They pop up on the internet every year, on bulletin boards or else group blogs like Huffington Post. Sometimes they go viral, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and even good old-fashioned email forwards. They’re collections of book covers, for children’s books that are “creepy” or “bizarre” or “hilarious,” and if you do anything related to children’s books for a living, you’ve probably had links like this one and this one sent to you dozens of times, from acquaintances who think you’ll find them extra funny.
Ah, yes. There they are yet again: the book about poop, and the self-published book about drugs, and the therapeutic book about abuse, and the book where it kind of sort of almost looks like the animals on the cover are doing something indecent with each other, especially if you turn it sideways, and the book about Uncle Somebody, because let’s not forget that cliche about uncles being vaguely inappropriate towards children, haw-haw, and also that book called I Wish Daddy Didn’t Drink So Much. Oh, the hilarity.
Yes, sometimes our older issues books turn up on these lists. Though it’s worth noting that continued sales have also kept them in print all these years. And sometimes the books on these lists approach difficult subjects in ways that might seem a little dated now. (Though, again—often these books are still in demand, which means someone finds them effective.)
But you know what’s “creepy”? When people see children’s books as only one kind of book. And when people are so uncomfortable with the notion that a kid might need a book on a serious topic that their first reaction is to single it out as “bizarre.” If there’s one thing that the recent challenge to My Mom’s Having a Baby! has made clear, it’s that a book that’s appropriate for one child might not be appropriate for another child.
There’s nothing creepy about a world of children’s books that tries to serve as many needs as possible. And there’s nothing funny about snap judgments.