10 Great Books For (Traumatizing) Children
Hiroshima No PikaThe Screwed Up-edness: As all Westerners know, exactly one important thing happened in Hiroshima. And yes, this book for kindergartners is about that. According to the author, the book is based on a true account of a woman leading her child out of the A-Bomb’s blast radius while carrying her wounded husband on her back. According to the picture on the cover, it’s about women running topless through a sea of blood.
Who Cares About Disabled People?The Screwed Up-edness: If you’re not already convinced this book was a terrible idea, try reciting the title at a cocktail party and see if you don’t get beat down. And while the book’s answer to the question is actually “we should ALL care about disabled people,” the people it considers “disabled” include fat kids, kids who huff paint, alcoholics, athletes and child prodigies (you know, because they’re so lonely). Maybe I’m not as tolerant as I could be, but the day I see a drunken, paint-huffing basketball prodigy park in a handicapped spot is the day I get arrested for vehicular manslaughter.
What Were They Thinking? “If kids learn to see that everyone has their own unique imperfections, they will realize that intolerance harms us all.” What Kids Who Read It Think: “Great, I’m surrounded by cripples. And you can get high by huffing paint? Who knew? Me, now. Awesome.”
I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much
Outside Over ThereThe Screwed Up-edness: This is the book the movie The Labyrinth was loosely based on, so you know it’s going to be pretty horrifying. And where the movie had a young girl battle self-decapitating monsters to win her kidnapped brother back from David Bowie’s enchanted crotch-pouch, the book has her doing… basically the same thing, but then she makes all the goblins kill themselves by dancing until they collapse due to fatal exhaustion. Many other details were altered, but thankfully the movie stayed true to the simple, heartwarming story presented in the book: young girl hates baby brother, wishes him away and must slaughter a goblin army to win him back.
The House That Crack BuiltThe Screwed Up-edness: A parody of “This is the house that Jack built,” this book takes children on a magical, whirlwind tour of things they have no reason to want to know about: from the workers toiling in Colombian fields to the pushers on the street corner to the homeless crackheads auctioning off their orifices for that next sweet hit. It’s like the film
What Kids Who Read It Think: “That crack dealer lives in a GIANT MANSION! Screw fireman; I want to be a dealer when I grow up!”
Sometimes My Mommy Gets AngryThe Screwed Up-edness: Ever wonder what someone with bipolar disorder looks and sounds like to their children? The answer is as upsetting as you’d imagine, and thanks to this book you don’t even have to develop a mental disorder of your own to let your kids know the depression and terror of that experience. Annie’s (single) mommy behaves like a coke fiend on one page and Debbie Downer on the next. Thankfully, Annie’s grandmother calls her on the phone to help talk her through things, and Annie learns a valuable lesson: her grandmother doesn’t love her enough to save her from her crazy mother.
The Poodle-Pug-Dachshund-PinscherThe Screwed Up-edness: This German collection of children’s stories has the double distinction of being the only book on this list to feature an abomination of nature on its cover, while also being the only book on this list that’s Nazi propaganda against the Jews. Whimsical tales like “The Poisonous Serpent,” “The Tapeworm” and “The Filthy Jew” help teach Nazi Youth a host of valuable lessons. OK, really just one lesson. Seriously, this is the written equivalent of Joe Camel, assuming he's beating a gypsy with a bag full of candy-coated plutonium Tootsie-Pops.
Latawnya, The Naughty Horse, Learns to Say “No” to DrugsThe Screwed Up-edness: At first, this book seems like a fun read. After all, drawings of horses smoking cigarettes and struggling to drink booze with their gigantic hooves are inherently hilarious. Unfortunately, the author couldn’t just leave it at that. No, she had to make the three main characters black horses names Latawnya, Latoya and Daisy, and the villainous drug pushers four white horses. And voila! In one simple move, she’s turned what could have been an excellent desk calendar into an idiotic oversimplification of race relations. Tack on a horse overdosing near the end and you’ve got yourself one of the worst books ever made, children’s or otherwise.
What Were They Thinking? “No one will listen to my theories about the White Man pushing drugs on our brothers and sisters! Perhaps if I thinly veil them and target kids…” What Kids Who Read It Think: “Horses are silly. Why… why isn’t Daisy getting up, Mommy? Mommy?!”
Cautionary Tales For ChildrenThe Screwed Up-edness: This one’s almost cheating, since it was written more than 100-years ago and was probably meant as a satire of the Grimm fairy tales. Nevertheless, its misleading title, saccharine-sweet rhymes and 2002 re-release with new artwork by renowned illustrator Edward Gorey leave little doubt that somewhere, a young child is reading poems about “Jim, Who ran away from his Nurse and was eaten by a Lion” and “Matilda, Who told lies and was Burned to Death.”
Alfie’s HomeThe Screwed Up-edness: Take every author on this list, put them in a room together, fill that room with a gas that makes people retarded, and promise to kill their families if they don’t write the worst children’s book of all time, and I guarantee they will produce Alfie’s Home. It’s not JUST that the book tells the story of a child getting molested by his uncle while his angry parents ignore him. It’s not JUST that the word “faggot” is emblazoned on page nine. It’s not JUST that the rudimentary artwork makes the picture of the “proper manifestation of a father’s love” look like Alfie’s getting molested all over again.
It’s all those things, but it’s mostly the fact that after 16 pages of the most fucked up childhood this side of Michael Jackson’s, Alfie has a single meeting with a counselor, and everything’s immediately fine. His uncle apologizes, his parents make up, he realizes he isn’t gay after all (Oh thank Christ!), rainbows shoot out of his ass, the whole bit. It’s like if Requiem For a Dream ended with a big tea party/dance number. What Were They Thinking? Not much. What Kids Who Read It Think: “Wow, this is shit. I’m going to go watch Pokémon.”
When not reading at a third grade level, Michael serves as head writer for and co-founder of Those Aren't Muskets!