As much as we love a good story to read to our kids, and want to introduce them to the joys of literature as early as possible, there are a few stories out there, written from the perspective of children, that perhaps aren’t an appropriate place to start. As phenomenal as these stories may be, the source material and graphic details of specific events may not be the best bedtime story or book to read to students in a class.
It doesn’t mean that we as adults can’t enjoy some of the source material for ourselves, though, so why don’t we take a look at some books that are about kids that you should never under any circumstances read to a child. For this list, the book must have a child narrator under the age of 18, but the content must have material inappropriate for anyone under the age of 10.
Lord of The Flies
While this book has been given great praise in its themes about savagery and rules of civilization, the book is still rather vulgar for a child who needs a bedtime story. Taking place sometime in the 1950’s, a group of boys find themselves stuck on an island and needing to find a new way of life in order to survive. The book includes mildly violent themes, as well as animal abuse within its descriptions of deathly acts. Pigs play a central role in the story, and it would be a sorry sight for any juvenile the same age as the boys in this story.
To Kill A Mockingbird
This book has been read by plenty of teachers to schoolchildren for decades since Harper Lee released it in 1960, but it’s not the best plot story for kids who still hang out at the playground. The story is written from the perspective of 6-year-old Jean Louise Finch, whose small town of Maycomb, Alabama encounters chaos after her father, who is a lawyer, represents a black man being accused of raping a white woman. The book involves obscene language, including racist jargon from Jean’s classmates and some offensive slurs from others in the community. While this does bring light to very adult themes during this century, it would be very hard to have to explain to another 6-year-old what exactly Jean Louise Finch is talking about. You may want to wait for them to be a bit older before handing them this book, while also throwing in a brief outline of what systemic racism means and looks like before they start reading.
The Lovely Bones
This one is definitely not supposed to be in the hands of a seven-year-old, as Alice Sebold’s 2002 novel tends to weighs heavy on readers’ hearts. The story takes place in 1972 when 14-year-old Susie Salmon is lured into an underground den by her neighbour and is raped and murdered. The circumstances surrounding her death are tragic, but the novel gets even more gritty in the second half. The reader sits with Susie from her perspective as we watch her mother have an affair, her father turn violent in search of his daughter, and her sister having her first experiences as she becomes a woman, which is probably too much for a kid to handle in 300 pages.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
An American classic, this has come with controversy, even for adults. The offensive language and racism all throughout brought up some real issues with the NAACP, as well as a school lawsuit in the late 1990s. The story is about the travels of 13-year-old Huck Finn, who navigates his way from Missouri to Arkansas with a black slave named Jim. While some are in awe with the story, plenty are offended by the stereotypical traits in which Jim is portrayed. In fact, many school districts within the U.S. have tried to get rid of this one and To Kill A Mockingbird from the school literary canon for American Literature classes, but have not entirely been successful. Reportedly, only one state has banned the book, while others have only felt the need to make new editions of the novel, editing the derogatory terms from the pages instead.
The House On Mango Street
A great author by the name of Mickey Spillane once said, “No one reads a story to get to the middle”. This would be the case if you were to read this book to your kids at home. This coming-of-age story starts with 12-year-old Esperanza and her Mexican-American family moving to a poor city in what is thought to be Chicago, Illinois. Esperanza takes us through her journey of puberty and growing up in her neighbourhood, and we witness a series of Marxism, racial prejudice, and racial and sexual abuse inflicted upon friends of Esperanza’s, and Esperanza herself. So as sweet as you may feel the book is from the beginning chapters, you may feel yourself pausing one too many times, or stopping in the middle of the story altogether, and may not even get to the end of the book without your child asking you questions about what just happened. While we appreciate the story of her coming into her adolescence, it’s perhaps one to pickup a few years post-puberty.
As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your favourite books about kids that probably shouldn’t be read by kids!