5 Ridiculously Horrifying Childrens’ Books

This is surely a heartwarming tale…

When I’m not reviewing horror movies, I am employed as library support staff (NOT everyone who works at the public library is a volunteer or a librarian). I recently wrote about some terrifying fairy tale and folklore books (which you can read here) when I was inspired at work, and I was recently motivated again when the above book, Zeralda’s Ogre, passed across my desk. It was so laughably inappropriate that I had to write about it. I easily came up with four more.

5. Zeralda’s Ogre, written and illustrated by Tomi Ungerer

Just sooooooo many issues with the title page alone

On the very first page, we’re introduced to the ogre:

Yes, this book is still in circulation.

In case you can’t make out the text, it describes his weaponry and “bad temper.” It also states, “Of all things, he liked little children for breakfast the best.” Subsequently the ogre kidnaps and eats the local children, and thus: “Terrified parents dug secret hideaways for their infants. They stuffed their little boy and girls into trunks and barrels in shadowy cellars, and in underground vaults.” This leads the giant to become increasingly cranky. Meanwhile, little Zeralda lives off the grid on a farm and has no idea the ogre exists.

If you guessed that this book was published in the 1960s, you would be correct.

Her big thing is cooking, even though she’s six, because childhood is a fairly recent sociological invention. She’s also capable of riding a mule-driven cart into town to sell her father’s wares when he’s sick. She meets the giant when his dumb ass is so excited to eat her that he falls down and gets a concussion.

That lizard’s concern for the ogre is touching.

Zeralda figures out that he’s hungry, and her first response is to cook all the stuff she was supposed to sell in order to feed her family–yes, that is the pig from the previous page.

Look at that mule, hoping it’s not next.

The ogre is so happy not to be starving that he invites Zeralda to cook him some more stuff. So Zeralda and her dad move in with him and Zeralda becomes the official ogre chef.

Ye gods, what’s the deal with that lute player?

And when Zeralda grows up, she marries the ogre. ‘Cause 1960s.

They lived happily ever after, at least until that one with its back to the reader ate its baby sibling

4. Minnie and Moo Go Dancing, written and illustrated by Denys Cazet

Don’t worry, this assault by pencil doesn’t go any further.

I became acquainted with this book while looking for age-appropriate reading material for my daughter Layla–this series was recommended. Let me assure you, we didn’t get farther than this one.

Minnie and Moo are two talking cows. When the book opens they’re rating the sunset with scorecards. Moo then discusses her wish for thumbs so that she could dance. Minnie assures her that cows have great lives, and that they don’t need thumbs to enjoy themselves. However, they apparently need to dress like humans, so they head into a barn for cast-off people clothes. Their bovine neighbors are suspiciously missing. That doesn’t stop Minnie and Moo from tarting up and heading to the farmer’s house party. The farmer’s wife Poopsie mistakes them for her sisters-in-law from California. “‘You look just like your pictures,’ Poopsie said.” She then wastes no time hooking them up with two single bumpkins standing by.


After dancing and yelling “YA-HOO!” Moo eats some party fare: hamburgers.

“Moo…” Minnie said softly. “You’re going to hell.”

Minnie is horrified, and has to inform Moo that “Hamburgers are beef! Oh, Moo. Didn’t you know. We are beef! Moo…you’re eating someone!”

“Moo…” Minnie said softly. “How did she taste? Pretty good?”

The two run off before they’re next on the chopping block, taking the hamburgers and burying them. Luckily, they run into the Holsteins, whom they haven’t eaten after all. (What or whom they did eat is never addressed.) Poopsie and her buddies are searching for their missing party guests, and Poopsie finds their dresses. “‘They’re gone,’ she said. ‘Without clothes?’ said the farmer. ‘YA-HOO!’ cried Hank and Bobo.” ‘Cause hillbillies being thrilled their paramours have discarded their clothes totally belongs in a childrens’ book. They go home, and the cows dance under the stars, all the while Minnie giving Moo a creepy side-eye and possibly testing her meat content.

“Yes…good friends are such…delicious magic…”

3. The Saddest Toilet in the World, written by Sam Apple and illustrated by Sam Ricks

Toilet, I don’t even know where to start with what’s wrong with you…

This one was introduced to me while working a late shift with Ruthanne, a children’s librarian. She was browsing the new books, and for some reason decided to read this one aloud. I was dying trying not to make too much noise while laughing hysterically.

Do we want to question what the toilet’s tears are made of? We do not.

The book opens by introducing us to Danny, who loves to sit anywhere but the toilet. He claims he’s just not ready, despite his parents trying to bribe him. Danny’s mother has to console the toilet, who sobs, “I don’t understand. What does the couch have that I don’t?” (Well, Toilet, people don’t move their bowels on the couch, how about that? It’s more about what you have that the couch doesn’t: bacteria.)

Shit jokes and puns are inserted throughout the book–check out that bottle of “POO” in the background.

The toilet decides it can’t live that way, packs a suitcase, and leaves. Unfortunately, Danny had decided he was ready, and is distraught to find the toilet gone.

“Did he really have to take the plunger?” Shut up, Dad, you’re useless!

So they look and look.

In increasingly inappropriate ways…

Then, when all hope is lost, they find it.

Why does this look like one of those catch-up-with-the-fleeing-lover-at-the-last-second scenes from a romantic comedy?

Danny takes a jolly dump in it, and all is well. Time to celebrate!

Those kids behind them are stunned into silence.

2. The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher, written and illustrated by Molly Bang

I found this one on the internet when the focus of the listicle was going to be books published in the ’70s and ’80s.

The meat of the story (it has no words) is that a lady buys some strawberries and is then followed by the terrifying titular snatcher.

Look at it, trying to be all nonchalant!

It just silently follows her, getting gradually more bold.

And then the Buddhist goddess Kwan Yin shows up on a skateboard, for some reason.

Seems rude not to offer her a strawberry…

The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, but horrifying.

Are we sure this thing wants to eat her strawberries, and not her face?

Fortunately, after following her for miles, the creature discovers blackberries, and the grey lady can eat her strawberries with her adorable family in peace.

  1. Mudkin, written and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.

This one came to mind because of the author/illustrator. If the name Stephen Gammell doesn’t strike fear in your heart, you had a deprived childhood.

Bask in the grotesquerie!!!

Even when Gammell’s not trying for scary, it’s scary as fuck. Look at all these dribbles and the font that looks like a deranged ransom note.

I’ll do anything you say, Queen, just don’t hurt me!

Look at her beady eyes and that sentient purple thing!

Our unnamed protagonist comes across a mud creature that doesn’t speak except in spatters.

“A mask of human skin? For me to WEAR? Cool!”

Mudkin presents her with a mud crown, which hopefully is not constructed of other mudkins.

“Hey, this smells FUNNY! Are you sure this is MUD?”

This does not sound like dialogue from a delightful, whimsical story. It sounds like she’s being kidnapped to live with the tendril-y mud people for eternity.

Why does the word “FOREVER” look like it’s smeared in blood?

At least until the sun comes out and dries up all the rain. The girl then picks up her purple cat-fox, her crown, her bear, and her Beetlejuice doll and goes home, her blobular friend already forgotten.

Why…is the chair floating…?

Works Cited

Apple, Sam. The Saddest Toilet in the World. New York: Aladdin, 2016.

Bang, Molly. The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980.

Cazet, Denys. Minnie and Moo Go Dancing. New York: DK Publishing, 1998.

Gammell, Stephen. Mudkin. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 2011.

Ungerer, Tomi. Zeralda’s Ogre. Dublin: Tomico, 1967.

Published by GhoulieJoe

I wuvs the horror movies and like to write snarky reviews about them. I also included some pretentious as hell microfiction (don't worry, it's at the bottom).

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