Everyone loves children’s books. They taught us how to read, they remind us of our childhood, and just remembering them can bring a smile to the face of even the most hardened adult cynic.
For the most part.
Children’s literature is tricky, and even the most well-intentioned author can stumble, which is why you might find your child reading an “adorable children’s book about allergies” or a “well-known nursery rhyme ... brilliantly transformed” into a poem about crack cocaine.
Here are 10 real children’s books that might leave you scratching your head.
“My Parents Open Carry,” Brian Jeffs and Nathan Nephew: Thirteen-year-old Brenna Strong joins her semiautomatic-toting parents for a “typical Saturday running errands and having fun together,” and, one supposes, terrifying anybody who walks past them. The back cover boasts raves from Glenn Beck (“I’m going to read it to my kids tonight”) and Stephen Colbert (“What a beautiful bedtime story”), who was probably being less than sincere.
“My Big Sister Takes Drugs,” Judith Vigna: This book was published in 1995, two decades after anyone earnestly said that someone “takes drugs.” At least one Amazon reader with a penchant for unusual capitalization wasn’t impressed: “This Book Made Me Use Drugs Because It Glorified Drug Use And Also The Sister Is The Only One Who Was Happy At The End Of the Book.”
“Maggie Goes on a Diet,” Paul M. Kramer: This book about an “extremely overweight” 14-year-old girl who gets in shape and becomes a soccer star is the perfect choice for parents who want their daughters to hate their bodies.
“Children Are No Match for Fire,” Carol Dean: Is it a children’s book about fire safety, or a rock opera by the most hardcore death metal band of all time? You be the judge!
“Little Monkey’s Big Peeing Circus,” Tjibbe Veldkamp: Here is the actual publisher’s description of this book: “An exceptionally talented pee-er, Little Monkey opens a peeing circus so he can show off his talents. Mimi wants to perform in it too, but can Mimi pee without a pee pee?” Martha Simpson of the Stratford (Conn.) Library Assn. raves: “Unless you really want to encourage boys (and girls) to jump around performing various urinating stunts, this title is an unnecessary purchase.”
“Ma! There’s Nothing to Do in Here!,” Barbara Park: For decades, the world of literature lacked a rhyming children’s book told from the point of a view of a bored fetus. Someone had to fill that void, and we are all the better for it.
“Who Cares About Disabled People?,” Pam Adams: You can’t fault author Adams for her intentions — this book teaches children to respect people living with disabilities. But the title ... could maybe use some work.
“The Night Dad Went to Jail,” Melissa Higgins: It sounds like a country song, but it’s actually a children’s book about a dog with comically sad eyes whose father is arrested. He learns to cope with the help of a social worker, who is a cat. Amazon customers give the book credit for dealing sensitively with a difficult subject, which may well be true. But still: Why is the social worker a cat? Why?
“Help! Mom! The 9th Circuit Nabbed the Nativity,” Katharine DeBrecht: “Can busybody Congresswoman Clunkton take the ‘ho ho ho’ out of the holidays? Not with Mom on the case!” That’s from the publisher’s official description of this children’s book, which also features characters named “Senator Weary” and “Al Snore.”
“Cooking with Pooh,” Mouse Works: You know what? No comment.