Muns, Raleigh. "Where's Waldo? Not in the libraries because he's been banned"

The Current (University of Missouri-St. Louis) October 17, 2005 (vol. 38, no. 1164), p. 6


According to the American Library Association's "Challenged and Banned Books" web site (, Martin Handford's "Where's Waldo?" was one of the top 100 most banned books between 1990 and 2000. The ALA regularly registers complaints about books as well as actual book bannings and keeps ongoing track of them. Consequently, the ALA releases an annual list of the most banned books in America. The ALA also annually celebrates "Banned Books Week" the last week of September. The Top 10 Banned Books in 2004 range from John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" to the "Captain Underpants" series of juvenile books. I have read the Steinbeck work (or seen the Mr. Magoo cartoon version, I forget) but confess that I have never even heard of "Captain Underpants and the Wrath of the Wicked Wedgie Woman" (Dav Pilkey, 2001). I am intrigued.


For those who don't know about Waldo, the books consist of page after page of intricately drawn scenes.  The reader must find Waldo amidst the cluttered illustrations containing hundreds of active characters who are NOT Waldo. Since all the people are drawn in miniature it is a true challenge of concentration to pick the dimunitive protagonist from the legions of other characters. Waldo books are often sold with a magnifying glass to facilitate searching.


So why ban Waldo? What would place this series of books alongside the last decade's other banned titles such as "Daddy's Roommate" (Michael  Willhoite, 1990), "Sex" (Madonna, 1992), "Girls and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy, 1991), and "Heather Has Two Mommies" (Leslea Newman, 1989)? What is it about poor Waldo that got the book banners' panties all in a twist? What mysterious sin in Waldo's background would cause such wrath and ire?


One of my Reference Librarian colleagues, Ms. Frances Piesbergen, did some research and discovered a couple of interesting leads on this infamous Waldo issue. According to the October 2003 "Banned Bookslut" column by Chris Zammarelli (, the author claims that one of the Waldo books contains (gasp!) a bare breast.  An book reviewer, Mr. Sir, wrote: I have looked into it, and it appears that the reason "Where's Waldo" got banned was because it features adult material such as "topless sunbathers," and other adult "hidden pictures."


Despite these claims, I have been unable to find anyone yet who can cite a specific Waldo book, by page number, containing an errant mammary. Avid Waldo hunters are encouraged to forward any such evidence to the Rogue Librarian for inclusion in a future column.


This does make me consider what else might be hidden in the complex world of Waldo. I'm wondering if I'll find pictures of Waldo eating guinea pigs or engaging in cannibalism. What if there are pictures of Waldo flashing the "hail satan" hand sign? Could Waldo be gay? Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it could explain the fury of the book banners. Rumors abound that Waldo was seen in one picture hanging out with Tinky Winky the Teletubby. The horror, the horror!


In my humble opinion, banning books just isn't groovy.



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