Children’s literature is supposed to be wholesome, lovable, and generally known for being “feel good material.” After all, most kids aren’t really emotionally equipped to handle seeing things that we would find depressing, dark, or disturbing. (Or, at the very least, we ourselves don’t often feel comfy with the idea of exposing kids to such elements.) Despite the way that we often try to shield kids from the bad side of life for as long as possible, there are quite a few gory, gross, disturbing, or downright weird books that are marketed towards kids on library shelves.
Most people who know this may argue about Grimm’s Fairytales being a book that was regularly read to children despite having disturbing elements in it. For example, they may talk about the original Cinderella story had the evil step sisters cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the shoes that the prince had asked them to try on. Or, they may tell you about how the original Sleeping Beauty was actually woken up when she was giving birth to a child that was conceived during her slumber by the horny prince.
But, there’s a reason why these stories didn’t show up on this article – those classic fairy tales were originally printed for adults, and they also were “cleaned up” for kids to enjoy later on. These stories, on the other hand, were just as weird, messed up, or creepy…but they were originally intended for children to read. Some of them are even very popular because of the fact that they are awesome books for adults and kids alike. Here are some of the strangest titles to ever hit store shelves.
15. Hiroshima No Pika
This children’s book is disturbing, even for adults. This is because this illustrated book is about a woman and her kids living through the A-bomb drop in Hiroshima. So, right off the bat, you’re talking about a real-life story that discusses people melting, dying of nuclear radiation, and losing family members everywhere…to kids. Even full grown adults often have a hard time reading this without getting emotional, so showing this to kids under 10 in all its brutality may be a bit much.
Moreover, the story of how the bomb burned off peoples’ clothes, limbs, and faces is all featured in colorful yet gruesome paintings on every page. This isn’t even the most recent book cover of this publication, either. The original, as far as we can tell, had a photo of a topless woman being engulfed in flames while holding crying children. Need we say any more?
14. The House That Crack Built
This book reportedly came out during the major crack epidemic in the 1980’s, and as the name suggests, explains what the damages of drugs do to their local community and abroad. Based off of the old rhyme about the “house that Jack built,” this disturbing children’s book talks about how workers have to toil the fields to cook crack, how crack dealers live in mansions, and how dealers push crack onto innocent homeless people in the neighborhood.
What’s messed up about this book is the way it gives out the message. Yes, drugs are bad for the most part, but talking about how crack dealers live in mansions may make them rethink their career choice if you think about it. Can you imagine your kid telling a teacher that they want to be a “crack dealer living in a mansion” when they grow up?
13. Little Zizi
Though there are definitely some other confidence-crushing books on this list, we’re not sure any are quite as terrible for your boys as Little Zizi. Why? Because this book is all about a young boy who has a small member, and throughout the book, he gets made fun of for it. Considering how many guys really have major confidence issues stemming from this, is there anything else we really need to say about how cringe-inducing this book is?
Oh, but it gets worse! At one point in the book, the not-well-endowed boy Martin talks to his crush, who tells him that she wants to have ten kids when she grows up. The book then asks the audience, “But how could Martin possibly make them with such a little zizi?” Obviously, this isn’t a good way to approach the “talk” with your son unless you want to give him therapy bills for the rest of his life.
12. You Wouldn’t Want To Be A…
This entire series came out in the late 90’s and early 00’s, and it’s one of the most educational and fact-filled children’s series out there. That doesn’t, however, mean that it doesn’t have its weird, gross, and at times, downright bizarre moments. For example, in the book, You Wouldn’t Want To Be An Aztec Sacrifice, the book’s authors go into great detail about how the Aztecs chose human sacrifice victims, killed them, and why they did it.
Though it’s definitely marketed towards an age group that can handle it (8 to 11 years old), hearing about how Aztecs would cut peoples’ hearts out after giving them a “potion to make them feel drowsy” might still make some parents raise an eyebrow. Educational yes, but it’s still a downright weird series in a number of ways.
11. Love You Forever
The beloved story Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is one of the most popular children’s books of all time, and on face value, it’s really an adorable, heartfelt ode to the love a parent has for their child. However, as one reader pointed out, even their own kids found it creepy when “the mother drives across town with a ladder strapped to her car, climbs in through her grown son’s window, looks over his bed, and rocks him while he’s asleep.”
This book is also very heartbreaking for adults when you hear the backstory to why it was even written. According to a confession by Munsch himself, it was actually based off of a song that he wrote for his two stillborn children. The scene with the mom rocking her grown son to sleep, therefore, was a painting of something that Munsch himself knew his wife would never get to experience with her kids. Once you find that out, it’s hard not to cry while reading it, even as an adult.
10. My Beautiful Mommy
On a first look, this book seems to scream “mommy love” and body positivity…until you actually open the pages and read it to your daughter. This book, by Dr. Michael Salzhauer, is all about helping a 4 year old girl cope with the fact that her mommy will be getting plastic surgery. This is one of those books that really doesn’t seem to care about body positivity all that much – especially when it comes to 4-year-old girls and their parents.
The book walks kids through every step of the way from the initial consultation to talking about how mommy came home covered in bandages. Then, at the end of the book, mommy becomes beautiful with her new nose and flatter stomach. The moral of the story is that mommy needs plastic surgery, and we’re willing to bet that this is a popular book with the Hollywood crowd for that reason.
9. The Lonely Doll
This book, published in 1957, was originally recommended for girls aged 4 through 8. In this story, a doll named Edith invites two teddy bears to live with her, and it gets really messed up, really quick. This book has scenes where poor Edith is tied up by the bears, forced to “play dress up” while the bears watched, and then also gets spanked while the younger bear is too scared to watch because “his turn was next.”
And, somehow, Edith ends up begging Mr. Bear to stay with her even though she’s been “naughty.” Mr. Bear agrees and says that he’ll be around her forever. Shockingly, this was a hit with young girls and spawned NINE additional books involving this same creepy and downright disturbing content. One could say that the 50’s were a different time, but even then, this probably should have raised alarm bells.
8.The Best Little Girl In The World
During the 1970s, most people never really heard of eating disorders or thought of them much. After all, back then, most people were relatively slender compared to today. However, this one book wasn’t the typical 70s book. The Best Little Girl In The World was a story directed at preteens and younger teenagers, and told the story of a little girl who secretly starved herself to death.
Believe it or not, the book’s daring take on anorexia nervosa made it earn several awards and even spawned a movie based on the book in 1981. Among parents of anorexics, this book gives valuable insight into what it’s like to have anorexia. Among anorexic teenagers, the book is a very well-known trigger. As a result of its realistic look into anorexia, this book is still in circulation and is considered important reading…as long as you yourself are not anorexic.
7. Latawnya, The Naughty Horse, Learns To Say “No” To Drugs
There are certain books that are excellent in teaching kids why they shouldn’t try drugs, and most of them were written by sober people who have been affected by drug use in the past. And then, there are books that talk about refusing drugs that were clearly written by people who probably raided a pharmacy of the illegal sort before they put pen to paper. The story of Latawnya is one of the books that squarely fits into the second category.
This book has surprisingly realistic horse drawings, considering how unrealistic and disjointed the story is. And it shows horses smoking cigarettes, which somehow would signal to kids that cigarettes are bad. What’s most bizarre about this book isn’t just the pictures of horses smoking up, either. It’s the way that the author refers to using any drugs as “smoking drugs” rather than talking about any specific names or explaining how they’re used. The end result is a train wreck of a book that will leave kids confused rather than avoidant of drugs.
6. Maggie Goes On A Diet
Right now, most people who are body positivity activists can tell you that most kids have gone on diets by the time that they turn 12. Being fat isn’t healthy, obviously, but this isn’t something that should be brought up so frequently among kids. Maggie Goes On A Diet was written for kids who are aged 6 through 12, and for a lot of parents, that’s way too young to be discussing something like weight.
While the diet seems like a good thing, and though there is a positive message about healthy eating inside the book, most parents who hear about this book have said that it’s disturbing. After all, it does make you wonder what happened to the days when kids could just be kids for a while.
5. Joined At Birth: The Lives Of Conjoined Twins
With some books on this list, we can at least admit that the issues being presented are pretty common. Things like drugs, eating disorders, and even parents getting plastic surgery could be considered somewhat common in most communities. However, we can’t really say that about Joined At Birth, since this entire book is about one of the rarest birth defects in the world: conjoined twins.
People who have read the book say that there’s a nice medical explanation for everything, but that it’s pretty puzzling. Considering that the vast majority of conjoined twins die within hours of birth, it’s kind of hard to find a situation in which a book about living life as a conjoined twin would make sense. But, hey, at least it’s a good book for that one pair of kids who were born with two heads, right?
4. Don’t Make Me Go Back, Mommy
Most of these books on the list could still pass for library-ready in a pinch, but not this book. Published during the early 90s, Don’t Make Me Go Back was a book designed to teach kids about Satanic ritual abuse. During the early 80s, this would have seemed like a good book for a social worker to have considering the time, but since it was published in 1990, this book just basically rotted on shelves.
To fully understand why the book was published, you need to understand what was the big deal about Satanic ritual abuse at the time, since the late 70s and 80s had a scare dealing with children who, under hypnosis, claimed that they were sexually abused by their parents as part of Satanic rituals. However, by the early 90s, it became clear that the “confessions” kids had under hypnosis were gotten by the power of suggestion rather than actual repressed memories.
3. I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much
Judith Vigna was a children’s book author that made a point of trying to help kids tackle tough issues like parental alcoholism, death, abuse, as well as other similar issues. And, for the most part, her books did present these issues in a way that kids could understand them. They were a hit, particularly among social workers who couldn’t really put themselves in the kid’s shoes.
Helpful as they were, the titles alone made them pretty disturbing for parents, kids, and teachers alike. Among other more positive and sunny titles were gems like Nobody Wants A Nuclear War, My Big Sister Takes Drugs, and of course, When Eric’s Mom Fought Cancer. But, to be fair, some of the titles were actually very positive and surprisingly LGBT-friendly for the time that they were published. My Two Uncles, for example, was a very good way to explain what’s going on with a unique family setup.
2. My Parents Open Carry
There are certain topics that were once okay to discuss with kids, but are no longer viewed as “kid appropriate.” Guns, for most people, would have to be one of those topics. Though guns are basically taboo to most people’s kids, this duo of writers definitely might beg to differ. They created an entire series for kids that’s dedicated to gun usage, the protection guns offer, and what “open carry” really means.
We can definitely see the value in reading this to your kids if you have a weapon in your house, but for those of us who can’t help but wince in a gun’s general vicinity, this isn’t something that we’d want to read to our kids. Because of the bad rap guns have in schools, this definitely gave us reason to put it on this list.
1. Alfie’s Home
You simply can’t put together a list about disturbing or strange children’s books without including Alfie’s Home on it. This book’s plot is all about a child who’s getting molested by his gay uncle, and then wrongly believes that he’s gay as a result. When the kiddo tells his parents, they try to ignore him. Then, he tells a counselor, who quickly gets things going by outing his uncle, teaching the kid that he’s not gay, and presumably other things. His uncle then apologizes and things are happily ever after.
This book has come under fire for a number of reasons, including having homophobic slurs on pages, making the recovery from sex abuse unrealistically short, and also just being really creepy on a number of different levels. Simply put, this might traumatize more kids than it helps.