Children's books with odd 'messages'

I was just reading the thread about “The Giving Tree” (which I actually have never read), and started thinking about other children’s books with messages that seem a little strange.

One that comes to mind for me is “Goose Goofs Off.” It’s in the Sweet Pickles series of books. In it, Goose’s friends and neighbors keep harping at her to clean up her messy yard. Goose’s house also appears to have been struck by some sort of natural disaster. She keeps telling them, “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and goes back to napping in her hammock. Overnight, it snows, covering all the junk and making Goose’s yard look just as clean as everyone else’s. (I hope I didn’t just spoil the ending for anyone.) So, the message here seems to be, “Hey, it’s ok if your yard and home are a health and safety hazard. If you procrastinate long enough, it just might go away without you having to lift a finger. Go ahead, be lazy!”

Now it’s your turn.

Another book by Maurice Sendek, In The Night Kitchen, left me feeling a little weird, as a kid. The whole baked dough airplane trip to the stars to get milk naked boy butt as he falls into the batter just left me confused. Why’s he in the batter? And, I’m not allowed to show the world my naked ass, why does he get a pass? Add to that Maurice Sendek says he wrote it about people being shoved into ovens during the Holocaust, and now I’m like, “Wait turning a negative into a positive, or was the book supposed to be sad, or what, exactly?”

Funny, Where The Wild Things Are always made perfect sense.

Rainbow Fish is another notorious children’s book - a beautiful fish learns that she will only make friends if she gives away her beautiful, shining scales to others and becomes plain. Because beautiful people only inspire jealousy, and it’s better to hide/discard your specialness and be like everyone else. That, and it’s best to buy friends with shiny gifts to avoid loneliness.

I haven’t read In the Night Kitchen, but I have read The Rainbow Fish. I definitely thought it was strange that the rainbow fish had to give everyone a scale in order for them to be his friend.

I thought of another one last night. In I Love You Forever (which falls in that category of books I hate because who wants to read your kid a story that you can’t get through without sobbing?), at first it seems so sweet, but then if you start to think about it more it gets a little creepy. She’s sneaking into his window when he’s a grown man and rocking him like a baby? How does his wife feel about that? Are his children scared because Grandma is obviously insane?

I recently read “Play Ball, Amelia Bedelia” to my daughter for the first time. Besides being mind-numbingly boring, the plot involves Amelia being asked to play baseball with some kids, ignoring her work so she can please them, playing badly THE WAY GIRLS DO so the kids get mad at her and yell, but then she makes good cookies so it’s okay.

It was boring enough I would have gotten rid of it anyway, but the girls-should-stay-in-the-kitchen overtones put it over the top. Into the trash it went.

If you think about it, The Very Hungry Caterpillar is about worm-infested foodstuffs.

A book that frequently comes up in these discussions is Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch. It’s about a mother who sings to her baby boy (all together now, parents):
I’ll love you forever
I’ll like you for always
As long as I’m living
My baby you’ll be.

She sings this to him at different times throughout his life and even when he is grown and living in his own place, Mom drives across town, climbs into his bedroom with a ladder, and sings it to him while he sleeps. People get weirded out by that part, and think Mom needs to be put away or something. I, for one, like a little craziness in my kid’s books…and besides, I’m crying too hard to read at that point anyway. :slight_smile:

I got that book from my mother when I was an adult. Thanks mom, love you too. I’m locking my windows a little extra tight these days.

Speaking as someone whose mother read that book to him almost every night when he was little, it’s comforting and not crazy at all. Or do your children often confuse you for characters in storybooks?

There was a mildly upsetting book about a train that I found in a stack of books my sister had for her kids. It was about a young train that liked to jump off the tracks and go play in the fields and roll in the flowers and have fun. But he was taught to stay on the tracks and work hard and avoid running in the fields of flowers. The end.

Perhaps somebody remembers this one?

My mother was German, I had a copy of the Struwwelpeter as a child.

Thread over.

yellowval, I have no idea how I missed your post #4. :smack:

This is a perfectly cromulent message. It lines up with my lifes’ philosophy: “Never do anything today that you can put off until tomorrow because tonight you might die and not have to do it at all.”

Holy smokes. I hope you’ve outgrown the night terrors those must have caused!

That’s okay! It happens. :slight_smile:

Drunky Smurf, that is basically my philosophy as well. I blame Goose.

“There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly”

I hated, hated, hated that story when I heard it in the first grade (I was about 6 or so).

It starts out innocent enough, how she just swallowed a fly, but it gets progressively worse.

There was an old lady who swallowed a spider {snip}
She swallwed the spider to catch the fly {snip}
Perhaps she’ll die

Here is where it starts to get really weird. Instead of doing the logical thing and waiting for the fly to pass out of her she swallows a spider. So now not only does this old woman have a fly but also a spider. There’s obviously something wrong with her logic if she thought that was a good idea.

There was an old lady who swallowed bird, cat, dog, goat, cow

The old lady swallowed each of those animals in order to, in her messed up mind, catch the previous in a never ending cycle. She either has a form of Pica, which causes people to eat things they really shouldn’t, or a severe form of dementia.

There was an old lady who swallowed a horse-
She died, of course.

Here’s where I was creeped out the most. “She died, of course.” Throughout the entire story there’s an old woman who is obviously mental ill and unhinged, but no one cared in the least. It was around '92 when I was in the first grade so at the time it would not have been out of the question for an “old person” to survive both the Depression and WWII, someone whose stories needed to be heard, someone who had grit and strength, not someone who you leave alone in the room for her to eat animals and kill herself.

Of course

What kind of society do we live in when someone, anyone, not just someone who should be respected like the old woman, sits there and eats strange animals until she dies and we just respond with “of course”? Like it was natural. As if they said, “and the sun rose, of course.” Yes, death is natural and unavoidable, but one shouldn’t sit there and just wait for it to come.

So when I was in the first grade they read me a story about an old, mentally ill woman who swallowed animals. No one cared for her, no one mourned her. She either didn’t have family or the family she did have was so neglectful they may as well have been non-existent. Her death was met with a blase “of course” showing that society did not care about you at all.

How is this a kid’s story?

And yes, I was a difficult child.

See, RandMcnally, I don’t have a problem with the perverse joking kids stories (which obviously the old lady one is - I remember finding it hilarious, particularly the last line).

It’s the deadly serious ones with fucked up messages that concern me.

Holy crap, I thought that was a joke made up for The Office. I didn’t realize it was a real story.

I always thought the Old Lady who swallowed a fly was hilarious, too. I may have to start singing that one for my daughter. I have a feeling she’d think the part about the spider was a hoot.

My nomination is in the same spirit: The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown. Just Google “children’s book stalker mother”.