15 Most Inappropriate Things Found In Children’s Books

What happens when a child comes home with a children's book containing inappropriate text and images?

Children’s books can be a wonderful thing. They can help us escape to lands far away, teach valuable lessons, and bring parents back to their own childlike sense of wonder.

Parents who put a focus on reading with their children know that books will fall into a few categories: the classics, the books your child loves but you can’t stand, the rare unicorn sweet spot book that everyone in the family enjoys reading again and again, and the books that no one wants to read so you might as well put them in a donation bin ASAP.

In the world of “adulting” we try to be grown-up for our children. On certain occasions our immaturity shines through. Sometimes this happens when our child brings home a book with out of date phrasing or unintentionally double-entendre riddled text.

Did the publishers really review all of the copy on these books before they set to print? Or did they find the content as humorous as the hundreds of parents who are literally spitting out their coffee in shock, disbelief, and immaturity do, and slipped it in as some sort of literature themed “Easter Egg” content?

Either way, these are 15 really inappropriate things found in real life children’s books, whether they mean to be or not.

15Boys Wanted For Pleasure Island

Pinocchio may be a classic tale that many parents fondly remember from their own childhoods, but revisiting the story may not offer up the intended ‘feel good’” memories.

While the Disney version of the story is generally more appropriate than the genuine original, it’s still whack. It’s surprising that the person searching for boys for Pleasure Island doesn’t have a giant windowless van to transport his kidnapping victims.

Pleasure Island in both stories is a terrible place where “bad children” (specifically boys) literally transform into donkeys and are used for slave labour.

In the original version of the story, Pinocchio is turned back into a puppet from his donkey state after a flesh eating fish tears away all of his donkey skin.

14Angry Mrs. Rogers

We’re hoping this book doesn’t refer to the lovable Mr. Rogers who taught children all about love, compassion, friendship, and kindness on TV from 1968 to 2001. He was, after all a voice who taught generations of children.

This page of a children’s story reads more like an after school special on understanding the importance of “bad touch” and voyeurism than it does a regular run-of-the-mill children’s story. It really doesn’t matter when this book was produced, the editors should have known better.

Let’s hope that Mr. Rogers put a nice spoonful of ice cream into Mrs. Rogers’ mouth to calm down her anger instead of something that reads like the opening scene for an adult skin flick.

13The Fat Cat

Friends have recounted childhood stories of withholding a smirk whenever their elderly relative cooed about a ‘pussycat crawling up onto their laps’ or mentioning that ‘pussycat has very sharp claws’.

Many children’s books still in circulation refer to their lead character using the capital ‘P” word. “Fat Cat On A Mat” books are staples to any children who are learning to read. People love a nice big fat cuddly cat, so wouldn’t they pen a children’s story like, “So, You’ve Got A Fat Pussy”.

While younger children aren’t going to make a connection to the ‘other’ meaning of the word, odds are parents, caregivers, and babysitters will have to stifle some laughter when reading about this fat cat and their adventures.

12Kiss My Aunt

Elderly relatives are often associated, by little kids, with their thick application of lipstick and the wrinkled smile lines. I still remember spending what felt like hours in the bathroom as a little kid washing away the bright red lipstick stains from my Great Aunt Madeline.

While most of us get the concept of relatives puckering up for a kiss, there’s something very unsettling about this image, most notably that it looks like a giant buttocks with an anus smack dab in the centre.

Is the artist giving all of the readers a not so subtle ‘Kiss my butt’ message or is this just a really unfortunate coincidence? We’re guessing that whoever’s aunt was the inspiration was unimpressed with being portrayed as a giant butt head.

11The Inappropriate Party Game

Homonyms can make a word that’s intended innocently take on a more graphic context. When a book is older, there may be expressions that had completely different meanings at the time of publication than say when someone picks up a copy at their local library.

In this instance, we’re talking about a children’s game where kids need to pretend to be a cat, called “Poor Pussy”. While this is intended to be a wholesome party game for children, the modern take on the word along with the image of a young girl on the floor on her hands and knees comes off as really inappropriate.

It’s probably time for the library to update their collection of party games for something a little more modern.

10The Dirty Teddy Bear

First off, that pink soap in the tub looks like a giant urinal cake, so yuck. Second, what kind of child brings a stuffed animal into the bathroom with them to watch them bathe?

I understand the kind of bond a child might experience with their stuffed animals; as a child I used to alternate which stuffed animal I slept with at night so my toys “wouldn’t get jealous”, but I’d never force them into the bathroom with me to watch me during tub time.

I predict that this fictional child will grow up to have a plushy fetish thanks to that naughty little bear. Even more disturbing is the fact that Teddy “rather watch” like he’s some sort of possessed Teddy Ruxpin with a secret nanny cam inside him.

9Melanie’s Marvelous Measles

This book is from the perspective of an anti-vaxxer claiming that measles are, well, marvelous. Amazon has posted a sizable warning for this book stating that the views are those of the author alone.

While a handful of reviewers praise the author for their honesty and ‘education’ on the dangers of vaccines, one reviewer writes to the author, “Hey Steph, I had measles when I was 5, before there was a vaccine, and as a result I'm legally blind now. What have you got for me?”

Another livid review says, “What a terrible piece of garbage. If you took a dump on a couple of pieces of paper, it would make a better book than this. Whoever wrote this should be shot out of a cannon, into the sun.”

8Climbing Up, Up, And Up

Richard, short form Dick, was once a very popular little boy’s name. In 1925 it ranked number six in popularity, only dropping two spots on the most popular boy names to number eight in 1950.

Today, assuming partially because of the other meanings of the name Dick, the name isn’t anywhere near the top 100 most popular boy names. It currently ranks 290 on Nameberry.

Although the picture does provide the proper context that Dick is in fact a little boy climbing a tree, most adults can’t help but have their imaginations drift to a darker, sicker reality for little boy Dick and his good pal Jane. Dick’s dog appears to be very excited that his master is climbing that tree!

7Cooking With... Pooh

There were so many other title options available for what’s presumably a delicious honey infused recipe book featuring everyone’s favourite dim witted, but lovable bear. I am really hoping that those brown specks in that cookie batter are raisins or chocolate chips.

While many reviewers boast what a wonderful cooking book this is, and some sadness that the book is no longer in print, others like to joke about the poor choice of title for a book that came out in 1995.

We’re assuming this was approved on the copyeditor’s last day on the job. One Amazon review reads, “Good book, but not what I thought it was. Now I am stuck with 5 gallons of pooh and no idea how to prepare it for guests.”

6Thomas The Sleepy Train

Remember that episode of Saved By The Bell when Jessie Spano got hooked on caffeine pills? Perhaps it was inspired by the content of this Thomas the Train Book where Henry the train plays the part of pusher extraordinaire offering up Thomas some ‘special coal’.

Don’t get us wrong, it’s never too early to teach your children about the dangers of drugs, and why there are asterisks beside some of their favourite baseball players’ names in the Hall of Fame. Thomas doesn’t just look sleepy in this illustration, he looks full-on baked.

Hopefully it didn’t take Thomas long to learn that uppers and downers aren’t the answer and that if he keeps up this dangerous lifestyle everything he’s ever cared about will go up in smoke.

5Dr. Seuss's X-Rated Rhino

Dr. Seuss and his drawing style is pretty distinct. It’s something that people generally either love or hate in all of its brightly coloured psychedelic glory.

When someone sees faces in inanimate objects or when things or drawings look like other things, not what the artist intended, this is called pareidolia. You have to wonder what Dr. Seuss was thinking about when he create this rhinoceros whose horn looks rather phallic, complete with a set of sparsely haired testes and a child with a whip.

Did the book publishers not have the guts to say, ‘Hey, you need to do something about that rhino’s horn because it looks like genitalia!’ The last time we checked a rhino’s horn didn’t even slightly resemble a man’s twigs and berries.

4The Bossy Cow

Board books are a great way for really small children with especially short attention spans to enjoy a bedtime story and experience different textures. All of these things are really important for their young and developing minds. Rhyming in children's stories, poetry, and poems can sometimes come off as a little forced, as is in this case.

Children love rhymes, but how do they feel about bossy rhymes that order them around. What if I don’t want to touch the cow? Someone needs to let that barnyard brute know that no means no, and to back off. To be honest, we’re a little scared to find out what other demands are on the next page of this bossy Bessy book.

3Off To Bunny Jail

Sometimes books need to cover very tough topics. Maybe this book has helped a lot of children cope with a parents’ incarceration. Just take a look at that poor, adorable, giant-eye bunny.

As he draws his depressing feelings out, one has to imagine that his eyes are filled with endless pools of disappointment over his father and whatever he did to land him a sentence of six years in the big house.

Extortion, armed robbery of a carrot stand, we can guess but we may never know (unless there’s a sequel that explains what happens after pops serves his time). While some reviews of the book feature kind Amazon readers who donated copies to their local prison, other’s joke, “bought this just in case. You never know.”

2The Muffin Muncher

This childhood classic that many people grew up with remains a fantastic story, despite its rather unfortunate title. Parents may actually want to pick up a copy of this book for their child to enjoy non-ironically, while they snicker about the other meaning for muffin muncher.

The reviews of this title are a fun read with a mixture of accolades for the story and poking fun at the title. One reviewer says, “My girlfriend has been complaining a lot lately about my "performance" and I purchased this book thinking it was a How-To guide. Needless to say, I was disappointed when I realized this was a children's book. Nevertheless the illustrations are phenomenal and the plot will put you on the edge of your seat. 5 stars!!!”

1Please Don’t Touch This

This is a book with a very important message for children; unfortunately it does absolutely nothing to empower them with the correct anatomical words for body parts. The book uses the word 'tomato' as a metaphor for 'vagina', we get it.

But you know what would be even more powerful? Teaching our children the correct verbiage to help them better communicate inappropriate touching without using cutesy words that negate some of the validity of their cases against molesters.

The reviews of this book are fairly polarized: some applaud the writer for tackling such a difficult topic and putting it into a language that little kids get whereas another reader wrote, “This book will traumatize your children and unnecessarily demonize the men in their lives who could actually help them.”

Sources: Buzzfeed, Nameberry, Amazon, Art Sheep, Twenty Two Words, Your Tango

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