Kids are weird. I mean... remember some of the games you played as a child? Remember how much those games freaked out your parents? My friends and I had one particular game called "The Cats Die," in which we'd all enact characters from the Disney film The Aristocats, and then fall off a cliff to our deaths (we were actually just "falling" down the playground slide... but still). Kids are just fundamentally weird. So it makes sense that we absolutely loved some odd, bizarre, and just plain strange books back in the day.
Some of these kids' books didn't seem so weird at the time, either. When you're eight or nine, it seems totally reasonable that your teacher might be a vampire, or that a human woman might give birth to a nightmarish, talking mouse. But looking back on some of the stuff we read... oh man. From cheese men to cats with formal governmental structures, we were reading some pretty out there stuff. And we loved every minute of it.
So just in case you've blocked out some of the stranger stories from your childhood, here are a few of the exceedingly odd books that we read and absolutely loved as kids:
1'The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids' by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones
To be fair, the first few Bailey School Kids books weren't that weird. The kids would suspect that their teacher was a vampire, or that their camp counselor was a werewolf. Fair enough. But as the series went on... the monsters and their activities started to get extremely specific. Like, sea serpents juggling water balloons specific. Pretty strange, and a whole lot of fun.
2'Animorphs' by Katherine Applegate
Let's be real, it was the covers. The covers were a good 90% of what make the Animorphs series so strange. Once you saw those covers, it was pretty hard to unsee them. Those elongated, mid-transformation child faces still haunt my dreams. But the stories inside were always great, especially if you were a total sci-fi-loving, animal-obsessed young nerd.
3'The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales' by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
I don't know if I truly loved this book or just found it extremely frightening, but either way the stinky cheese man's visage is forever burned into my long term memory. These "fairly stupid" tales twisted around beloved fairy tales into hilarious and extremely weird new stories, accompanied by some truly inventive imagery.
4'The Warriors Series' by Erin Hunter
If you were a kid who loved animals and strict hierarchical societies, then you definitely read the Warriors books. It was kind of like Harry Potter, but with extraordinarily civilized cats. These cats didn't just get territorial, they laid out battle plans and had forbidden cat love affairs and followed their cat religion. Just a whole lot of quality books about a secret cat society.
5'Bunnicula' by Deborah and James Howe
Rabbit Dracula. There are worse ideas for a kids' book. And as far as rabbit vampire books go, this one was pretty great. Chester the cat and Harold the dog investigate the vampiric tendencies of their family's newest pet, and after the first few pages it doesn't even feel that weird.
6'Sideways Stories from Wayside School' by Louis Sachar
Weird nonsense was always going down at Wayside School. This is the book that introduced a lot of us to absurdist literature, because reality didn't really count for all that much as Wayside. The school was built sideways, the students were always getting turning into apples, and the ice cream was flavored like children.
7'The Witches' by Roald Dahl
Every Roald Dahl book is deeply weird, but The Witches deserves a special place of honor on the strange kids' book shelf. Just the imagery of witches wearing gloves and wigs and masks was pretty freaky, and then there was the whole thing about children being permanently turned into mice. I can't think of another book that ends with the human protagonist resigning himself to life as a mouse.
8'Stuart Little' by E.B. White
Speaking of unholy mouse creatures... Stuart Little. I mean, I love E.B. White, but what was going on here? Why did a human couple give birth to a tiny mouse man? Why was he instantly a middle aged dude with a cane? What kind of random and illogical universe allowed this to happen? This book was weird, man.
9'Mary Poppins' by P.L. Travers
I guarantee that Mary Poppins is way weirder than whatever you're remembering. Do you remember the one with the cat aliens? Or the woman who ate her own fingers? Or the horses made out of peppermint? Or the fact that every monster had the hots for Mary? Basically, every chapter is the kids getting abducted and then rescued by a resentful Mary Poppins.