Reading can be such a great bonding experience for children and their caregivers. There's nothing sweeter than curling up with a good right before bed. Many parents incorporate bedtime stories into their bedtime routine. Teeth have been brushed, pajamas have been put on, and everyone cuddles up to be lulled to sleep with a sweet story. Other times, we use children's books to teach kiddos valuable life lessons. Many stories have been passed down and are beloved classics that are read from generation to generation.
Well, not every book out there is appropriate for kids. A magical bedtime could be transformed quickly into a nightmare. I can only imagine the look of horror on a child's face if they were exposed to some of the terrifying books out there that are marketed for children. While older kids may find them intriguing, put into the wrong hands, some stories could cause serious trauma to little minds. One has to ask what some of these authors were thinking when they wrote these creepy stories.
Maybe it's the subject matter that makes a book inappropriate for kids. Sometimes the illustrations are downright horrifying. From a little girl who discovers that a pack of rabid wolves actually live within her walls, to a scissor wielding maniac who teaches children life lessons on morality, there are a slew of titles that parents of little ones should avoid altogether. Here is a list of 15 Disturbing Pics From Children's Books You'd Never Read To A Kid.
15 The Green Ribbon
The story of The Green Ribbon is nestled within a collection of stories in the book, In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories, by Alvin Schwartz. The tale starts off innocently enough, “A long time ago there was a little girl who had a green ribbon around her neck. One day she went to school and met a boy named Alfred. Alfred sat behind her in class and noticed the ribbon under her pig tails.
“Why do you wear that ribbon around your neck?” he asked. Someday I’ll tell you, she promised.
As time goes by, Alfred and Jenny eventually marry and he's always asking her why she wears that green ribbon around her neck. It isn't until she grows old and becomes sick that she removes the ribbon and her head falls off. Turns out, Alfred had fallen in love with an un-dead zombie!
Talk about trauma!
14 The Little Match Girl
The Little Match Girl is a story written by Hans Christian Anderson. It's about poor child who sells matches to strangers. It takes a sinister turn when we learn that she can't go home because her dad gives her blows her if she returns without selling enough matches.
The girl cowers in an alley, looking for warmth from her matches. She then has a series of hallucinations in the glow of the flames. She envisions a holiday feats with a roasted goose, she sees a shimmering Christmas tree, and a star falling with a trail of fire. Her grandmother appears and reminds her that a falling star means a soul is ascending to heaven. The girl burns all of her matches to keep her grandmother from fading away. Strangers find the girl frozen the next morning with a smile on her face.
Nothing like sharing a bedtime story about poverty, child abuse, and the dangers of hypothermia.
13 Never Smile At A Monkey
Never Smile At A Monkey is a picture book written by Steve Jenkins. Maybe your kid is an animal lover and you are searching for that perfect book to expose them to all the lovely creatures of this beautiful world. Do not, I repeat do not make the mistake of reading this book to your precious child. The entire premise of this book is to teach children that there are certain things you shouldn't do when it comes to wild animals. Sounds informative and educational, right?
Well, this book will scare the curiosity out of your kiddo. With facts like, "Never collect a cone shell because it defends itself with barbs that are so poisonous that you can die withing minutes of being stabbed." Your little one will never want to explore the ocean again. Every page tells another horrifying story of how animals can be hazardous to your health.
12 Don't Make Me Go Back Mommy
Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy; A Child's Book About Satanic Abuse is written by Doris Sanford and is a whole lot of crazy. It's about a little girl who exhibits disturbing behavior, like not wanting to eat certain foods or refusing to wear certain clothes. Well, it turns out that Allison attends a daycare that happens to be run by a satanic cult. The center practices religious rituals which involves sexual and psychological abuse. This book is twisted and terrifying.
It was part of a “Hurts of Childhood” series that was published in the 1990's and no horrible topic was left uncovered. With titles such as David Has AIDS and Maria's Grandma Gets Mixed Up, these books might work for professionals helping children work through abuse.
Unless you want your kid to be terrified to attend daycare, this story should never be read to a child.
11 Heckedy Peg
Heckedy Peg is written by Audrey Wood. It's a dark fairy tale about a poor mother who leaves her seven children at home to go to the market. She tells them not to let any strangers in. Of course, The witch Heckedy Peg arrives moments after she leaves. The witch convinces the children to let her in. As soon as they do, she turns them into food.
The mother returns home to find her children gone. She tricks Heckedy Peg into letting her in by pretending to cut off her own feet, and the witch gives her a chance to break the spell: if she can identify which child is which food, she wins. She uses the gifts each child wanted to figure it out. The children resume their natural forms and run the witch off.
Such a great way to scare your children into never letting a stranger into the house.
10 The Wolves In The Walls
The Wolves in the Walls is a picture book written by Neil Gaiman. It is a super scary story. A girl named Lucy hears wolves “clawing and gnawing, nibbling and squabbing” from behind the walls in her room. Her family doesn't believe her, blaming the noises on rats and bats. But she knows it's true. Her parents tell her, “If the wolves come out of the walls, then it’s all over.” Well, one day, the wolves jump out of the walls and chase her entire family into the garden. The cower there and only Lucy is brave enough to sneak back in to fetch her favorite pig puppet.
Eventually, the family moves back into the house. Then, Lucy hears a noise within the walls that sounds like an elephant is trying to sneeze.
After reading this book, your child will be horrified by every bump they hear in the night.
9 Love You Forever
Love You Forever is a picture book written by Robert Munsch. It's a bit of a tear jerker and is sort of manipulative. It's a story about a mother and her son. The mom rocks him to sleep each night while singing a sweet lullaby. As the boys grows, she continues to visit him each night, holding him and singing the lullaby.
It gets a little creepy when her son becomes an adult and moves into his own home. She drives across town, sneaks into his room each night, and sings the same lullaby to him while he sleeps. This isn't normal behavior and she might need to reevaluate her life.
Eventually, she grows old and her adult son comes to see her for the last time. He then cradles his mother and sings his version of the lullaby. I can't decide if this story is extremely touching or extremely disturbing.
8 The Witches
The Witches was written by Roald Dahl. It's about a seven-year-old boy who goes to live with his grandmother after his parents are killed in a car crash. His grandmother is a great storyteller and he loves the one about witches, which she says are" the most dangerous of all living creatures on earth." They hate children and have terrifying spells to get rid of them.
She warns him to beware of the diabolical leader of all of the world's witches. Well, who should turn up one day but a strange woman in black staring up at him with an eerie smile? He realizes that he is face face to face with the Grand High Witch. This book solidifies the existence of witches from the start when it states, “This is not a fairy tale. This is about real witches.”
All of your child's fears about witches being real will be confirmed with this story.
7 Brave Mr. Buckingham
Brave Mr. Buckingham was written by Dorothy Kunhardt and published in 1935. I'm not sure what Kunhardt was smoking when she wrote this one. It tells a story about a Native American gentleman who "had terrible accidents because he was foolish and didn't seem able to stop himself from doing foolish things. He did them again and again. But no matter what happened, he just smiled a brave smile and said "THAT DIDN'T HURT!"
The story continues with Mr. Buckingham enduring horrible accidents. He held his foot up to a buzzsaw to see if he could guess what it was that made such a "nice tickly feeling" and cut his foot off. He went to the aquarium and a fish bites off his other foot. All the while he proclaims, "THAT DIDN'T HURT!"
Nothing like the threat of dismemberment to teach your children to avoid dangling their foot in front of a buzzsaw.
Struwwelpeter is a German picture book written by Heinrich Hoffman in 1845. In this collection of morality tales, children are humiliated and mutilated in various ways. Struwwelpeter teaches children through terror that there are many ways to die painfully; and that it's their fault because they are dumb and have no manners.
The story starts with, Shock-headed Peter. It's a cautionary tale warning that poor hygiene will transform you into crazed beast. There's also the lovely, "The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb" in which an unsuspecting child who sucks his thumb is assaulted by a man with scissors who proceeds to cut off both of his thumbs. When he cries to his parents, they nonchalantly shrug it off. My favorite story is "The Dreadful Story of Harriet and the Matches," in which a young girl catches fire and is burnt to ashes in front of her terrified cats.
Sweet dreams, everyone.
5 Outside Over There
Outside Over There was written by Maurice Sendak. It's about a girl named Ida whose father is away at sea. She lulls her baby sister to sleep each night by playing her horn. One fateful night, while she's distracted by playing her horn, goblins sneak in through the window and steal her baby sister, replacing her with a changeling made of ice. Later, while she's cradling it, the changeling melts, and Ida realizes what happened.
Ida goes outside to search for her sister. However, because she goes out the window backwards she finds herself Outside Over There where she can't locate the goblins or her sister. She disrupts the goblins, who have now taken the form of babies, and are in the midst of a wedding. Ida plays her horn, sending the goblins into a dancing frenzy until they fall into a stream.
Nothing like baby snatching story to lull a child to sleep.
4 The Trouble With Trolls
The Trouble With Trolls is a picture book written by Jan Brett. It's about a little girl named Treva who has a little bit of trouble with some trolls. She encounters them when she attempts to climb Mount Baldy with her dog, Tuffi. The trolls who live there want a dog, and they try to snatch him. But Treva is brave and quick-thinking. She outwits one troll after another until she reaches the very top of the mountain, where five trolls are waiting to take her beloved dog!
Even though Treva is a clever girl and it's entertaining to watch her outsmart the trolls, it might be troublesome to some children to read about kidnapping trolls that want to eat Treva's canine.
I'm not a child physiologist or anything but this seems like the perfect book to read right before going on a mountain family hike with your favorite pet.
3 Latawnya The Naughty Horse
Latawnya, the Naughty Horse, Learns to Say "No" to Drugs was written by Sylvia Scott Carson. Filled with realistic illustrations of cigarette smoking, alcohol guzzling, drug abusing horses, it tells the story of Latawnya, the youngest horse in her family. One day, while she's out playing with her sisters, Latoya and Daisy, they happen upon 5 other mares named Connie, Chrystal, Jackie and Angie.
The degenerate horses ask Latawnya if she wants to engage in "smoking games" and "drinking games". Latawnya can't resist the lure. Her sisters tattle on her and their parents lecture her about the dangers of drugs. Latawnya realizes the error of her ways and promises never to engage in "smoking games" and "drinking games" again.
What better way to educate children about the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol but to have the main players of the story be horses? Makes total sense. If you're on drugs!
2 The Gashlycrumb Tinies
The Gashlycrumb Tinies: or, After the Outing is an abecedarian book written and illustrated by Edward Gorey that was published in 1963. This is a story is about 26 children that each represent a letter of the alphabet. They all fall victim to untimely deaths in rhyming dactylic couplets, accompanied by the author's creepy black and white drawings.
It's a morbid and comical book, which might be hilarious to adults with a dark sense of humor. It's pretty funny to read the mundane and ordinary ways these children meet their fate. There's "Amy who falls from the stairs, Basil who is assaulted by bears, and Clara who wasted away."
While this book may be a big hit with the goth crowd, it would more than likely be terrifying for a child. The pictures alone would scare any kid but the subject matter may spark the worst parts of their imagination.
1 All My Friends Are Dead
All Of My Friends Are Dead is written by Avery Monsen and Jory John. It's an adult children's book, in that the illustrations are childish but the content is not. Each page presents a different creature or object expressing the downside of their existence. It's both hilarious and dark all at once. On the first page, you see a shocked-looking dinosaur and read, “If you're a dinosaur, all of your friends are dead.”
It just goes downhill from there. From “If you're a pirate, all of your friends have scurvy.” to “If you're a tree, all of your friends are end tables”, every page presents one grievance after another. This is a book that you would buy as a joke for an adult and not one that should be in rotation for bedtime stories.
Even though it is really funny, it wouldn't be funny if you read it to little Timmy.