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The 10 Oddest Toddler Books, from the Baffling to the Bizarre

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 1 of 10

    1: Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch

    Love You Forever To show her son that he will always be her baby, the mother in this book rocks him when he's an infant, a brazen ten-year-old, and a distant teenager. When he becomes a man and moves across town, she even drives to his house in the dead of night. I hear his wife is currently writing a book called How to Survive Marriage When Your Mother-in-Law Is a Stalker.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 2 of 10

    2: The Runaway Bunny, by Margaret Wise Brown

    The Runaway Bunny Overbearing mothers are certainly not scarce in children’s literature. In this book, Brown presents us with a mother who will not be outwitted. Her bunny’s first problem is that he tells her he’s planning to run away, when he should have done it on the sly, while she was sleeping. In each scenario he comes up with — becoming a fish who swims away, transforming into a mountain climber or a flower — the mother outdoes him, convincing him she will capture him wherever he goes. Once he gives up on his escape plans, she offers him a carrot, a sure sign that her guilt over not granting him independence will lead to his eventual obesity. (If we are to see the carrot as a symbol for potato chips, of course.)

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 3 of 10

    3: Curious George, by H.A. Rey

    Curious George The PBS version of Curious George is cute enough, but the book, which came out in the 1940s, is a different matter. Sure, George gets into trouble, calling the fire department for a false alarm, escaping prison guards, floating into the air with a bouquet of children’s balloons. But who can blame him? He was perfectly content swinging from branches in Africa until a man with a large yellow straw hat kidnapped him and put him on a boat destined for America. Maybe Rey wasn’t intending to write an allegory of slavery, but the connection is too disturbing to ignore.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 4 of 10

    4: Olivia Goes to Venice, by Ian Falconer

    Olivia Goes to VeniceOlivia is one of my favorite children’s books because the school-age heroine is smart and imaginative, but in this volume, her confidence morphs into brattiness. She wants to live in a Palazzo, eat gelato five times a day, and barter with the gondolier. Not only would it be utterly exhausting to endure a long flight with this loquacious girl-pig and her young brothers, but Olivia’s poor mom is also in desperate need of a makeover. Her uniform in every scene consists of a slim black skirt, fitted white blouse, and baby on her hip. And would it be possible for Olivia’s dad to put down his newspaper and coffee and help with the kids? Sure, it’s nice to cart them over to Europe, but it’s nicer to share childcare responsibilities. Maybe if he fed the baby, Olivia’s mom would try out a negligee.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 5 of 10

    5: Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

    Mike Mulligan and the Steam Shovel This book seems to be making a comment on a post-industrialist culture, but each time I read it, I fall asleep before I can figure it out. Mike Mulligan and his trusty steam shovel, Mary Anne, were doing so well until the new electric and Diesel shovels came along. Mary Anne’s last project consists of digging the cellar of a town hall, only to find out that she can’t escape. That’s right. Buried alive.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 6 of 10

    6: My Big Boy Bed, by Eve Bunting

    My Big Boy Bed This story seems like a good idea if your child is transitioning from a crib to a bed, but as you read, you’ll need to start improvising by adding some punishments and time-outs. (I learned this the hard way.) This little boy boasts that he can jump high on his bed and get down at night, tip-toe-ing around the upstairs bedrooms. Meanwhile, his parents must be downing shots of whiskey, because they’re completely ignorant of his raucous solo party. Hopefully they’ve hidden the matches.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 7 of 10

    7: Blueberries for Sal, by Robert McCloskey

    Blueberries for Sal The androgyne in this tale really needs a blueberry intervention, because instead of filling her bucket for winter, as her mother suggests, she keeps eating them. (She’d so fail the marshmallow test.) Meanwhile, a bear and her cub also graze the field hoping to fill their bellies before hibernation. It’s interesting how similar humans and bears are, I guess? Except that bears eat humans. Maybe next time Sal and her mother ought to go to the supermarket like the rest of the country and save themselves from being the lead story on the nightly news.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 8 of 10

    8: No, David!, by David Shannon

    No, David! On every page, the mother in this book yells “No, David!” as he gets into trouble, from overflowing the bathtub to picking his nose, to tracking in mud and banging the kitchen pans together. If she threw in a “sweetheart” here or there, maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad for the kid, even though he does have jagged teeth and wicked eyes. Couldn’t she just be nice, sit him down, and do a puzzle with him? Or would he eat it?

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 9 of 10

    9: The Five Chinese Brothers, by Claire Huchet Bishop and Kurt Wiese

    The Five Chinese Brothers This would be a great book for teaching math if the title were changed to How Will We Execute You? Let Us Count The Ways! Instead of the village raising the five brothers who each have different magical characteristics (from swallowing the sea to holding breath to walking through fire), the villagers look for more and more ways to kill them after the accidental death of a boy. The story is obviously an allegory, but wouldn’t it be better discussed in a college classroom than my toddler’s bed? He’s afraid of guillotines.

  • The 10 Oddest Toddler Books 10 of 10

    10: What Was I Scared of?, by Dr. Seuss

    What Was I Scared of? Perhaps the strangest of all Dr. Seuss books, this one is about a pair of pants hanging out alone in the woods. Yes. The Sneetch is at first scared, especially when the pants start riding a bicycle. But when the pants cry, he starts feeling pity and finally makes friends. With the pants. Maybe it is good to make friends with your very sad pants. The moral of the story? Drugs make you hallucinate. About pants.

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