Arthur the Aardvark is too extreme for your child to read.

At least, that’s what one man in Clay County, Florida, has decided on behalf of all parents in that school district.

Bruce Friedman, who has notoriously challenged hundreds of books has added Arthur’s Birthday by Marc Brown to his growing list of more than three thousand books he has decided children have no business reading. He successfully banned 120 books according to public information requests. Yet he has no children in the school district.

Clay County has been forced to put Arthur’s Birthday through a review process due to Friedman’s formal challenge of the book. The challenge moves the book off school shelves and strips it away from thousands of students while it is being reviewed. Why is the book under review for a possible permanent ban?  Well, that’s unclear.

Usually, the challenge form would be released, but Clay County has failed to do so so far. The best guess from those in the district is the book’s mention of ‘spin the bottle’ as a birthday party game.  Friedman has been outspoken about what he considers ‘the sexualization of children,’ and he may have found this single reference to the game (being played between cartoon animals) as grounds to request it be banned.


Sign the petition to stand up to book banners!


Take a moment to consider this. Cartoon monkeys and aardvarks discussing a party game are being called an effort to sexualize children by these extreme voices. 

If that seems radical to you, you are not alone. Unfortunately, how these laws are written allows a single individual to object to a book, and a ban result.  The community of Clay County does not get a say in whether they want the book removed. Once the challenge is made, after a review by an “oversight committee,” the book is either returned or taken away entirely without any opportunity for the broader community to speak up.

This is not democracy. It is the tyranny of the radical minority.

Friedman is clear about his intentions.  He wants to create what he believes is an ideal library, regardless of what others in the community want.  And he has publicly stated that he intends to overwhelm Clay County with so many challenges that they cannot keep up and are forced to strip books from shelves out of fear of running afoul of new laws in Florida.  Friedman is using the fear of vaguely worded laws to force books out of the hands of students and children.  And unfortunately, it is working.

Currently, more than 150 books are unavailable to Clay County students, pending review, because of his challenges.  Forty-four came in July alone- when schools are out, and it is easier to overwhelm school boards.  And what is most remarkable and disturbing about this effort is that Friedman does not have a student in Clay County.

That’s right.  You don’t even have to have a child in a school system to challenge books in that community’s school libraries.

Nor do you have to have read the books you are asking to be banned.  Friedman has openly admitted he’s never read most any of the books he has challenged.  But he objects to what he thinks is in them, and that is good enough for these laws to have a book removed.


Your donations help support libraries across the country. 


Rational people can look at Arthur the Aardvark and understand that nothing is inappropriate about the book.  It is a harmless story that teaches a good lesson in compromise: Arthur and Muffy have to find a way to resolve a disagreement over who gets to have their birthday party on a particular day.  But extreme voices like Bruce Friedman don’t see that message.  They think the book is grooming children.  Because monkeys and aardvarks talk about the game ‘spin the bottle.’

This is not about making a community better.  This is about one person’s radical ideals and extreme crusade.  It does not represent the outlook of the broader community, and it does not represent what the parents of those students want.  It’s just about one person.  One person who does not have a student in those schools.

Do you agree that one person should not have so much say in what books are in your student’s library?  Speak up now.  Otherwise, they might come for Arthur at your school next.