Don't Say Goblin

Goblin butts are driving these conservative moms in Florida mad

In The Night Kitchen has been a beloved children’s book since it was written in 1970. Who could object to a silly story about a boy dreaming of baking a cake? Apparently, Moms for Liberty can.

Due to complaints from a Florida chapter of the conservative parenting organization, In The Night Kitchen and other innocuous children’s books are being censored in the most literal sense: their illustrations are being drawn over to cover up what these moms consider to be “pornographic” nudity.

Jennifer Pippin, the chair of the Moms for Liberty chapter in Indian River County, Florida, submitted a complaint about In The Night Kitchen to the local school district, citing some images from the book where the main character Mickey is depicted without clothes. Pippin told Popular Information that she believed the book would be “harmful to minors,” and that if a “5-year-old picks up this book and has never seen a picture of a penis… [t]he parent wouldn’t be able to discuss this with the child.” God forbid parents teach their children about human anatomy.

So, what exactly does Pippin consider pornography? Faint of heart, avert your eyes: here’s an example of the nudity in In The Night Kitchen.

An illustration from In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak.

Pippin also took issue with some other books stocked by the school district, including Unicorns Are The Worst, a picture book in which a goblin complains about how popular unicorns are. In one illustration, the goblin’s butt is shown while he does laundry. Pippin said that was unacceptable, and in November and December of last year, the books were pulled from school shelves.

An illustration from Unicorns Are The Worst by Alex Willan.

Now the books are back, but not without a compromise. Because Pippin’s complaint was about the nudity in the books, the school district simply drew clothes onto the naked characters before putting them back into school libraries. These censored illustrations, sourced from an Indian River County elementary school, are pictured below.

Pippin claimed that the unaltered books violated Florida’s obscenity law, which she said outlaws all nudity in media intended for children. In actuality, the law only forbids “nudity […] which is harmful to minors,” meaning nudity for comedic and educational purposes like that of In The Night Kitchen and Unicorns Are The Worst is a-okay for kids — especially considering they’re as far from sexual as you can get.

Literary advocacy groups in Florida took issue with Moms For Liberty’s claims and with the school district’s solution. Stephana Ferrell, a co-founder of the Florida Freedom to Read Project, said that Moms For Liberty “regularly misrepresents the literary works of award-winning authors as pornography, and now silly, naked goblin butts.”

This is only the latest bizarre educational choice made in Florida. The state’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill has spiraled into widespread censorship, including memos telling schools to pull all books from shelves that so much a mentioned LGBTQ+ characters, and an argument from Florida’s attorney general that school libraries should only stock books that support the state government’s messaging.

First they came for the gays, and now the goblins.

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