Nudity in Children's Books (spoilers very likely; minor Harry Potter spoiler in OP)

In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry goes to take a bath and logically, takes off his clothes. A friend of mine contests this is “odd,” that the main character of a children’s book gets completely naked and even has another character comment on it (Moaning Myrtle). I say it’s not that strange at all, but I had very little ammunition in terms of cites to defend my position.

Thus, I need other examples of nudity occurring in other works of children’s literature, particularly where the main character disrobes for whatever reason. I’m 100% positive there are examples out there, and with my limited resources last night the only one I could think of was Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar where Henry stands naked before a mirror and sees through his body. Albeit he’s a grown man, but still the main character in the short story.

Eustace Scrubbs is bathed by Aslan when he is “un-dragonized” in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and comes out of the bath naked (except for the golden armband).


In To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout mentions that Jem is teaching Dill how to swim in the lake, and they excluded her because they were going to go naked.

What about The Emperor’s New Clothes? That whole story is about getting naked, and it’s a classic.

“In the Night Kitchen,” by Maurice Sendak not only has text about a naked boy, but a picture of him as well.

The Twits by Roald Dahl has nudity figure prominently, inasmuch as two children escape being the victims of cannibalism only by going naked. In The Witches, however, bathing is highly discouraged: children who take baths get eaten alive.

And then there’s Shel Silverstein, who both has a beard that grows down to his toes (and therefore never wears no clothes), and who realizes that there’s just too many kids in this tub; there’s just too many elbows to scrub.


Ah, yes, good ol’ Shel:

And the poem is accompanied by a drawing of a bathtub with dozens of little kids jammed into it.

What about The Giver? Besides the naked old people, there’s the dream Jonas has about his female friend being naked that indicates the “stirrings” have begun so he’ll need to take the anti-sex drive pill given to adults and teens.

I feel like I’m not thinking of an obvious one…However, in Penrod & Sam, the boys convince Vernon to loan them his pants to use as a rope to get the cat out of the well. Vernon doesn’t have any underpants, and soon no pants either.

In the Newbery Award-winning children’s novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg, the brother and sister who run away and hide out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art take a bath in a fountain in the museum. There’s even a two-page drawing, at least in the original edition.

In Dr. Seuss’ Happy Birthday to You!, the Birthday Bird takes a kid to some giant fountain thing where he gets naked and swims around.

It should perhaps be mentioned that some of these books, notably In the Night Kitchen and The Giver, show up on the Banned Books list, in the first case definately because of the nudity. (Also stupidly, but there you go.) The Giver they probably have issues with the eugenics bit, also, but the only thing they bitch about in Sendak is the naked little boy. Oh my stars and garters.

I don’t think they’re completely naked, but would you count the twenty-seven page hardcore sex scene from A Wrinkle In Time?

I can think of a couple:

‘The Lord of the Flies’ - Some of the kids go naked at some point. This was in the movie (I have seen pictures) although the copy I have has it cut out; I bought it at WalMart).

‘Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring’ - There is a scene after the hobbits encounter the barrow wight (sp?) where Tom Bombadil encourages them to take off their clothes and run around naked (wish they had filmed this scene).


Quite a few potty training books out there show naked bums galore, and often plain ol’ naked kids. I grew up with a few of them.

Mercer Meyer Little Critter books, though primarily centered on cute little non-humans, have a bit of anthropological nudity in them. Especially the bath/potty ones.

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – naked children everywhere, including a climactic shower fight between Ender and his arch-nemesis Bonzo. Apparently the nudity stirred up enough controversy for Uncle Orson to tone it down quite a bit in Ender’s Shadow, the parallel novel written two decades later. (Kids started wearing towels instead of running naked through the halls, for instance.)

urban1z – While I too would have liked to see nekkid Hobbits on the barrow-downs ::drool:: keep in mind that the Fellowship Hobbits were all adults, even by human standards.

Oops, KGS. Thanks for reminding me of that.


Curious George runs around naked all day long. But for some reason he wears pajamas to go to bed.

I forget the title, but there’s an Eric Carle (of The Very Hungry Caterpillar fame) Garden of Eden-type story with full frontal male and female nudity illustrations. That was an eye-opener for me! My 3-year-old didn’t see anything wrong with it.

Forgive the mention of this story that offends many people, but while we’re running around shocking people…Sambo.

In The Last Unicorn she is turned into a human girl:

“At the feet of the Red Bull there lay a young girl, spilled into a very small heap of light and shadow. She was naked, and her skin was the colour of snow by moonlight. Fine tangled hair, white as a waterfall, came down almost to the small of her back. Her face was hidden in her arms.”