children's books, reviews

Banned Book Review: In the Night Kitchen

In The Night Kitchen
Maurice Sendak
40 Pages
Publication Year: 1970
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

It’s night and Mickey is in bed trying to sleep when he hears a strange noise. After shouting for silence, the young boy falls through the dark. He leaves his clothes behind and goes into the night kitchen where three cheerful bakers are trying to bake a cake to eat in the morning. Mickey is mistaken for the milk and is baked into the cake. He has to pop out of the baking dough and tell the bakers that he doesn’t want to be bake. That starts Mickey’s adventure to the Milky Way in search of milk. The story of Mickey and his nighttime dream sounds a little strange right?

But did you know that this book is a banned and frequently challenged book? It’s number 21 on the American Library Association’s list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books. The reasons: nudity and offensive language. Now I get the nudity part. Mickey loses his clothes when he falls in the darkness and spends a few pages totally naked. The offensive language part I really don’t understand. There’s nothing offensive about the book. The nudity is pretty innocent.

As with all banned and challenged books, I think this is another tale of adults reading too much into the story.  In the Night Kitchen is not a book for adults, it’s a book for kids. I read this book last night to my five year-old who loved it. He didn’t notice the nudity at first and when he did, he laughed and kept going with the story. Dreams can be strange, Sendak knows that. Banning this book is even stranger.

Have you read In The Night Kitchen before? What do you think about it being a banned book?

20 thoughts on “Banned Book Review: In the Night Kitchen”

  1. Yes. Many years ago, when my oldest son was a baby (he’s 15 now), my penpal from South Africa sent me a copy of this book as a baby gift. I read it to him and my later kids so many, many times. I was shocked to find out later on that it has been a frequently contested or banned book! I never saw anything “bad” about it, even the brief nudity.

  2. It’s so crazy the things these people pick to focus on in these books. I don’t think the nudity in this book is really something to get up in arms over, because it all seems sort of innocent. I loved this review, and I love the fact that you included some illustration panels as well.

  3. I did a couple of units in Children’s literature and there was a discussion on how this book is basically about a wet dream…

  4. I had no idea this was a controversial book. It was one of my favorite books as a child — and just did a search to find to put aside when my children start to arrive!

  5. What a ludicrous premise on which to try and prevent children reading. Don’t the people who argued for the ban realise that underneath clothes we do actually have bodies. It’s a fact or are they in denial about that too.

  6. Thanks for your review. I had read the book when I was a kid and I loved it so much. When I started researching for banned books, I found out that this book made it into the challenged list and it ruined my childhood for me practically. I’ve rewatched it a few days ago and the recently watched was on the web for free. That was the best cartoon adaptation from the 80s I had ever experienced in my childhood, even before my family owned it as a book along with Where the Wild Things Are, counting up and down, and months of the year also in book form. Hopefully, I can carry on to my kids about my old childhood favorites from Eric Carle and up to The Giving Tree. It’s really good! xD

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