Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Banned Book Week: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney

Summary: No one ever really paid close attention to the faces of the missing children on the milk cartons. But as Janie Johnson glanced at the face of the ordinary little girl with her hair in tight pigtails, wearing a dress with a narrow white collar--a three-year-old who had been kidnapped twelve years before from a shopping mall in New Jersey--she felt overcome with shock. She recognized that little girl--it was she. How could it possibly be true?

Janie can't believe that her loving parents kidnapped her, but as she begins to piece things together, nothing makes sense. Something is terribly wrong. Are Mr. and Mrs. Johnson really Janie's parents? And if not, who is Janie Johnson, and what really happened? (from goodreads.com)

Why it was banned: The Face on the Milk Carton is listed at #80 on the most frequently challenged books for 1990-1999 and #29 on the same list for 2000-2009. This book has been challenged any times and the reasons listed range from sexual content, challenge to authority and inappropriate for age group.

Thoughts from Caroline: "Here’s my view on challenges: they are simply free speech. Of course at any time, any reader may state disapproval of a book. I am respectful of parents who keep up with what their children read and have the guts to announce publicly that they don’t like the title assigned and wish it removed. The fact that I might disagree is irrelevant. We protect free speech..." (via email)

What did I think?: I think I was shocked that this book was challenged. LOL. It's another one that I loved as a kid, I can even remember seeing the after school special that was based on it. I was surprised that the seemingly innocent reference to sex (sex, by the way, which didn't happen) was enough to have it challenged. I do agree with Caroline though, that parents have the right to decide what is appropriate for their kids. It's only when they start trying to dictate what other children should be allowed to read that it crosses the line.

In poking around for more information about this book, I was pretty stoked to see that it's actually a series. After the first book there is Whatever Happened to Janie, The Voice on the Radio and What Janie Found. I'm pretty excited to go get these from the library and see what happened to Janie.
If you'd like more information about Caroline B. Cooney and her books, head on over to her website! Also, don't forget to enter my Banned Book Giveaway, which includes a copy of The Face on the Milk Carton.


  1. I'm not an avid reader, but when I picked this book up I couldn't put it down. It had a believable, tension filled plot with action and suspense. In the book Janie Johnson, recognizing her own three year old, two inch face on her milk carton, starts an emotional trip that takes her from her high school lunch room to the truth about her identity. Janie unravels the mystery of her birth. She tries and succeeds in finding out if her parents are her real parents or if she was kidnapped ten years ago as a young child. The only reason I didn't give this book five stars is because it kept jumping around, getting off the subject it was trying to explain, then coming back to it a couple pages later. I really liked The Face on the Milk Carton.

  2. My 11yr old was assigned this book for a summer reading project for entering 6th grade.... If this is the age group the book is intended for, then it IS highly inappropriate. 11Yr olds should not be reading about a horny high school boy who can hardly concentrate on the girl's personal tragedy because he's preoccupied with sexual urges. It was tacky and unnecessary to the story anyway. I think the challenging parents were probably those of young tweens like mine- who shouldn't be assigned a book with content meant for hs readers....

    1. I am a 14 year old high school student, but I have have this book multiple times since teh age of 11, I absolutly love this book and I personally think that it is perfect for tweens!! You should only let your kids read this if your child is mature and knows that it IS NOT real life, but merely a story! This is just the views of child that has read and can understand the book.....

    2. I first read this book when i was 11 yrs old as well. This story isn't tha innapropriate, it's real life how for some people that is their life... but if you child is immature then of course this book is innapropriate. In grade 5 they learn about sex and the human body parts, it's not new to them.

  3. This book is listed for grades 7-12 in many places, but of course that is just a guideline. Every kid is different so a much younger kid (I was in 5th grade) might read it and be fine, while an older kid, even a high schooler, might not be ready for it.

  4. very good book!!!!!! you should make a sequel

  5. you are good writer keep on

  6. There's been a fifth 9and final) book! "Janie Face to Face" is the title. I discovered it recently when deciding I needed these books in my collection and went hunting on Amazon.

    As to the censorship issue, I can see where parents come from, but it's fairly ridiculous. No sex takes place, there's no inappropriate language, and no written violence. It's a beautifully composed story of heartrending tragedy. Reeve's desire to get in Janie's pants is perfectly realistic, let's be honest. I read this book at ten, and while I think that may be a bit young, grade 7 certainly isn't in my estimation. Then again, I was light years ahead of my peers in maturity.

    I respect parent's rights to protect their kids from inappropriate material...but banning a book goes way too far. Because then that parent can interfere with what my child reads, whether I deem it inappropriate or not. Most of the "ban this book" talk is pure overreacting. They wanted to ban Harry Potter for crying out loud.

  7. im a sophmore in highschool and im doing a research project on this book and i found it really intresting I love the storyline it. Im actually motivated to do and finish my project. Everyone is jealous of my book and I cant wait to read all the other books. I think Caroline Cooney is an amazing author.