The Most Disturbing, Yet Popular, Children\’s Books

Disturbing, Yet Popular, Children\’s Books

All five of these popular, but disturbing stories are books I have read out loud to my classes, and even to my own children.  However, after reading them I was left wondering:  What kind of message am I sending with these stories?  I know this list will rub some people the wrong way, and they may strongly disagree with my conclusions.  Please keep in mind; this is only my humble opinion.

Where the Wild Things Are 

by Maurice Sendak

The least disturbing of the lot, but still… The story starts off with a mischievous boy chasing after his dog with a fork.  He is sent to bed without supper, so he tells his parents, “I will eat you!”  Once in his room, he has a wild adventure with monsters and returns to find a warm meal waiting for him.  He is unkind to animals and disrespectful to his parents, but in the end his parents realize the error of their ways and reward him with a good meal.

Message:  No matter what you do, it is fun to be bad because mom and dad will always cave in.

Love You Forever

by  Robert Munsch

This story made it on my Best Children\’s Books Ever Written  list simply because this is a best seller.  For some reason (maybe Oprah\’s fault) tons of people have purchased this book, and claim to love it.  Don\’t get me wrong, I have been known to cry at the end of this story.  That does not change the fact that one section of this book totally creeps me out.  The mother climbs a ladder and enters through a window, crawls across the floor so that she can hold her adult son and rock him as she sings a lullaby.  It makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.

Message: It doesn\’t matter how old you get or where you go, you will NEVER get away from mommy.

Rainbow Fish

by Marcus Pfister

This book is disturbing right away.  A beautiful rainbow fish is shunned and ridiculed by his peers because he won\’t give them his scales.  After much peer pressure (including advice given by an authority figure) he chooses to give away his sparkling scales, and is finally accepted by the group.  In the end, he decides that giving away what makes him special is better than being alone.

Message:  Being different is bad, and should be avoided at all cost.

The Giving Tree 

by Shel Silverstein

This book about the relationship between a young boy and his favorite tree starts out nice enough.  The tree loves him, and enjoys spoiling the boy with simple things like providing limbs to climb on, and apples to eat.  But soon he grows tired of her, so she offers more and more of herself until all that is left is a pathetic stump.  Throughout the relationship the boy never says thank you, and doesn\’t seem to care that he has destroyed his friend in the end.

Message:  Give until it kills you.

                                        ~ or ~

  If someone offers you something, take it ALL – and then some.

Runaway Bunny  

by Margaret Wise Brown

This is another creepy mother\’s tale.  A little bunny wants desperately to get away from his mother, and he tells her different ways he plans to escape.  There are several disturbing images here:  First, he announces that he will become a fish, so she tells him she will become a fisherman.  We all know fishermen use nasty hooks to catch their fish.  Out of desperation he says he will sail away from her, and she says she will be the wind and tell him where to go. He finally gives in and says there is no point in trying, so she gives him a carrot.

Message: No matter what you do or how hard you try, you will always be a mama\’s boy. Good luck finding a wife, kid.