Dennis Lee Biography

Biography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Lee’s collection of poems Alligator Pie (1974) vaulted him to prominence as a poet whose work spoke to children. Despite the popular response to this work, as well as another poetry collection, Garbage Delight (1977), and a picture book, Lizzy’s Lion (1984), all have been challenged for containing material considered too violent for their intended audiences. Of Garbage Delight’s forty-two poems, four have been singled out: “Suzy Grew a Moustache,” “The Big Molice Pan and the Bertie Dumb,” “Bloody Bill,” and “The Bratty Brother (Sister).” While these poems contain much humor, those seeking the book’s removal have based their objections on a literal reading of the poems.

A study of challenges to materials in Canadian public libraries identified Lizzy’s Lion as Canada’s most frequently challenged book from 1985 to 1987. For his illustrations which accompanied the book’s fourteen four-line stanzas, Marie-Louise Gay received Canada’s most prestigious illustration award, the Canada Council’s Children’s Literature Prize. The story describes how a burglar breaks into a little girl’s bedroom to steal her piggy-bank but is thwarted by her guardian lion. Gay’s bloodless illustrations require readers to draw inferences about the burglar’s fate. As Gay explained, “It is clear that the lion has devoured the robber, but the violence is never graphically detailed.” While the book encountered frequent opposition, it has continued to be widely available.