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This Librarian Finally Looked at His Copy of ‘In the Night Kitchen’. What He Discovered Shocked Him

(Someone’s been working on their Upworthy-esque headlines)

Sometimes I don’t know if I should post certain things on this blog. Things that are sort of embarrassing fall into this category. Today I had one of those, but I’m posting it anyway.

I was in the stacks when I passed by our Maurice Sendak section. I’ve done it a million times before, but for some reason this time my eyes landed on our copy of In the Night Kitchen, and I had a thought.

“I wonder…”

Now, if you know anything about the book, you probably know where this story is going. You also know Maurice Sendak’s 1971 Caldecott Honor winner has a controversial history due to the main character’s nudity. K.T. Horning wrote about it in her 2012 article The Naked Truth: Librarians Stood by Maurice Sendak, No Stranger to Controversy for School Library Journal. Horning writes,

I had learned in library school that some librarians had infamously painted diapers on Mickey to avoid controversy.

With that in mind, I decided to take a look at our copy. This is what I saw:

So why is this sort of embarrassing? Firstly, that I haven’t opened our library copy of this book. Secondly that it’s been sitting there censored under my nose for years (we’ve had this book since 1978 – it could have happened at any time) and I didn’t know.

So, K.T., here’s a documented example of a censored In the Night Kitchen. But we’ll be updating our copy soon.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.


  1. This is hilarious and shocking at the same time! What a thrill to have a censored version. But also, kind of baffling to think that some prudish book fairy sneaked into your library and added the diaper. Wow!

  2. Sam Bloom says:

    First of all: great headline.

    Working for a public library system–a large public library system–I’ve seen this many times, and the funniest part for me is seeing the varying degrees of artistic talent. Some undergarments are well-drawn, some are a bit on the sketchy side. Also, the different media used: pen and ink; pencil; I’ve even a pair of what appeared to be colored pencil skivvies on Mickey in one copy. It definitely makes for a discussion starter during Banned Books Week!

  3. I like you Upworthy-eque headline title!

  4. I’ve been teaching a challenged book unit for a few years now and one of the examples I show my grade 9 students about censorship is Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen. One of our local elementary teacher-librarians found the same censored version of this book in her school library the same year Maurice passed away. Our local bookstore was celebrating Sendak’s body of work and this prompted the teacher-librarian to take a look at a new copy of In the Night Kitchen. She was sure the book in her school didn’t look like the one she was reading and sure enough, when she checked it out back at her school, she was right – someone and drawn underwear on the boy. It was so well done that you couldn’t even tell. This is only one example of how picture books have been censored in our area so don’t be embarrassed that you missed it. By talking about it with our students they come to realize what a slippery slope challenging, censoring and banning books really is. A great life lesson.

  5. After reading this, I should have known better than to search google-images for “in the night kitchen underwear”. Adding “censored” instead of “underwear” returned less bizarre results.

  6. Now I’m going to have to go take a look at our copies…