I read a lot of extremely strange books as a kid. Since I was an introverted bookworm who read extremely quickly, I went through all the “normal” books in no time at all, and ended up in the corners of the library skimming through stacks of offbeat children’s literature. Of course, if you were a childhood bookworm, you probably did the same thing.
The truth is that there are a lot of really weird children’s books out there. You probably read them as a kid. In fact, your bookshelf was probably full of them — I know mine was. But then, over the years, you forgot exactly how bizarre those books were. Memory gives a glossy sheen to the plot details, and you don’t remember the strange premises and quirky characters — you just remember how much you loved the stories. And as for the classics, well, they’re so popular at this point that no one would question any weird plot points.
Well, I’m here to remind you exactly how strange those stories actually were. From the beloved classics with weird twists, to the obscure books you discovered at the edges of the children’s section, the following books are some of the most bizarre that every book-lover has probably encountered at one point or another.
1. Sideways Stories From The Wayside School By Louis Sachar
Wayside School is 30 stories tall and has no 19th floor. This is the normal part of this book. Some examples of other plot points: a teacher turns students into apples and eventually gets turned into an apple herself and eaten. A kid gets stuck to a chair with chewing gum. Another kid wears a million raincoats to disguise the fact that he's actually a dead rat. A girl tries to sell her toes. Need I go on?
2. Freckle Juice By Judy Blume
A kid tries to make a concoction to give himself freckles, and ends up getting really sick. I remember being haunted by this book as a kid, but I loved it at the same time.
3. The Bailey School Kids Series By Debbie Dadey And Marcia Thornton Jones
The Bailey School kids always think everyone is a monster... and, much to the young reader's chagrin, the endings never reveal whether they're right or not. I used to get so angry about the endings of these books, and yet I kept coming back for more.
4. The Witches By Roald Dahl
Everyone loves Roald Dahl stories, but sometimes people forget exactly how weird his books are. For example, in the end of The Witches (spoiler alert!) the boy gets turned into a mouse and has to live that way forever. His silver lining? His remaining lifespan will now be about the same length as his grandmother's. Totally normal, right?
5. Stuart Little By E.B. White
In the film version of this childhood favorite, human parents go to an orphanage and adopt a mouse instead of a child, which is weird enough. Seriously, just imagine how everyone else at the orphanage felt. In the book, however, a human woman actually gives birth to a boy... but he "looked very much like a mouse in every way." As a kid, you probably didn't even think twice about the strange premise of this beloved children's classic.
6. Coraline By Neil Gaiman
This delightfully terrifying children's book has a character with buttons for eyes who wants to replace the protagonist's eyes with buttons, too. It probably was the source of most of your early nightmares, but you kept reading it again and again anyway.
7. A Wrinkle In Time By Madeleine L'Engle
I absolutely loved this bizarre classic as a kid: Meg Murray travels through space and time via the tesseract, and visits a planet of Centaur-like creatures. Then she has to defeat an evil disembodied brain which is forcing everyone on another planet into conformity. It's safe to say that this is a very weird (yet awesome) book.
8. A Series Of Unfortunate Events By Lemony Snicket
Shout out to all my fellow book-lovers who were super macabre as kids and therefore were obsessed with Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Don't let the popularity of this series make you forget how weird it really was. Examples of guardians the Baudelaire children have to live with: an evil count who tries to marry Violet, a man who keeps deadly snakes in his house, a woman who is afraid of her own possessions and lives next to a lake full of leeches... You remember now. This series was terrifically weird.
9. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland By Lewis Carroll
The Disney movie may be sweet and colorful, but the original was much more bizarre. The weirdest moment in this classic that you loved as a kid is probably when a baby turns into a pig while everyone sneezes constantly. Of course, the weirdness is part of what I loved about it as a kid, and part of what made this such a treasured tale for book-lovers everywhere.
10. Goosebumps By R.L. Stine
The covers of this series alone were enough to give me... well, goosebumps. From The Haunted Mask to Night of The Living Dummy to The Curse of Camp Cold Lake, these books were both terrifying and bizarre. And you probably had a whole collection.
11. Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle By Betty MacDonald
As a young book-lover, I was so obsessed with this book that I made up my mind to one day live in an upside-down house just like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Sadly, I have yet to find one for rent. However, now I'm not so sure that I want to channel a woman who gave children very bizarre and heavy-handed cures for bad habits — of course, despite its strange contents, I reread this book over and over as a young bookworm.
12. The Giver By Lois Lowry
In this one that's probably still on your bookshelf, protagonist Jonah lives in a world in which people gave their memories away to achieve "sameness." The bizarre and dark part? Anyone outside of this "sameness" is killed via lethal injection. It's a far cry from your lighter childhood favorites, though you probably still loved this one as a kid.
13. Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs By Judi Barrett
In a town called Chewandswallow, food falls from the sky. I loved this book as a kid... but it is pretty darn weird. However, I wouldn't mind if my favorite meal fell from the sky —though syrup rain might not be so great.
Image: Instagram/mybookbath (1)