The Most Banned Picture Books of the 2021-2022 School Year
PEN America counted school book bans in the 2021-2022 school year and found an alarming 1,648 titles banned somewhere in the United States — the most comprehensive count of book bans to date. With some titles restricted in multiple places, the total count of book bans is more than 2,500.
The most banned books were primarily young adult or adult titles, but picture books for the youngest readers were not spared, with 317 titles banned. Several of the most banned picture books are nonfiction, including histories of civil rights and gay pride. Others are lighthearted fiction about animals or babies. Most feature a protagonist of color or characters who reflect the LGBTQ+ experience.
This is the list of the most banned picture books of the 2021-2022 school year, according to the PEN America Index of School Book Bans. For more on what kinds of bans are happening and where, see the full Banned in the USA report.
MOST BANNED Picture books
1 (tie). Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders and Steve Salerno, 5 bans
This true story traces the origins of of the Gay Pride flag from its beginnings in 1978 with activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker.
1 (tie). I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel, Jazz Jennings, and Shelagh McNicholas, 5 bans
The story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of transgender activist Jazz Jennings.
1 (tie). And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell, Justin Richardson, and Henry Cole, 5 bans
The heartwarming true story of two male penguins at the Central Park zoo who adopt a baby penguin.
4. In Our Mothers’ House, by Patricia Polacco, 4 bans
Marmee, Meema, and the kids are just like other families, even if some people don’t accept them. They teach their children that different doesn’t mean wrong.
5 (tie). The Baby Tree, by Sophie Blackall, 3 bans
A curious boy gets funny answers to the question, Where do babies come from?, before his parents set him straight in this picture book from the two-time Caldecott winner.
5 (tie). Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh, 3 bans
The true story of a family’s fight to end segregation in California, seven years before Brown v. Board of Education.
5 (tie). Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee, 3 bans
Rhyming text celebrates babies and the things they do — playing, sleeping, crawling, and being cared for by families who love them.
8 (tie). Worm Loves Worm, by J J Austrian and Mike Curato, 2 bans
Two worms fall in love, and friends want to know who will wear the dress and who wears the tux.
8 (tie). When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff and Kaylani Juanita, 2 bans
When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl until he settled into life as a boy. So when his parents announce that they’re going to have a baby, Aidan wants to make sure everything is right for his younger sibling.
8 (tie). We March, by Shane W. Evans, 2 bans
The story of the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic I Have a Dream speech.
8 (tie). We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, by Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac, 2 bans
The word otsaliheliga is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. This picture book follows a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences.
8 (tie). They, She, He Easy as ABC, by Maya Christina Gonzalez and Matthew Sg, 2 bans
A rhyming alphabet book that features kids using inclusive pronouns.
8 (tie). The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi, 2 bans
Having just moved from Korea, Unhei decides to choose an American name from a glass jar, but nothing feels right.
8 (tie). The Family Book, by Todd Parr, 2 bans
The Family Book celebrates families of all kinds — big or small, messy or clean, or with two moms or two dads.
8 (tie). Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison, 2 bans
Sulwe is darker than everyone in her family. A magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes to the beauty of her darker skin.
8 (tie). Stella Brings the Family, by Miriam B Schiffer and Holly Clifton-Brown, 2 bans
Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but she has two daddies instead. She finds a unique solution in this story about love, acceptance, and family.
8 (tie). Sparkle Boy, by Lesléa Newman and Maria Mola, 2 bans
Casey loves things that sparkle, and wants to wear a shimmery skirt and glittery nails like his sister. When he is teased for wearing “girl” things, his sister learns to embrace the shine together.
8 (tie). Sing a Song: How Lift Every Voice and Sing Inspired Generations, by Kelly Starling Lyons and Keith Mallett, 2 bans
This nonfiction picture book tells the story of the song known as the Black National Anthem.
8 (tie). Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, by Javaka Steptoe, 2 bans
This biography of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat won the Caldecott Medal in 2017.