The following are descriptions of six books I read as a kid that still haunt my brain to this day, as interpreted by my child-aged self.


1. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein


Summary: Once there was a tree… and she loved a little boy. She gave him leaves to play with, and he climbed her and swung from her branches. He loved her and hugged her a lot.

And then he grew up and forgot about her until he needed something. He took her apples to sell, like a teenager stealing drug money from a purse, and then blew her off again for a few years.

He came back only to cut off her branches and build a house with her severed limbs. This made her happy, even though cutting off all the branches on a tree would nullify its ability to photosynthesize, killing it slowly. But the fact that she’d helped the boy build a house made the tree happy, because she was a kind and selfless tree. And yet he ignored her again for a long, long time.

The boy didn’t come back until he was an old man, and when the tree asked him to play, he said, no sorry, I’m too old and all I want is to get the hell away from you again, you stupid nice tree. So the masochistic tree told him to cut her down and make a boat with which to sail far, far away from her, because apparently giving chunks of herself to this greedy, selfish man would never be enough to make him love her. And the sonofabitch did it. He said, “Thanks for your body parts!” and sailed off into the sunset. But still, the tree was just happy to have helped.

The heartless bastard came back years later to see how else he might destroy the sweetest tree on the planet, which was now only an ugly stump. The codependent tree stump was so happy to see him that she actually asked him if she could do anything else for him. He told her he was too old and tired to torture her in new and exciting ways, so he sat on what was left of her.


The moral: Sometimes no matter how nice you are to people, you’re still going to end up with an ass on your face.

Hidden message: Mom was right. If you give your body to a man, he will leave you.

Bonus trauma: The photograph of Shel Silverstein on the back of the book.


***


2. Bunnicula by James Howe


Summary: This family finds a cute baby bunny in a theater during a Dracula movie and brings it home, where a dog and cat with the miraculous ability to read reside. The dog and cat soon realize the bunny can magically escape his cage at night to suck the juice out of household vegetables, turning them ghostly white. Despite naming the rabbit Bunnicula, the family is too dumb to realize what is going on, blaming the obviously bitten and drained vegetables on some sort of plant fungus.

The cat researches a book about vampires, becomes super paranoid, and tries to kill the baby bunny by trapping it in its cage via vampire-repelling garlic fencing. We watch the rabbit suffer as it slowly starves, until the dog finally gets all aggro with the cat and saves the poor dying bunny. The dimwitted humans never figure it out.


The moral: Sometimes your adorable pets will try to kill each other while you sleep.

Hidden message: Animals are smarter than people.

Bonus trauma: Sketches throughout the book of a bunny with fangs and a malevolent gleam in its eyes.


***


3. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson


Summary: An unpopular boy makes friends with an odd new girl at school. They hang out together in the forest and use their imaginations to create a world in which they aren’t losers. One day, the boy chooses to hang out with a teacher he has a crush on instead of hanging out with the girl in the woods. The girl goes into the woods alone, falls, hits her head on a rock and drowns in the stream. The boy must live with the guilt for the rest of his life.


The moral: Hey, kids. Guess what? Your friends can die.

Hidden message: Hey, kids. Guess what? That means you can die, too.

Bonus trauma: Awareness of your own mortality.


***


4. A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck


Summary: Just in case your parents haven’t yet had the birds and bees talk with you, this book starts off with a cow alone in the woods, failing miserably at giving birth. A wandering boy helps the cow release the calf that is stuck in her vagina like some sort of slimy and bleating mammalian cork by fashioning a crude pulley out of his pants, using a tree as a fulcrum.

The cow rewards him for helping her live by nearly killing him. Her owner then rewards the boy for not suing by giving him a baby pig. He calls the pig Pinky, and she becomes a beloved pet, much like a family dog.

I should probably mention at this point that the boy’s father slaughters pigs for a living. I think you know where this is going now.

They discover that the pig is barren, and therefore worthless. In one of the most horrifying coming-of-age moments ever captured in print, the boy is then forced to help his father murder Pinky. Descriptions of skull-crunching noises and snow-turned-to-red-slush abound. This book holds the distinguished honor of: First Book to Ever Make Me Sob Uncontrollably.


The moral: Living on a farm will make you so lonely that sleeping in a shed with a pig will sound appealing.

Bonus trauma: Highly disturbing pig-on-pig rape scene involving lard.

Quote I still love and should apply to myself more often: “‘Never miss a chance,’ Papa had once said, ‘to keep your mouth shut.'”


***


5. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls


Summary: A young boy saves all the money he makes trapping animals for years to buy two hunting dogs. He names them Old Dan and Little Ann, and the three of them become an inseparable raccoon hunting trio.

Old Dan eventually goes up against a mountain lion and is mortally wounded. Little Ann dies of starvation and a broken heart after dragging her weak dog body to the grave of Old Dan, where the boy finds her stiffened corpse.

He buries her next to Old Dan, and a red fern grows up between their graves. For some reason this ghoulish plant makes the family less sad about the painful deaths of their dogs.


The moral: Your pets will die before you do, leaving you heartbroken and bereft.

Bonus trauma: Learning that there have always been bullies, even back in the peaceful olden days when people had dirt floors and pooped outside.


***


6. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson


Summary: There is a family of Texas settlers. The dad leaves the farmstead for a few months to travel to Kansas for a cattle drive. His son, a teenager, must temporarily become the man of the house.

A yellow dog comes along and adopts the family. After it saves the younger brother from a bear, they all love it. After it saves the entire family from a hydrophobic wolf, the boy immediately shoots the dog in the head because it may have possibly caught hydrophobia from the wolf bites. (It is never mentioned that hydrohobia is old-timey speak for rabies, because creatures with rabies refuse/avoid water. This knowledge might have helped young reader me understand why everyone was killing and burning animals willy-nilly.)

The book jacket explains it all in one sentence: “Travis learns just how much he has come to love that big ugly dog, and he learns something about the pain of life, too.”

Because life is pain, children. Life is pain.

Got it?

Now who wants cookies?


The moral: In order to become a man, you must violently kill something you love.

Bonus trauma: Dogs always die. Seriously. They’re just going to die, kid, no matter what. Why would you get a dog, ever?


***


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TAWNI FREELAND played guitar and sang for rock bands in Lawrence, Kansas and Los Angeles before settling down in Tulsa. She is working on her first novel. She has no exotic pets.

56 responses to “Six Childhood Books That Traumatized Me”

  1. Gloria says:

    The moral: Sometimes no matter how nice you are to people, you’re still going to end up with an ass on your face.

    Hidden message: Mom was right. If you give your body to a man, he will leave you.

    Bonus trauma: The photograph of Shel Silverstein on the back of the book.

    bwahahahahhahahahaha

    Oh shit, Tawni. This was my first “laugh from the gut” moment of the whole day. And I haven’t even finished this yet!

    • Gloria says:

      They never mention a rock in Bridge to Terebithia do they? I remember reading this to Sierra. I got to that part and she never trusted me to pick books for her ever again. She skulked silently into her room to read Anne of Green Gables…alone.

      And why do I remember one of the dogs dying in a bear trap in Where the Red Fern Grows?

      I was traumatized by all these books too! You’d think I’d at least remember the part that was traumatic!

      Tawni, this is the funniest goddammed thing I’ve ever read of yours – and seriously the funniest thing I’ve read in days. You, my friend, are hilarious.

      Cookie?

      • Tawni Freeland says:

        From page 103 of Bridge to Terabithia:

        “They found the Burke girl this morning down in the creek.”

        “No, he said, finding his voice, “Leslie wouldn’t drown. She could swim real good.”

        “That old rope you kids been swinging on broke.” His father went quietly and relentlessly on. “They think she musta hit her head on something when she fell.”

        As a kid, I pictured her lying dead in the creek after reading this part, and the only thing I could picture in a creek hard enough to hit one’s head on would be a rock. Dirt and sand didn’t seem hard enough. I think that’s where my little kid brain came up with the rock theory. It’s how I envisioned the sad, lonely death of Leslie Burke. Ugh.

        I remember feeling completely betrayed by that part of the book as a girl, just like your daughter. (I also loved Anne of Green Gables.) One minute you’re happy for Jess and everything is going great and then whoosh, all of the joy is sucked out of his world at once. Which is how it feels to lose someone close to you, but still. As a kid, I just wasn’t prepared for such a tragedy. I was expecting a rainbow at the end of the book, not a funeral. It was supposed to be a story about friendship and a magical world in the forest, damn it! (:

        I wondered if you remembered Dan and Ann dying in a bear trap because of the film, as they will sometimes change the story a bit in the name of entertainment. But I just read the synopsis online, and it says mountain lion too. Hmm. Maybe that’s where your little kid brain took you at that point in the story. Maybe bear trap was less awful than mountain lion, so your imagination went with it?

        I actually checked all of these books out from my local library and re-read them as I wrote this to make sure I was remembering them correctly, because for a few of them I was thinking, like yourself, surely that can’t be correct? Haha.

        So I guess what we’ve learned here today is that if you can have a nightmare, you can write a book for children.

        It makes me so happy to read that I made you laugh, my friend. Yay! Success! Thanks so much for saying that. xoxo.

        P.S. Mmmmmm… cookie. Thank you. Tastes like pain. With fear-flavored frosting and teardrop sprinkles. Delicious.

        • Gloria says:

          Yeah. It’s weird. I developed this defense mechanism as a child that allowed me to exit my body during trauma so that I didn’t have to actually record the traumatic event. It’s called dissociation. It’s something I did until my late 20s. Therefore, there’s loads of shit that I know were all fucked up, but I’m not always clear on the details. (TMI?) Stupid childhood trauma. As if life isn’t tough enough. Then we have books that show us how much worse it could be? As if that’s supposed to be helpful in some way? Stupid childhood trauma books.

        • Tawni Freeland says:

          Yep. I know all about dissociation. Former psych major, plus I’ve witnessed/done it. I appreciate the way the brain protects us from the icky stuff that way. It just sucks when it finally decides we’re ready to handle the gruesome details, and they feel like some sort of bad dream flooding back in, or strange memories from an alternate reality. Stupid childhood trauma. Stupid childhood trauma books. xoxo.

  2. Sam says:

    Great list of traumatic stories! I love your descriptions. I never liked The Giving Tree either, though I think most of the others have some literary value (well, maybe not Bunnicula).

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Haha.Yes, I agree that Bunnicula is pure entertainment value. It is also the only one of all these books I have read to my young son. I think the rest of them would probably make him cry.

      Thanks so much for reading, Sam. (:

  3. SAA says:

    This was awesome. When I was a kid my therapist gave me Bridge to Terabithia as a gift, I don’t know if that was good or bad.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Wow. What an odd gift. I feel like a kid might need therapy after reading that book even more than before.

      Thanks, Stacie. (:

  4. High-larious, Tawni! Oh my goodness. Still laughing.

  5. Laughed almost uncontrollably the whole way through this. Why do the children’s classics always involve these levels of pain? I remember most of these, except for A Day No Pigs Would Die (is that story real?)

    So far, I’ve only subjected my children to The Giving Tree which is always something of a downer before bedtime. And I always find myself trying to conceal the photo of the cackling man-troll on the back.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Of all these books, I think A Day No Pigs Would Die traumatized me the most. I understood that the family was poor, and that all farm animals had to pull their weight, but it was like making a kid slaughter his own dog. And until I compiled this list, I never realized I was influenced by so many “teenage boy becoming an adult because a beloved pet dies” stories. No Judy Blume for me, I guess: I had grisly animal death and pig rape to usher me through my adolescence.

      “Cackling man-troll.” Heh. I researched The Giving Tree to find out if I’m the only one who was bothered by Shel sneering on the back cover, and found entire internet forums dedicated to the effects of that picture on children. Stories of kids insisting their parents take the book jacket off to make the scary man go away. A little girl who wouldn’t hold the book in her lap because she didn’t want his creepy face touching her legs. So. Funny. We’re not alone, Nathaniel.

      Thanks. (:

  6. Becky Palapala says:

    The Giving Tree is all but unquestionably an allegorical attempt to indoctrinate women into a mentality of masochism and the nobility/moral rectitude of victimhood.

    It’s really quite incredible.

    Wow. I suddenly hate that book.

    It always upset me as a child, but now I actually find it contemptuous.

    And dead animal stories?

    Fuck. That. Noise.

    What the hell is wrong with these authors?

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      I think you are absolutely right about The Giving Tree, Becky. I never fully realized what a complete asshole the boy/man was before writing this about it. As I typed up my childhood recollection of the book, I saw it through my grown-up eyes in a completely different way. I used to get weepy when I read it because I was like, “Oh, what a sweet, kind tree.” Now I just get mad at the guy. And at the tree. Stop being such a victim, Giving Tree! You deserve love too!

      Yes… dead animal stories. For children. I know, right? What the hell? And to this day, nothing makes me weep like a dead animal story. You kill an animal in a fictional story, and I am as ruined as if I had just watched it happen before my own eyes.

      I wonder if a few of these books would even be published today?

      • New Orleans Lady says:

        “Now I just get mad at the guy. And at the tree. Stop being such a victim, Giving Tree! You deserve love too!” HA!!

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Friend of mine said to me the other day: “What happened to the old lady who swallowed the fly?”

        “She died,” I replied.

        “Not anymore.”

        “What do you mean?”

        “I mean I just went and bought the book, and at the end, she ‘was full, of course.'”

        This is bullshit. Everyone knows “she’s dead, of course.”

        Moral of the story: In Becky’s world, in children’s books, killing old ladies is okay. Killing animals is not okay.

        • Tawni Freeland says:

          That’s bullshit. You know that story probably only exists because “fly” rhymes with “die.” How dare they make her full? How dare they?

          Let’s do another rewrite of that book together, Becky, so that not only does the old lady die, but flies slowly eat her because she lives alone and nobody finds her body until they notice a smell coming from her apartment. I mean, look at what was passed off as children’s literature above: dead pigs, dead kids, and dead dogs. We could totally get this published.

  7. New Orleans Lady says:

    The Giving Tree…man, am I glad I didn’t read that! Yuck!

    A Day No Pigs Would Die. Are you fucking kidding me?!! What grade were you in when you had to read that?! I don’t want to think about it anymore. Next!

    I hated Bridge to Terabithia but not because it freaked me out. I thought it was boring.

    My mom excused me from reading Where the Red Fern Grows because she saw what Old Yeller did to me. I’m still not over THAT! However, she used to have me watch Flowers in the Attic with her when I was kid. Wow, no wonder I’m fucked up.

    Bunnicula, really? I always thought that book was funny. I will admit that the imagery is a bit creepy but the story was humerous…at I thought so. But what do I know?! I was watching Flowers in the Attic.

    Worst book for me was Lord of the Flies. It didn’t help that we also had to watch the movie. I was/am scared shitless of that story.

    Yay for school reading!

    • New Orleans Lady says:

      Oh! and I didn’t read this but saw it at the theater…BAMBI! Yeah, I’m still fucked from that movie! I wouldn’t let Aiden watch it…

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Hahaha. I never had to read A Day No Pigs Would Die, that’s the best part. I chose to do it. I traumatized myself. As a kid, I read everything I could get my hands on, and I read freakishly fast. I wear out a smaller library in a year. I actually loved it when teachers assigned reading.

      I enjoyed Bridge to Terabithia because it was about being a geeky kid dealing with bullies, and unfortunately I could relate to that. I pretty much hated school from 6th grade onward. (I still cringe when someone calls me “Red,” even if they’re just kidding.)

      It’s so funny to hear you say you watched Flowers in the Attic with your mom. Those are books to me. I read all of the books from that series growing up and thought the movie was dumb. They left so much out. Stiff acting. The casting was awful too. I don’t really know what I was expecting, though. It was Flowers in the Attic, for chrissakes. (:

      Yeah, Bunnicula was only mildly disturbing. I needed some early childhood trauma reading to bridge the gap between the victimized tree story for very young kids and the preteen coming-of-age novels. But I kind of wish I’d remembered Lord of the Flies when I was writing this. I definitely would have included it!

      Thanks so much for reading, Ashley. I hope I didn’t traumatize you. xoxoxoxo.

  8. Amber says:

    I still remember back in elementary school when they had our class watch Old Yeller. The lights came back on at the end and there sat a classroom of traumatized children, many weeping at the horrors that had unfolded before their eyes.

    Fuck that story and the rabid beast it rode in on.

    On the plus side, I am now diligent about making sure my pets get their rabies vaccinations. So that message really stuck.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Isn’t it weird that so many children’s books are about pets dying? Why don’t they just take the “worst fears of children” thing a step further, and start writing books about children losing their parents as well?

      Yay for rabies vaccines! My new kitty got hers last week. I’m so glad I won’t ever have to shoot her in the head after she saves me from a rabid wolf. Whew.

      • Gloria says:

        “….start writing books about children losing their parents as well?”

        That’s what Disney movies are for. They totally feed on this fear. Dumbo? Bambi? The Lion King?

        You can make big money off kids’ fears. I mean, you know – if you’re looking to start a cottage industry.

        • Tawni Freeland says:

          You’re so right. The Disney company has made millions off of the Missing Mother formula.

        • sommerp says:

          Lots of Missing Disney Mothers: Snow White (evil STEPmother); Cinderalla (evil STEPmother); Alladin (Where is Jasmine’s mom?); Beauty and the Beast (Belle’s mom); Fox and the Hound (Tod’s mom was killed and he was raised by humans); Lilo’s parent’s in Lilo and Stitch (car accident); Nemo in Finding Nemo; Ariel in the Little Mermaid. The list goes on and on! Someone has mommy issues.

        • Tawni Freeland says:

          Haha. I was wondering the same thing about the mommy issues! I’m going to have to research Mr. Disney’s personal story a bit, I think. Now I’m curious.

  9. Brad Listi says:

    oh, god. where the red fern grows.

    old dan.

    little ann.

    crushed me as a kid.

    i begged — begged — my parents to get me a redbone coon hound after reading that book.

    no dice.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Totally brutal, right? And the ending didn’t give me the resolution I needed at all. Oh, there’s a weird plant using two dog corpses as fertilizer? Now I’ve made peace with their sad deaths. Thanks. So helpful.

      Sorry you never got your redbone coon hound. But at least you have your sweet little Walter now. He might not be able take on a big boar coon, but I bet he can tree a dust bunny like nobody’s business. (:

  10. Matt says:

    I somehow managed to avoid Old Yeller as a kid, but hoo boy did the Where the Red Fern Grows get me. We read that in class in the 5th grade, obviously because our teacher just wanted to see a classroom full of kids openly bawling. I’ll get you for that, Mr. Avitable. I’ll get you.

    On the other hand, I LOVED Bunnicula! Actually read the whole series multiple times. The images creeped me out, but it was the good kind of creeped. And who doesn’t love a cat staking an artichoke heart with a toothpick?

    Besides you, I mean.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Haha. Despite the mild creepy factor, I actually love Bunnicula too. I had pet bunnies as a kid, though. I think that back then, the thought of a fanged, juice-sucking bunny really knocked over the “Awww, cute, innocent fluffy things” pedestal onto which I had placed my pets. I checked out all of these books from my local library to write this, and Bunnicula was the only one I was willing to read to my son. He loved it too. (:

  11. Joe Daly says:

    Well done, Tawni! It’s not easy to make such profoundly disturbing material so funny. Love the round up at the end where you review the hidden message and bonus trauma.

    I had to stop reading halfway through the synopsis of the pigs book, being a veggie and all.

    Foolishly, I did not stop reading halfway through Ol’ Yeller and was reminded of how emotionally pulverizing that book was for me.

    Thanks for cracking me up while making me feel like a complete mush, all in the same piece.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Yep. I highly recommend never reading the pigs book. I have always been a sensitive animal lover-type person, and as a kid I was forced to help slaughter chickens on the farm. To this day I credit that experience with the fact that meat grosses me out.

      At least Old Yeller ended with a puppy son of Old Yeller being given to the family, so he got to live on through his heir. Poor Dan and Ann just got a stinking fern. (:

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Joe.

  12. dwoz says:

    pig rape, with lard.

    oh, yes.

    I have a high-school friend, who went on to become “schooled” in agriculture. She went to china to help them with their agriculture.

    When she came home, she promptly tried to get the town to issue a permit to allow her to spread human waste fertilizer on her ancestral family land. She feeds her pigs the scrap from pork dinners.

    Can you say, “fucking prion disease?”

    Can you say, “um….no?”

    Never looked at Shel that way. oh, man. I was so wrong!

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Pig rape. With lard. Appalling. I think the rape scene upset me almost as much as the slaughter scene. Such an upsetting book.

      Human waste and pork scraps? Wow. Prion disease, indeed. Get ready for your local Mad Pig outbreak, my friend.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels mad at the tree abusing guy. That people-pleasing tree needs to grow a spine (apical meristem?) and tell him to fuck off. (:

      Thanks for reading, dwoz.

  13. sommerp says:

    Regarding BAMBI: In the original 1928 Felix Salten book, “Bambi” that the Disney movie was based on, “Faline” had a twin brother named “Gobo” who was bottle fed and raised by humans. He loved people. They put a cute collar and bell on him to show that he was a pet, but some a**hole hunter shot him anyway. Not surprisingly, Disney chose to leave this part of the book out of the movie. Don’t believe me? Check it out!!!

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      I will be checking that out. Fascinating. Horrifying. Forrifying. (Hascinating?)

      Also: “Gobo” may be the worst name for a cute baby animal that I’ve ever heard. Sounds like what one might call a ball of phlegm lodged in the lungs of a person with pneumonia. Or a hobbit.

  14. Mary Richert says:

    Ok, this explains why I felt a natural aversion to any books in the children’s section of the library whose covers featured dogs or boys with distant looks in their eyes.

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Ha. Smart girl. You always knew those book cover tween boys with distant eyes were thinking, “I am ready to become a man… I guess I’ve got some animals to kill.” (:

  15. D.R. Haney says:

    “The photograph of Shel Silverstein on the back of the book.”

    This strengthens my resolve to never use a current author photo.

    “For some reason this ghoulish plant makes the family less sad about the painful deaths of their dogs.”

    This made me laugh and laugh and laugh. I’m not exactly sure why. I mean, there are other funny lines, but this one especially got me.

    I never read Old Yeller, but I saw the movie, which upset me a little at the time, yeah. I thought it was kind of fucked that a puppy was brought to the Old Yeller’s owner and that was supposed to somehow make Old Yeller’s death more acceptable, as if the movie thought all dogs are the same. But even as a kid I was thinking, “That’s not the same dog! That’s not Old Yeller! What, you’re just going to forget all about him now that you’ve got a puppy?”

    • Tawni Freeland says:

      Haha. I read online while researching this (from someone who knew an employee from his publisher) that Shel was not exceptionally gregarious, and that he had total control over the photo that was used. It was on purpose. Like a photographic “leave me alone” warning. As a lifelong introvert, I found this to be quite a brilliant strategy.

      Creepy blood red dog-eating fern. No joy to be found in a creepy blood red dog-eating fern. Sorry, Wilson Rawls, we’re going to need a better poignant message of eternal peace from beyond the grave than that. Can I get a talking dog angel? Maybe a rainbow? Meaningful flora ain’t gonna cut it. (Although Meaningful Flora would make a pretty cool band name.)

      I totally agree about the puppy not replacing Old Yeller. I loathe that mentality, that you can replace a lost pet immediately with another. Like giving someone a replacement child. (Almost.) (I mean, okay, not really, but you need time to grieve before you move on to the next one.) (You know what I mean.) (God, I love parentheses.)

      Thanks for commenting, Duke. xoxo.

  16. Where The Red Fern Grows meant quite a bit to me as a pre-teen. I remember being pissed at my parents as I read the ending that they were arguing about something stupid without realizing the profundity of the dog’s death that I was experiencing. On the other hand, I remember thinking that A Day No Pigs Would Die was the absolute worst book that I had ever read, perhaps rivaled by A Separate Peace.

  17. I can’t believe I’m not the only one who read A Day No Pigs Would Die, Sean. I’m serious. Nobody ever remembers that book when I talk about how much it upset me. I re-read it to write this piece, and it bothered me just as much as it did when I was a kid reading it, too. Horrifying book.

    Your Red Fern memory is funny. My parents would have probably stopped talking completely because I would have been sobbing openly in front of them. That book ruined me. It ruined me recently when I read it again, as well. I can’t believe these sad books are intended for children!

    Thanks for reading and commenting. xoxo.

  18. I can’t believe I’m not the only one who read A Day No Pigs Would Die, Sean. I’m serious. Nobody ever remembers that book when I talk about how much it upset me. I re-read it to write this piece, and it bothered me just as much as it did when I was a kid reading it, too. Horrifying book.

    Your Red Fern memory is funny. My parents would have probably stopped talking completely because I would have been sobbing openly in front of them. That book ruined me. It ruined me recently when I read it again, as well. I can’t believe these sad books are intended for children!

    Thanks for reading and commenting. xoxo.

  19. @Sean: I hit the blue “Reply to this comment” link underneath your comment to reply directly to you, but both times my comment back to you was placed here freestanding, as if it wasn’t in reply to you. Weird.

  20. pixy says:

    tawni: you are SO my favorite book reviewer. please do more.

    i kind of pee’d a little.

    i might be getting old.

    pixy.

    ps – i’m never going to read my favorite children’s book (the giving tree) the same again. although your review helps explain why i think a LOT of things are ok… that probably aren’t. HA!

    pps – shel silverstein = hot. in that cro-magnon kinda way. and i could probably wear heels around him. and he wrote “the cover of the rolling stone”. although he looks pretty uncomfortable trying to look comfortable here. i’d roll that die.
    once.

  21. pixy says:

    oh my jesus. a separate peace.

    you want to know what i got out of that book? how to correctly spell “separate”. and what it felt like, for the first time, to want to punch imaginary people in the cooter and/or balls.

    ça suffit.

  22. pixy says:

    i tried to do this too and got the same thing. i think sean has special powers associated with his comments.

    the elves.

  23. Zara Potts says:

    Thank God I never read any of these books! Life itself traumatises me -I don’t need it in my reading material!!
    Having said that – I never understood why everyone insisted on reading Hans Christian Anderson stories at bedtime. I mean, ‘The Little Matchgirl’? – A starving, shivering CHILD spends Christmas Eve begging assholes to buy her ridiculously soggy matches and then DIES in the corner of some putrid street dreaming of her beloved dead grandmother??? Arrrgh.
    The horror, the horror.

  24. @pixy: <—-I'm commenting back "@Facebook" style, in case the comment doesn't nest where it should, since that's been happening lately.

    I had no idea this morning would find me searching the Internet for images of Shel Silverstein to decide how hot he was. And the verdict is… yes! I agree. In a thoughtful, Vin Diesel-esque, Cro-Magnon way. Until a few minutes ago, I also had no idea he did cartoons for Playboy or wrote songs. Fascinating.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, lovely pixy! Sorry about the pee. I hope it at least made your leg feel warm and cozy. xoxo.

  25. @Zara: It starts with cute little songs about the plague, like “Ring Around The Rosy,” and just gets worse from there, doesn’t it? Childhood can be scary. (:

    xoxo.

  26. amanda says:

    When i was little enough that The Giving Tree was an exciting foray into reading alone, i was steeped in Christian culture. I thought it was a poignant allegory for the Ultimate Love that god has for us. And now, the only vestige of christian belief that holds me is that when the bible was written, the most extraordinary sacrifice a person could make was to voluntarily give up his/her son: the carrier of the family line and name, the successor in the family business, etc. So… god loves us a lot. And for me, the Giving Tree was god.

    I read the story still sometimes. It always makes me cry. It makes my kid laugh that that story makes me cry.

    I got a better take on when i watched the YouTube video of “If the Giving Tree had a Sassy Gay Friend” and her friend introduces her to Boo Radley. Awesome.

    I totally get the “co-dependence” message, and i totally get how misguided i was in thinking that a god has to make an Ultimate Sacrifice in order to save my precious soul. So the story holds less meaning for me now. Rather than thinking of “god loves us,” i think: “god is love,” and also “god is us.” And one thing i like, now that i am on my own spiritual path, is that trees can be gods.

    Oh, and then there’s the fact that i am a parent… i’d pretty much give up my trunk for my little dude.

    [So, i guess i am saying i liked the Giving Tree. And i would totally do Shel, too. (I think i felt that way when i was a little girl…and didn’t understand what the hell was going on in my brain/loins.) He may be why bald is hot to me still. And also, anyone who can write this book, and then also the poem “Dreadful” has a sexy, sexy brain.]

  27. @Amanda:

    Really interesting to hear a religious take on The Giving Tree. It never even occurred to me to look at it that way. That’s my favorite thing about art; the way it means something unique and completely personal to every different person who views it. Our experiences make our art, but our experiences make other people’s art, too.

    Oh, Shel Silverstein. You bald, bearded dark horse of the literary world. You may be gone, but your bad boy persona is still making the ladies swoon on TNB. (:

    I am going to go find and watch the “If the Giving Tree had a Sassy Gay Friend” You Tube video you mentioned now. That sounds hilarious. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  28. Which MargaritaMachine…

    […]Six Childhood Books That Traumatized Me | The Nervous Breakdown[…]…

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