Khaled Hosseini's million-selling novel about friendship and betrayal between two Afghan boys, a book club favorite that became a feature film, was among the releases mostly likely to inspire complaints last year from parents, educators and others, the American Library Association announced Thursday.
"The Kite Runner," which includes a rape scene, has been criticized for offensive language and sexual content. A parent in Champaign, Ill., and a school board official in Morganton, N.C., were among those who challenged "The Kite Runner" last year.
The ALA listed 513 challenges last year, an increase of 93 from 2007, but well below the levels of 700 and higher in the 1990s. The ALA defines a challenge as a "formal, written complaint filed with a library or school requesting that materials be removed because of content or appropriateness."
For every challenge tallied, about four or five end up unreported, according to the ALA.
For the third year in a row, the most challenged book was "And Tango Makes Three," Justin Richardson's and Peter Parnell's award-winning picture story about two male penguins who become parents. "Tango" was cited for being anti-family, pro-gay and anti-religion.
Also high on the list were Philip Pullman's "Dark Materials" trilogy (complaints for being violent and anti-religious), Cecily von Ziegesar's "Gossip Girls" series (language, sexually explicit), Alvin Schwartz's "Scary Stories" (violence, occultism) and Stephen Chbosky's "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" (drugs, suicide, nudity, language).
ALA spokeswoman Macey Morales said that books were actually pulled at least 74 times last year. Those removed included Sherman Alexie's "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" (refers to masturbation), Jodi Picoult's "My Sister's Keeper" (sexually explicit) and Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" (profanity).
In the fall, the library association will co-sponsor the 28th annual "Banned Books Week," a nationwide program founded in 1982 that highlights banned and challenged books. Thursday's list was released just days after "Banned Book Weeks" founder Judith Krug died of cancer at age 69.