Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to children’s literature and whether they are true or false.
CHILDREN’S LITERATURE URBAN LEGEND: Where’s Waldo? was removed from a school due to an exposed breast inside the book.
When you take a look at “The 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000” (according to the American Library Association), you can certainly understand why most of them are on the list (you don’t have to AGREE, but you at least get why they’re there).
#1 on the list is Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories, which is an especially gruesome collection of scary stories that most parents feel is TOO gruesome for kids.
#2 is Daddy’s Roommate, and, well, we know how up in arms people get about homosexuality.
#3 is I Know Why the Caged Bird Sing, which is Maya Angelou’s rather frank look at her childhood. Certainly some parents feel that she is too graphic describing how she was raped when she was eight years old.
#4 is The Chocolate War, which, similar to, say, South Park, fairly accurately describes how young boys act, and as such, is far too vulgar and profane for many parents.
#5 is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and obviously people are upset over the fact that Mark Twain uses the n-word extensively in the book.
So whether you agree with the complaints over these books, they’re fairly straightforward.
But then you zoom down to #88 on the list and see that it is Where’s Waldo? and a big “Huh?” is elicited.
Where’s Waldo? was born in England in 1987, brainchild of British illustrator Martin Handford.
Handford was known for drawing detailed scenes for his clients, so someone came up with the idea of him doing a whole book of his detailed scenic drawings. In an attempt to give the scenes some sort of visual continuity, Handford and his editors came up with the idea of having a traveler be VISITING each of the scenes in question. And then the idea was developed of making finding said visitor in the extremely detailed scenic drawings be a little challenge/game and thus, the concept of Where’s Wally? began!
And yes, that’s right, originally, in England, the books were called (and are still called that in England) Where’s Wally?
However, it was when the books made the transition to the North American market (and had the name changed to Where’s Waldo? – which is weird, since Wally is a perfectly normal American name) that the book really became a sensation.
In the early 1990s, Waldo exploded on the American scene, with every tie-in you could think of, including a cheapie cartoon series! And, of course, multiple additions to the Waldo book franchise.
However, in 1993, people found a little bit more than just Waldo when they went looking into the book – they found some controversy!
In the first Where’s Waldo? book, there is a scene that takes place at a beach.
Well, one of characters is a woman who is sunbathing topless while laying on her stomach. No problem, right? Not even the biggest prude in the world would have a problem with someone topless laying on her stomach, right?
However, as part of the gag, a little kid drops his ice cream cone on her back, and as a result, the woman jumps up a bit and you basically see her left breast…
It’s practically microscopic, but it IS there, and a Long Island woman found it and had her local school pull the book from their library.
And that is why the book is ranked #88 on the most frequently challenged books list.
The book was corrected and the woman now wears a bikini top (click on the image to enlarge it and find the woman)…
And heck, while you’re at it, you might as well find Waldo, too!
The beach scene is courtesy of Where’s Waldo.com