The world is unfair and full of jerks, so we might as well get our kids used to this fact as soon as possible. That, at least, is my theory of why so many of the classics of kids’ literature feature total assholes. As kids did we ever realize that these funny, mischievous characters and the grown-ups who enable them were actually terrible people/animals? Eh, if we did, we certainly didn’t care. But now, as parents forced to read these books aloud multiple times a night, we wonder … and hope that their assholishness stands out as an example of what not to do, rather than the alternative.
Other than torture the dog and build a cool fort, we’re not sure the extent of Max’s real-life transgressions. What we do know is that he’s a bossy, callous king who rejects his subjects’ love and starves them. They should definitely eat him up.
2. Sam I Am from Green Eggs and Ham
In this age of dietary restrictions and allergies, this food-pusher and his toxic food dye would be marched out of town on a boat, with a goat, on a train and in the rain. Then again, he’s also our patron saint at every mealtime.
3. The Runaway Bunny
Hey, ungrateful little brat, why do you want to run away from your mother so badly? It’s not like she’s trying to feed you green carrots. Accept her smothering love like a good little rabbit.
4. Fancy Nancy
While we admire Nancy’s creative imagination, her high, fancy, Martha Stewart-esque standards have got to be a gigantic pain in the ass for her parents. She needs a casual time out.
5. Amelia Bedelia
The first time, it’s funny that the maid took all her employer’s instructions literally. By the second time, we grow suspicious that she’s enacting some kind of revenge fantasy on the 1 percent.
6. Scuffy the Tugboat
No wonder no one wanted to buy this discontented toy boat, he’s an ungrateful whiner with a penchant for running away. These days, he probably would have melted in industrial waste long before the river had a chance to reach the ocean, and it would have served him right.
7, 8, 9. The Man With the Yellow Hat from Curious George, the absent mother from Eloise, the mother from The Cat in the Hat
You thought we were going to call out George, Eloise, and the Cat, didn’t you? But upon further reading (and reading, and reading), it’s very clear that the mischief George gets in is because his “friend” (owner! Who kidnapped him from the jungle!) is always leaving him unsupervised in inappropriate places. Eloise’s mom is off hanging out with Coco Chanel in Paris while her daughter tortures the staff of the Plaza, and Sally and her brother’s mom leaves them in the care of a goldfish without warning them not to let strangers in the house. A little parenting might go a long way with these guys.
Wait a minute. Could it be that these books are actually meant as cautionary tales for parents?