freedom to read, why not read or re-read the most challenged and best-selling series of all time?

Original J.K. Rowling Books:

Almost all the following books are available in multiple formats including book on CD, Playaway, ebook, large print, braille, and audiobook.  There are also teacher kits, illustrated versions, film musical score CDs, and translations in multiple languages.

Cover of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Book on CD   |   DVD   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Book on CD   |   DVD Part 1   |   DVD Part 2   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Book on CD   |   DVD Part 1   |   DVD Part 2   |   eAudiobook   |   eBook
Cover of  The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

Cover of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

DVD

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

DVD
Cover of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Cover of Quidditch Through the Ages

Quidditch Through the Ages

Quidditch Through the Ages

Cover of The Hogwarts Library Collection

The Hogwarts Library Collection

The Hogwarts Library Collection

Harry Potter LEGO Books:

Cover of LEGO Harry Potter, the Magical Guide to the Wizarding World

LEGO Harry Potter, the Magical Guide to the Wizarding World

LEGO Harry Potter, the Magical Guide to the Wizarding World

Cover of LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World

LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World

LEGO Harry Potter: Building the Magical World

Cover of LEGO Harry Potter, Characters of the Magical World

LEGO Harry Potter, Characters of the Magical World

LEGO Harry Potter, Characters of the Magical World

Harry Potter Cookbooks:

Cover of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents: 10 Summertime Treats

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents: 10 Summertime Treats

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook Presents: 10 Summertime Treats

Cover of The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory, More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-wizards Alike.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory, More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-wizards Alike.

The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory, More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Wizards and Non-wizards Alike.

Cover of The Official Harry Potter Baking Book: 40+ Recipes Inspired by the Films

The Official Harry Potter Baking Book: 40+ Recipes Inspired by the Films

The Official Harry Potter Baking Book: 40+ Recipes Inspired by the Films

Harry Potter Needlework Books:

Cover of Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter

Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter

Charmed Knits: Projects for Fans of Harry Potter

Cover of Harry Potter Knitting Magic: The Official Harry Potter Knitting Pattern Book

Harry Potter Knitting Magic: The Official Harry Potter Knitting Pattern Book

Harry Potter Knitting Magic: The Official Harry Potter Knitting Pattern Book

Cover of Harry Potter Crochet Wizardry

Harry Potter Crochet Wizardry

Harry Potter Crochet Wizardry

Harry Potter Philosophy Books:

Cover of Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts

Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts

Harry Potter and Philosophy: If Aristotle Ran Hogwarts

Cover of Into the Pensieve: The Philosophy and Mythology of Harry Potter

Into the Pensieve: The Philosophy and Mythology of Harry Potter

Into the Pensieve: The Philosophy and Mythology of Harry Potter

Cover of Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays

Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays

Reading Harry Potter: Critical Essays

Sources:

Peters, Patricia (2017, Aug). Intellectual Freedom Blog, “Harry Potter and 20 Years of Controversy”. Retrieved from: https://www.oif.ala.org/oif/?p=10636

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