After discovering the “Where’s Waldo?” book series by Martin Hanford on the American Library Association’s top 100 most-challenged books of the 1990s, I had a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach.
What could be so bad about a children’s book — fun for all ages — that my sister and I poured over for hours upon hours as children? We loved the original volume of the work and would often challenge each other to figure out who could spot our favorite red-and-white striped hitchhiker the fastest!
Of course, I’m a little late to entering the hype over the series — the first “Where’s Waldo?” book was published in 1987 (I was two). But a little Googling got me to the bottom of this craziness pretty quickly. One page in the first “Where’s Waldo?” book featured a tiny, particularly risque character in a beach scene — a topless sunbather. But to be fair, the woman is startled by sort of impish child ramming a cold ice cream cone onto her back! In her surprise, she leaps up and flashes the beachgoers around her.
Mind you, there really isn’t much to be seen here. Not to mention the fact that the female in question is smaller than the size of my thumbnail. But apparently this “lewdness” was enough to land Waldo on the outs with libraries across the country.
Here’s a portion of the controversial page in question, linked from Waldo Wiki:
And here’s the “clean” version, published as part of a special 10th anniversary edition of the book released in 1997:
Is this “risque” difference really enough to land Handford’s illustrated classic on the banned books list? I don’t think so. But some people let their feathers get just a little too ruffled, I guess.