Children’s literature that we hate

The Giving Tree.  Some moms cry their eyes out.  My mom narrowed hers and taught me the word “sadomasochistic,” though it wasn’t until 7th grade until I learned what she meant by that.  And she’s right.  The tree is a mom, the boy is a son.  I’ll stick with The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes for mother-child relationships, please.  Ain’t nobody gonna be cutting me down to a stump and sitting on me.  I’d much rather sit on the chair that my littlest bunny pulled out for me like a gentleman.  I’m sure the grandbunnies will be well-behaved too.

Love You Forever.  Similarly creepy with the stalker mother in law from hell.

Where the Red Fern Grows.  Spoiler alert.  You can’t go through pages upon pages of graphic dog getting torn apart by a wild animal and then expect a flower to make it all better at the end.  Much preferred:  Gordon Korman’s No More Dead Dogs The dog doesn’t always have to die… sometimes you can have a roller skating chorus instead.  (I also hid behind a post and read several chapters of The Once and Future King when I was supposed to be watching the Red Fern movie in middle school.)

The Rainbow Fish:  Because blending in with the crowd is more important than having a sense of self.  And nobody will like you unless you pay them to be your friends.  (Or maybe it’s that sharing is good?  But that would only make sense if there was some reciprocity.)

#2:  I don’t really hate many children’s books… But… I remember when I was young and reading Amelia Bedelia
#1:  No!  Not Amelia Bedelia!
#2:  Yes.  I got mad at everyone involved in every story.
I thought that she must be actually mentally disabled to not know about figures of speech (Draw the curtains doesn’t mean with a pencil, you idiot) and I thought that if even I, a kid, knew these things, that an adult who didn’t was probably too dumb to live.  Also I kept thinking she should have been fired instead of tolerantly laughed at.  I seem to remember she made the nice house a huge mess through creative “dusting” and whatnot.  I always thought she was stupid, and her employers equally so for not firing her.  Even a KID knew what she was supposed to do, and she didn’t.  It made me think that the book thought I was stupid to think this was funny.
Finding Amelia Bedelia amusing is tantamount to making fun of someone with a disability.  They mess up because they just don’t know any better.  It’s not their fault, but you shouldn’t hire them to clean if they can’t follow directions.
#1  You have a point.  Oh, I feel so dirty inside now.
#2 I felt kind of insulted that I was supposed to find it funny. I was a weird little kid.
#1 (no comment)

What do you think? Are we over-reacting? Did you love any of the books we’re hating on? Are there any books that you also disliked growing up or that creep you out as an adult?  Let the hate-mail begin!

17 Responses to “Children’s literature that we hate”

  1. Holly Says:

    YES! No matter how many times I read The Giving Tree, I end up crying my eyes out.

    And that book was given to me as a baby shower gift (from a single friend who no doubt could hardly wait to see what motherhood would do to me!). Lousy gift if you ask me!

  2. Nick Says:

    I didn’t even know half of these books existed. Creepy.

    On a similar note – ever carefully listen to the words to the Every Breath You Take by the Police? Similarly stalky/creepy…. I guess if you put it in a pretty song it becomes “romantic” …???

  3. Everyday Tips Says:

    Geez – I didn’t even think about me actually being the Giving Tree, what an idiot I am. My son actually used to cry when I read that book, so it went right back on the shelf. Now I am depressed that I will turn into a stupid stump that is just so happy to be used as a chair. What has happened to me???

    I hated Love You Forever and it did not get any tears from me. I just thought ‘this stupid book is overrated.’. I also got it at my baby shower with a handwritten note.

    Loved this post!

  4. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    ET– Read The Country Bunny STAT! You will not be a chair– you will be one of the 7 great Easter bunnies! Your children will be polite and well-adjusted and able to help out around the house. Best book EVER… especially since it was written I think in the 1930s.

    Nick– Totally agree… “I’ll be watching you” Very creepy. Beautiful song, but the lyrics are something else. The “I’ll be missing you” cover is much less creepy, even if it’s about death.

    Holly– I have no idea what I would do if I got The Giving Tree as a gift (again… it was a gift at my 6th birthday). I’d feel awfully guilty regifting it.

  5. Grace Says:

    Hmm–I rather feel as you do about the stalkerish nature of “Love You Forever.” But I will say that my adopted children LOVED that book, and even as older kids, would curl up beside me to have me read it aloud to them–for children who have been taken away from or abandoned by their bio families, it truly reasonates.

  6. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    Grace– I can see that. I think as a whole the book would have worked a lot better without that picture of the MIL sneaking into her adult son’s bedroom window. Maybe a less stalker-way to illustrate that concept. But it does make sense that adopted children would want the comfort of extraordinary measures from their parents. The Runaway Bunny is similar but since the bunny was still a child it didn’t seem so disturbing.

  7. frugalscholar Says:

    Both my children LOVED Giving Tree and Love You Forever–so I think they must have gotten good things out of them both. Somewhere on my blog, I posted a list my son sent me of the books he and his friends remembered from childhood. I’ll see if I can resurrect it.

  8. Money Reasons Says:

    I’m no fan of “The Giving Tree” but my wife loves it. Since I’m a personal finance blogger type, I like books with stories like “The Three Little Pigs”.

    LOL, I literally just read “Amelia Bedelia” with my 6 year old daughter (she actually can read better than I can, or so it seems…). I didn’t think Amelia was disabled, I thought she was more naive… Much like a country mouse going to the big city type of naivete.

    Heck, I wouldn’t have know what was meant by draw the curtains if I were the character’s age in the story. IMHO, if anything, the books is making fun of poor, uneducated folk.

    I’m lucky I haven’t read the other books on your list above, I’m sure I would get mad at the authors if I had. Like they say, sometimes ingorance is bliss. I’ve read some really lame kid books where the pictures are much more important than the words…

    I say go with books that have some value to them… But then again what value is to me, isn’t necessarily valuable to the next person… Go Fish :)

  9. Budgeting in the Fun Stuff Says:

    I never read “The Giving Tree”, but now I am going to actively avoid it. I don’t like crying. BUT, I did really like “Love You Forever” – I read it to my little sister a billion times and have it to this day. I can see where it can be seen as a little stalky, but I have a dependent personality so it’s all good, lol. :-)

  10. Link Love of December 4 « Grumpy rumblings of the untenured Says:

    […] Thank you, Sheldon, we have been saying this for decades.  Our previous take: “Mommy… what does say doe mass oh kiss tick mean?” […]

  11. Rosa Says:

    Thank you for linking this over at Get Rich Slowly. I have ALWAYS hated the Giving Tree, but Love You Forever has grown on me – it’s hilarious and ridiculously sentimental at the same time (and mother-in-law? You’re kidding. Dude is obviously a single adoptive father, he’s way too involved with his mom to get married to anyone).

    I was at a Sweet Honey in the Rock concert years ago and the dreadlocked rainbow-tie-dyed lesbian couple behind me were reading The Giving Tree to their son before the show. I just wanted to turn around and rip it out of their hands and give them a lecture about martyred mothers and antifeminist tripe.

    • Rosa Says:

      p.s. have you read The Story of A Fierce Bad Rabbit? No Beatrix Potter collection is complete without it. When my son was a toddler we adults used to sit around and read it to each other and crack each other up. “This is a man with a gun.”

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I should check. DC1 got freaked out by Peter Rabbit so we didn’t get very far in our collection, which means the last time I read through it was when my sister was little.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Or just carry around copies of the Country Bunny to hand out!

  12. plantingourpennies Says:

    Very belated addition… Runaway Bunny. I think repeated childhood readings marred Mr PoP for life.

  13. chacha1 Says:

    Another very belated addition. I never read The Giving Tree or Love You Forever, but I was scarred for life by “Where the Red Fern Grows” and “Old Yeller.” Srsly the dog does not have to die. Neither does the horse – c.f. Steinbeck’s “The Red Pony.” “Beautiful Joe” and “Black Beauty” made a serious impression (of the importance of dealing humanely with animals) without being quite so traumatic since the animal protagonists survive.

    I read many times, and still have, “Big Red” and “Outlaw Red” by Jim Kjelgaard. Kjelgaard’s “The Black Fawn” is a wonderful book. I read all of the Black Stallion and Island Stallion books. Mary O’Hara’s “My Friend Flicka” and its sequels. And E. B. White’s “The Trumpet of the Swan” I think is utterly lovely, I still have my old hardcover copy.

    These are all more books for adolescents rather than books for little kids. I don’t remember much about the books I had as a little kid, except for the pop-up version of Sinbad the Sailor. :-)

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