When you think about children's books, what comes to mind? Charming, magical stories with gentle life lessons are pretty common ideas
. But as the books schools used to think were totally fine for little kids to read demonstrate, kid lit can be as messed up as anything else in the world.
The reason many of these books seem inappropriate now is simply because of shifts in language and slang. Some feature styles of art that look more haunting than charming to modern eyes, while others just follow the spirit of childlike imagination to a weird, warped place. For the most part, however, these books are still harmless and enjoyable.
But other children's books from the past are more seriously problematic. Heavy-handed instances of racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination show up in some children's stories. Oh, even satanic ritual abuse gets a mention —
who expected that to pop up in a kid's book? These books are artifacts of their time, and they speak to a moment in history (sometimes not that long ago) when these attitudes were rarely questioned. Fortunately, you now have the option of reading Dragons Love Tacos to your kid for the millionth time, or checking out any number of kid's books that are wonderful, kind, and balanced. 1 'Alfie's Home' by Richard A. Cohen
It sounds unbelievable, but some so-called children's books are aimed at shaming gay people. Both childhood sexual abuse and gay conversion therapy are topics covered in
by Richard A. Cohen, a children's book published in 1993. And I thought Grimms' fairy tales were messed up. Alfie's Home 2 'Don't Make Me Go Back, Mommy' by Doris Sanford 3 'Eat Your Poison, Dear' by James Howe
Spooky books were all the rage in the '90s, and
– a mystery about poisoned middle schoolers — is probably a fine read. But a librarian at my elementary school read the book's title in a really creepy voice this one time, and I'm still kind of spooked, to be honest. Eat Your Poison, Dear 4 'The Little Match Girl' by Hans Christian Andersen is, by all accounts, an excellent story. The book, however, is all about poverty, neglect, and the death of a little girl in the streets The Little Match Girl — heavy subjects for some unsuspecting kid. 5 'The Lonely Doll' by Dare Wright by Dare Wright has charmed generations since its publication in 1957 The Lonely Doll , but there's something a bit unsettling, perhaps even sinister, about the doll in these black and white photographs. 6 'Maggie Goes On A Diet' by Paul Kramer
Yes, eating healthy is a crucial life skill for all people
, but by Paul Kramer has faced criticism for focusing on image and popularity instead of health and nutrition. The 2011 book was rereleased in 2014 as Maggie Goes On A Diet , so that's worth consideration. Maggie Eats Healthier 7 'The Muffin Muncher' by Stephen Cosgrove
Maybe this phrase didn't have a double meaning when the book was published in 1978. Whatever the case,
by Stephen Cosgrove is about a dragon who loves baked goods. It looks like the book is still in print under a new title, The Muffin Muncher which is less likely to send parents into a laughing fit. The Muffin Dragon, 8 'Mummy Laid An Egg!' by Babette Cole
Sure, having "the talk" with your kid can be awkward. So 1995's whimsical
by Babette Cole appears to be a funny take on the whole topic of baby-making, but just check out the book's Mummy Laid An Egg! creepy clown illustrations about sex to decide for yourself. I can never un-see the image of mummies and daddies fitting together while surrounded by balloons. 9 'The Mystery Of The Midget Clown' by Ann Bradford
This sounds like a parody, but it looks like
was indeed a real book published in 1980. What would people with dwarfism think of this particular read? (For the record, The Mystery of the Midget Clown the word midget is considered a derogatory slur by the Little People of America organization.)
On an unrelated note, why is the girl on the cover illustration wearing a suit made of graph paper? Is the circus really named "Midway Circus"? I have so many questions.
10 'No-No The Little Seal' by Judith Feldman
It's crucial for children to have books that explain difficult subjects in a compassionate, understandable way. For instance,
by Judith Feldman is the story of Uncle Seal and how he abuses young No-No. Sure, this story is helpful for people who work with abused children, but the 1986 book was available for anyone to buy or check out from a library. My fiancé and his brothers read this book as kids, and their parents didn't realize it was a story about seal molestation. (They know now.) No-No The Little Seal 11 'Tintin In The Congo' by Hergé
Some books have subtle allusions to racism, but this one is pretty overt.
by Hergé features rampant colonialist attitudes, in addition to some painfully racist portrayals of the Congolese. The 1930s book is not considered a part of Tintin's official canon, and its relevance is still debated today — check out the #TinTingate tag on Twitter. Tintin In The Congo