The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney (Banned Books Week)


15-year-old Janie Johnson feels plain.  Ordinary.  She wishes she had a better name like her friends Sarah-Charlotte Sherwood and Adair O’ Dell.  Those are names that say something.  She thinks maybe she could start spelling her name with a “y”, like Jayne.  Or two”y’s”, Jayyne.   And maybe her last name could be something cooler, like Johnstone.  How will she ever be anyone as Janie Johnson?

All of this changes when one day at lunch she sees a face on the milk carton of a little three-year old pigtail girl.  The face, is Janie’s face.   She remembers the dress in the picture and suddenly her world is turned upside down.  Is she a missing child?  Are her parents not really her parents?  If she is not Janie Johnson….

then who is she?



The Face On The Milk Carton was a quick and good read.  As I was reading this book I could not help but feel I had seen this somewhere and had a flash back to a younger version of me watching an After School Special about this.  (Anyone remember after school specials?  They were on tv around 4:00 in the afternoon and they were stories with a message. )   Sure enough, I looked it up and this was actually a tv show and seeing the actress that played Janie, it all came back to me.

The book deals with typical teenage angst.   Janie gives me the impression in the beginning of just being bored.  Of course that rapidly changes as she starts to have anxiety over what she discovered on the milk carton and starts to explore what that could possibly mean for her and the people she loves as her parents.

I thought the book was handled well and as I finished it I really had no idea why this book would have made the banned books list.  Other than a brief possible sexual opportunity – which is considered, but declined, there really was nothing in the book.

The books ends suddenly and many questions are still left unanswered.  Apparently to my surprise, the story doesn’t end with this book.  There is a sequel to the  book called “Whatever Happened To Janie?”  AND then it goes on to a third book called “The Voice On The Radio” and concludes this series (4 books now… it is a series) with “What Janie Found“.

I never knew about the other books so that was interesting.  Also interesting is that none of the other books are on the challenged or banned lists.  😀

Why was Caroline B Cooney’s Face On The Milk Carton Banned?

The faintest reference to the idea of sex (a possible first encounter) was all that it took for a challenge to be made to this book. Subsequent protests involved a perceived “challenge to authority” that occurred when Janie becomes to determined to establish her true parentage.

I borrowed this from our local library


51 thoughts on “The Face On The Milk Carton by Caroline B Cooney (Banned Books Week)

  1. When those who are determined to do so set out to ban a book, there doesn’t have to be a logical reason. In fact, controlling others’ reading isn’t the least bit logical.

    In what universe (in a free world) is it okay to subvert our freedoms by banning books?

  2. librarypat

    Caroline Cooney has written many good books for teens. It is unfortunate that those who are in denial of the real world often feel it is their duty to “protect” us from it and ourselves. You can’t warn someone of the dangers out there if you don’t tell them what they are.
    Seeing how someone deals with situations is a good way of learning how to do so yourself. What is the old saying -“Learn from the mistakes of others.” If these people honestly think their teen or any teen is not thinking about sex and making decisions about it every day, they really are not dealing realistically with life.

    1. Natalie I loved after school specials! What memories. I asked Chance today (15 yo) if he knew what after school specials were… he did not. Sadly, another great thing has passed….

  3. The reasons some books are banned really drives me nuts.

    I was just explaining to my husband yesterday, I think, how a series must contain a minimum of four books. :p

    1. Hannah the reasoning behind the bans just amaze me…. I mean, the Huck Finn one in my morning post…. they said sweat instead of perspire? REALLY? Oh wow…. 😛

      I didn’t know that four books is a series…. I guessed any more than two is. That’s interesting. What is three books then?

  4. Jill

    I don’t remember the after school special, but I do remember the made for tv movie, The Face on the Milk Carton. I had no idea it was based on a banned book, that’s crazy. Yes, I do remember the after school specials on at 4:00 pm. Many starred Kristy McNichol. They were always good stories with a good meaning behind them….oh the “old” days. 🙂

  5. I just have to make a comment on this one…

    First of all, I used to watch those after school specials all the time when I was a kid. I also saw the TV movie based on this book. I certainly don’t understand why it was banned, even for the minor sexual reference as it was handled correctly.

    But, the most interesting thing is that I’ve had my own experience with a face on a milk carton. When I was in college I worked a Christian camp in the summers. We had hundreds of kids pass through those gates every summer and we all drank our morning milk from those little milk containers we used to have in school and they had those faces of missing kids on them.

    One morning as I was drinking my milk, I just about choked. The kid on the milk carton was a kid I had seen that summer. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind to this day… I saw that kid. The trouble was as I said we had seen 1000’s of kids, not only that but we’d been all over the country promoting the camp and had visited malls, and very public places where we had seen tons more kids. I called the number and gave them all the information I could about where I had been that summer. I don’t know if they ever found her…. still haunts me to this day.

    1. Deb I just got chills reading your comment. Oh wow.

      When I worked at Wal-Mart we always had those big posters int he front of the store with all the missing children on them. It became second nature to just walk by and not even notice it anymore, much like anything in your home… it is just there. However, for the reason you just talked about, I always tried to take the time to look because you just never know.

      Thanks for sharing that Deb.

  6. diana mack

    ah yes the after school specials!!! portrait of an alcoholic starring eve plumb (jan the brady bunch) comes to mind they always dealt with “timely” issues

  7. I have added this book to my TBR list. I remember the after school specials. We used to make fun of them until we started seeing things from them in real life.

  8. I remember the movie, but didn’t know that there were other books about Janie. Will have to read them now, as I can’t believe this book was banned. People are nuts! 😮

  9. I can’t believe this is a banned a book. I read this several times when I was younger, and certainly never saw anything “ban worthy” within its pages. I think some people just have too much time on their hands and go searching to make something out of nothing!

  10. Sheila, sorry I’m so late stopping by to check out your mini-challenge post. I’m so behind! Thanks for sharing. I have not read this book, but it sounds intriguing…probably even more so since it has been challenged/banned! I hope you have been enjoying the read-a-thon too!

  11. I absolutely loved that movie when I saw it. 🙂 It comes on occasionally on cable and my husband always rolls his eyes at me if he catches me watching it. I haven’t read the book, but I’m sure I’d like it too.

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