Books I Loathed discussion

Do dreadful children's or y/a books exist?

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message 1: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
I'm sure they do, but I can't think of any I've read that I really loathed, now or then (besides Richard Bach, which is, debatably, for adults). There was stuff that was goofy (R.L. Stine) or that I wasn't that into, but I don't remember any that I've LOATHED. But surely someone's got something! I want to hear it.

message 2: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Jessica The Giving Tree is a really sick book to give to children. It seems all lovely and wonderful, but think about it. The boy uses every bit of the tree, the tree sits there and takes it because apparently when you love someone (especially if you are she) you are supposed to let them use you until there is nothing left to give and get nothing in return. Then the boy comes back as a bitter and miserable old man.

The annual reading of this book in the "candlelight circle" at summer camp is probably why I'm such a horrible person today.

Another terrible children's book is the "sequel" to Goodnight Moon, My World. It's cheap, incoherent, sloppy, and basically just depressing as hell.

message 3: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
LOL, "The annual reading of this book in the "candlelight circle" at summer camp is probably why I'm such a horrible person today." I love it.

I always thought the tree was supposed to be a metaphor for the unconditional love and giving of parents to their children, or, more fittingly, the unconditional love and giving of golden retreivers to their owners. But I get your point. Have never encountered My World.

Oh! I just remembered one: my dad really hated when he had to read us "Curious George" stories, because George would just destroy everything and then freak out and have to be saved by the Man in the Yellow Hat rather than ever learn to be responsible.

message 4: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments I loathe Y/A chick lit.The Gossip Girls and The Clique series.

message 5: by Vanessa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Vanessa | 42 comments I concur that "The Giving Tree" is a horrible children's book - a big bummer about giving and giving to someone who is completely ungrateful until there is nothing left but the stump - but "the tree was happy".

"Curious George" as well as "CG gets a job" and "CG gets a medal" are also awful because the Man with the Yellow hat doesn't really care one rotten banana for George beyond what he can gain from him by selling him to the zoo, exploiting him in a movie or basking in his glory when he is threatened into being an experimental monkey for a space flight. Yay! What a great friend and parent-figure! Then there's all the mean people who gloat when he breaks his leg "He had it coming for him" or threaten him "Sure I'll forgive the damage done to the museum long as you go on this dangerous space mission" etc etc.

I also hate "The Sailor Dog" by Margaret Wise-Brown. It is such a random, rambling, stream-of-consciousness piece 'o' crap that goes on and on and on with absolutely NO EFFING POINT, but my children love it and I find myself hiding it so that I don't have to read it to them. I also hate the "Commander Toad" series of books (full of terrible puns for adults, completely lost on kids) and the "Little Einsteins" books based on the lame TV show.

message 6: by Christina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Christina | 17 comments Trying to find a good children's book for my son was damn near impossible. Too many preachy, politically correct picture books out there.

I think it is easier to list the good children's books is limited to classics like "Where the Wild Things Are" and a select few new works like "Stelleluna."

Anyone who tried to give my son a book by a celebrity was met with scorn. The one exception I found was "Jolly Mon" by Jimmy Buffett. The man writes short stories called songs for a living and this story is a great one.

message 7: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Laura (laurahogan) The Babysitters' Club books are horrible. Some time ago, when I was in my 20s, I tried to read them to see what all the fuss was about -- what a bore. And I generally like reading YA books. The whole series is more or less the same book written over and over again, and I can't figure out why anyone wanted to read it once, much less multiple times.

message 8: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Jessica I think there are wonderful children's books out there, new and old, but when they're bad, my god, they are atrocious. It was particularly hard finding picture books about having a new baby for my older son, because virtually all of them were on the theme of "I hated my new baby, all it did was sleep and cry and I can't even play with it and mom and dad don't have enough time for me, but then I learned to love the baby." My kid didn't seem to have those worries about the new baby, and I sure wasn't going to lay them on him as an expectation. We ended up sticking to age-appropriate non-fiction books about how the baby is growing.

Oh, and -- my kid is a train fanatic, and madly in love with Thomas the Tank Engine, but I had to ban the books (original and subsequently licensed) from the house, along with the videos. Insipid at best, aggressively nasty at worst.

message 9: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Oh, I'm so glad you brought up celebrity children's books, Sarah! What is the DEAL? I guess they think, "oh, it's for kids; I have a kid I tell stories to, so that'll be easy." So they cough up some fluff with cutesy character names and then the publisher is thrilled to have a big name to market.

I hereby nominate Madonna as the ultimate offender in the bad celeb children's books genre. I tried reading one and it was sooo preachy. "Let's learn a lesson about inclusion, children. I am Madonna and I condemn all pop culture even though I am a pop culture icon. I don't let my children watch TV and I have always only listened to classical music. Read my bland Kabbalah-inspired children's books, and swoon under my holiness."

message 10: by Alex (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:47AM) (new)

Alex (alexinmadison) | 64 comments I ditto Kate's Madonna comments through the choking laughter. (good thing I wasn't drinking anything when I read that)

message 11: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Oh my God, she's allowed to communicate to children??

message 12: by Jessica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Jessica Anyone who has actually read a Dr. Laura Schlessinger children's book should be given a Loathie Award (the official award of the Books I Loathed Group).

message 13: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Marsha Celebrity picture book authors deserve their own special room in hell. Madonna is awful. Margaret Atwood has written a number of them and they are putrid.

message 14: by Marsha (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Marsha The worst children's book is The Cat in the Hat. Think about what it's about -- two children left home alone. When their parents leave, is safety a concern? Nope. Keeping the house clean is the only worry. So when the big giant monster cat comes the kids aren't worried about being killed, they're worrying about mussing up the house. That book gave me nightmares, and to this day, when I see the cover, I get chills.

message 15: by Christina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Christina | 17 comments I have to agree with Sherri on this one. The world was completely different when that book was written. Entire generations grew up with it and did not turn into irresponsible idiots or believed that they should just go with or open the door to random stranger. any child that is not taught that this is fantasy and metaphor has larger Mom or Dad.

message 16: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:48AM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Funny, I was rushing over here from the Children's Book group to jump on this post and add Cat in the Hat, and now I am thoughtful. On the one hand, I remember a deep and sustained terror of Thing One and Thing Two, and the mounting tension that the parents would come home while the cat was wreaking havok that would be blamed on them made me very uncomfortable.

However, I agree that -- for less sensitive children anyway -- it's a good subversive tale of getting away with stuff while the parents' backs are turned. It's a fantasy for good little girls and boys like the two in the story about being bad, like the Cat. And subversive children's lit is the best kind.

message 17: by Khover (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:06PM) (new)

Khover | 5 comments Hmmm...My mother always gave us a different interpretation of The Giving Tree: one of God's unconditional love. My mom said that the tree represented God and the boy represented humankind. (sorry if that sounded preachy)

message 18: by Marion (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:08PM) (new)

Marion | 4 comments I have to say I do have mixed feelings about the Giving Tree. I see what you're saying Khover (my mother had a similar interpretation) but I still remember always feeling sad when I read it!

However I reserve my Loathie Award for
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. My abject hatred for this hideous coming of age story stems from the fact that for about two months of my 5th grade year my friends and I were mildly obsessed with this book and read it about half a dozen times each. Then one day we realized that the heroine of the story is just plain dumb. The religions aspects of the book are pretentious and inconclusive, and the parts dealing with coming of age and sexuality simply didn't translate. Who spends that much time obsessing over the periods and breasts of their classmates! I actually remember feeling embarrassed for her!

message 19: by Meghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:09PM) (new)

Meghan I just finished "Inkheart" by Cornelia Funke and it was.SO.BORING. boring. I listened to it on CD, and it was 14 hours long -- 14 hours of torture. I haven't liked either of her books I've read -- Inkheart and The Thief Lord -- although they're pretty popular/well-reviewed.

It's the only kids' book I've disliked for reasons other than "I'm too old to like this stuff anymore."

message 20: by The Library Lady (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

The Library Lady (thelibrarylady) "Cat" is a book designed for kids learning to read. Back when Seuss wrote it, crazy parents weren't pushing their 2 and 3 year olds to read, or thought their 2 year old SHOULD read Seuss--back then no one KNEW who Seuss was after all.Instead, it was being read by 1st or 2nd graders, who I am sure were old enough to know it was fantasy!

I wouldn't put real Seuss on a bad list, but I certainly would add all the spin-off junk (especially the movies) that have been marketed with the Seuss label since his death. His widow has made a fortune--and shame on her for doing so.

As for truly horrible recent books,aside from the mass media junk that parents seem to think I should buy for the library (and won't) I'd nominate "Eragon", a complete Star Wars ripoff with the serial numbers filed off and the names changed. And among this year's duds, the "Fairy Chronicles" a dreadful self-published set that will sell millions now that they have pretty packages and beautiful cover art.

message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

I never read them, but it always seemed to me that Sweet Valley High was 'bad'...

message 22: by Jess (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Jess | 7 comments Captain Underpants and Junie B. Jones. The librian at the school where I teach sent me home with a Junie B. Jones book just to let me experience how bad it really was. It's too bad with so much great children's lit out there that kids are reading this stuff.
To comment on Erika's post. This is embarrassing but I used to own all of the Sweet Valley High books and loved them. I have grown up since then.:)

message 23: by Vanessa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Vanessa | 42 comments My kids LOVE Captain Underpants - but I'll agree with Izzy in one regard: if you are trying to reign in the potty talk with your kids - DO NOT expose them to Captain Underpants, because it only reinforces their beliefs that toilet humor is the funniest thing around.

message 24: by Lisa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:17PM) (new)

Lisa | 4 comments the cat in the hat always made me tense- it still does a little bit. i LOATHED a book by dr laura about selfishness or something- even the pictures bugged me. there's also a book by spike lee, i think, called puppy please. i hate it. my kids loved it. i gave it to the dr's office. other than that i just can't bring myself to read any other celebrity authored books for kids. sometimes my kids pick them at the library.

message 25: by Jess (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Jess | 7 comments I guess (since I don't have kids of my own) I look at children's books from the prespective of a teacher. While bathroom humor is not welcome in my classroom one day it may be OK at home if I have children (although my tolerance for it in general is pretty low. :)

message 26: by Lisa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Lisa | 4 comments i just remembered how much i hate rainbow fish. i cannot bring mysely to read those "daddy/mommy/the world loves/kisses/hugs me" books, unless my kids pick them at the library and are excited about them.

oh, yeah, i don't really like the david books- but it's just because his teeth are so sharp.

my husband and kids love the pigeon books. i don't loath them. i just don't get them.

message 27: by Vanessa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:18PM) (new)

Vanessa | 42 comments I forgot about hte Rainbow Fish books - I hate them too. The first one I guess is supposed to teach children to share and that is how they will make friends, but it really comes off like "Can't get friends? BUY THEM!" The sequels are similar - the same old fish being nasty to other fish/ocean creatures that don't quite fit in.

message 28: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:19PM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Meghan and Shoshanapnw, I thought there was something wrong with me when I didn't like Inkheart! I wonder if it's in the translation. It just seemed insipid and somehow... lazy? I was still thinking of trying Thief Lord but now I shall not. Thanks!

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Re: the "Giving Tree" hating thread, I remember one episode of the Simpsons where, in the opening credits, Bart is writing "The Giving Tree is a chump" on the blackboard. Sums it up for me. Silverstein was best at poetry, but even then I'm not too crazy about him. Although he gets mad props for writing "A Boy Named Sue" and "25 Minutes to Go" for Johnny Cash!

Terrible, horrible YA books:
Gossip Girls, It Girl, The Clique, Melissa De La Cruz, "Rainbow Party" by Paul Ruditis (not even going there), "Don't Kill the Freshman," "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," "The Last Battle." I also have a theory that Lemony Snicket totally ripped off Joan Aiken, even though A Series of Unfortunate Events isn't too bad.

Terrible, horrible early reader/ picture books:
Robert Munsch (yechh); celebrity books (nooooo); "Eloise" and the endless parade of little-rich-girls-and-their-dogs books which came afterwards; the endless parade of shallow "series" books where authors have one respectable best-selling title and follow that up with four or five or six more knock-offs for $$$$. That also goes for YA authors.

For those trying to find a less-potty-humorish alternative to Dav Pilkey but need something funny, I'd suggest Louis Sachar's "Wayside School" series or my personal favorite, DANIEL PINKWATER!

message 30: by Alexandra (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Alexandra | 16 comments I'm so relieved. I thought I was the only person on the planet who thought "The Giving Tree" was awful. Poor tree. Just give and give and give, absolutely zero in return. Wonder how many people are "touched" by this book turn into co-dependants or users.

message 31: by Stephanie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Stephanie | 14 comments OK, you guys want a loathesome children's book? Then click here:

I recently posted about the book Return to the Secret Garden by Susan Moody, which is sometimes marketed to the young adult crowd. I've been urged never to read this book by people who loved the original children's story by Frances Hodgson Burnett. If you check out the reviews to the sequel on Amazon, though, I think this qualifies for another loathesome kidlit book.

Oh, and in the realm of wonderful books written by celebrities, check out Julie Andrews's Mandy and The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles. These books have tremendous literary merit. I just love them...and Dame Julie!

message 32: by Rachael (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:58PM) (new)

Rachael | 10 comments I loathe Green Eggs and Ham. I work in daycare and I try avoiding this book at all costs. I'm also not too thrilled wtih Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

message 33: by Letitia (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Letitia I was appalled when I read the children's book "Why Mommy is a Democrat." Even though I am politically liberal, this book was sickening. If you can't explain why you carry your political views to your children, please, don't let someone else do the brainwashing for you!

message 34: by Elizabeth (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Elizabeth | 4 comments In defense of the Cat in the Hat: I agree, it's totally weird and scary, but that's kind of why I like it, too. Maurice Sendak gave an eloquent interview on NPR about this a while back, about how real life can be weird and scary, so you might as well acknowledge it early on (see

That said, the Oompa Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory still freak me out, even as a grown up...

message 35: by Laura (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:59PM) (new)

Laura | 29 comments I think it just goes without saying that Madonna and that crowd are just horrible and aren't eligible for this category I mean, why moan about a book that wasn't expected to be good in the first place? To me, the true offenders are those that appear (at first blush) to be a good book or were published with High Hopes (usually jumping on some publishign bandwagon) and just so badly fail.

Books like Gail Carson Levine's Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, Hiwayn Owen's The Giant's Surprise: A Narnia Story, Flavia Bujor's The Prophecy of Stones and Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Series.

message 36: by ABC (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:00PM) (new)

ABC (mary6543) | 10 comments The classic books that I don't like are:
Leo the Late Bloomer

I pay no attention to the non-classics like Madonna's books because they are here today, garage sale tomorrow!

I always thought The Giving Tree represented the unconditional love many parents have for their children. And I also think of it more as a book for adults than for children.

message 37: by Mishqueen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Mishqueen | 3 comments I don't know if you guys have ever seen any of the current culture's "potty" books? They are books that are intended to help little kids feel more ready for potty training. And I loathe them. I haven't read one yet (except for maybe baby Grover's potty book) that wasn't incredibly DISTURBING. Either they use words for the body parts that I would never be caught dead using, or they show much more than necessary in the pictures, or they have eyes and noses on the fecal matter to make it more "friendly"...basically, there is no end to the retarded potty books out there.

message 38: by Meaghan (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Meaghan (meggilyweggily) | 6 comments I hate Sharon Draper's books. All of them. The characters are flat, the dialogue is false, the plot is contrived, and way too many things are said rather than told. She tries to cram as many issues as possible into as few pages as possible and it always leaves me with an icky taste in my mouth. Those books are so bad they're almost entertaining for it.

message 39: by Erica (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Erica Poole | 65 comments HAHA! That is great, I agree wholeheartedly on the "OMG, she's allowed to communicate to children?" re Laura Schlessinger.

message 40: by Recynd (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:21PM) (new)

Recynd "...and that's why I'm the horrible person I am today..." It's lines like that one that make life worth living!

I have to disagree with Izzy though: I adore the Junie B. books. They never fail to make me laugh; I suspect I relate a little too closely with Junie B. Can I ask what it is, exactly, that rubs you the wrong way? Having little imagination, I often have trouble getting outside my box (does that make sense?); it's not that I don't want to, I just can't see HOW to.

Cat In the Hat always creeped me out, too. Thing One and Thing Two are so out of control and unpredictable, that made me nervous as a kid; also, at the end, the kids lied to their mom (though I only noticed that as a grown-up).

While I liked "Are You There God" as a pre-teen, I, too, have always wondered who, exactly, waits impatiently (obsessively) for their period to come? Maybe because I was a late-bloomer, but the arrival of my "curse" was more of a non-event than anything. The whole "womanhood" still leaves me scratching my head...I'm 39, and I feel like a "chick"; my mother's a WOMAN, you know?

Anyway, this is a fun group! Glad to have found you :)

message 41: by Kate (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Kate (katiebobus) | 136 comments Mod
Welcome, Recynd!

Judy Blume ALWAYS made me uncomfortable. And I know that's supposedly what makes her a great author, but it turned me off to her books when I was younger. They almost hit TOO close to home or something. (Though I confess I never read Are You There God?, which seems like it wouldn't have had that effect, since I wasn't sitting around waiting for my period either.)

message 42: by Angie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Angie Dr. Seuss is way freaky. I can appreciate the books though--great language, but the illustrations were too creepy.

message 43: by Angie (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:22PM) (new)

Angie There are plenty of bad children's books out there. I work for a library. I do storytime and programs for children and teens. So I am constantly reading to find what is good, not good to recommend to our patrons and use in my programs. Everyone has their own tastes of course.

message 44: by Margaret (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:34PM) (new)

Margaret Schoen (mkschoen) | 2 comments Count me in with Eloise. God, is that child obnoxious.

Also, basically every Disney Princess book out there, simply because they always end with a version of "and then she got married, and that's the end," because of course, marriage is all a girl needs, and once you're married your life is pretty much over. (The originals are not always a prize either, I remember my daughter's shock when we read the original Andersen version of "The Little Mermaid" which ends with 'and then the prince marries someone else and the Little Mermaid dies.' Ok, good night honey!)

Oh and - so glad to have found this group!

message 45: by Teri (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:36PM) (new)

Teri G (teri_g) Margaret, have you ever read a collection of the original Grimm's Fairy Tales? I have my mother's copy from the 1940's, and it is gruesome. Fascinatingly gruesome. Lots of blood and chopped-off heads and live burials. Witches and bad-tempered giants and evil stepmothers. Bad things happen to stupid and bad people. Heck, bad things happen to good people! The Grimm brothers spared no one. I read the stories when I was a preteen and loved them, although I am generally not a fan of the horror genre. :-) I did not read them to my children. My oldest daughter found my book when she was in Jr. High and she thinks it's a riot.

And how about Andersen's Little Match Girl? Yikes!

Yet, the old stories are somehow more appealing than today's watered-down versions.

message 46: by Carmen (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:36PM) (new)

Carmen | 1 comments I remember a book called "T.A. for Tots" that kind of creeped me out as a kid. It was a kiddie version of a pop psychology book about transactional analysis.

I'm also not a fan of "Frederick" by Leo Leonni, which is about an artsy mouse who sits around dreaming, collecting words and colors while all the other mice collect grain for winter. When the grain runs out and everyone's starving, Frederick feeds everyone's souls instead, with his poetry. I've thought since I was little that if Frederick had helped his family collect grain, then they could have had another week to eat before the food ran out. Frederick could have written poetry and collected grain at the same time. He could have written poetry about collecting grain.

message 47: by Foxthyme (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Foxthyme | 17 comments I grew up on the old Grimm tales, which were actually Grimm's collection of the old folk tales of the people.

These tales captured me and caused me all sorts of tortuous child-age-based reactions to their often gruesome endings. Funny thing, since then, Disney has been happy-ending many tales, including the Little Mermaid. I haven't jumped on board.

Rather I long for those sordid awful tales of things going awfully wrong, or strangely right, depending on whatever weird moral was being presented.

Disney's all good ending if only you're good is simply tedious and boring and not like the real world at all. Life will bash you whether you're good or not! Grimm is like a hail to the mother-in-law's cast iron frying pan smash, which'll get you when you least expect it!

message 48: by Edy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:38PM) (new)

Edy (edyismyname) I mostly dislike celebrity kid books, but after working in the kids' dept. at a bookstore for a year, I realized that Jamie Lee Curtis's books actually filled a necessary gap. Perhaps I'd add Maria Shriver as well. Both women write about subjects that children often need to know about but are generally mishandled. (death, the body, etc.)

message 49: by Gail (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Gail How about the Berenstain Bears books? Gad. Drippy little lessons told in drippy little real characters or plots, just lesson after lesson after snoringly boring lesson. I have to give Dr. Seuss kind of a thumbs up, though; my daughter loved them and there were several that I thought were great as well. My all-time favorite kids' books were the Grimm and Anderson fairy tales, in the old-fashioned translations and with all the gore, weepiness, and sheer terror involved...remember "The Girl Who Trod on a Loaf" and another favorite, "The Red Slippers"? Geez, after a childhood full of that, real life is kind of easy. But I loved and couldn't get enough of them.

message 50: by Summer (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new)

Summer | 28 comments Can someone recommend a specific volume of Grimm's fairy tales?

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