Coville is the king of completely weird chapter books for young readers — his titles read like a hysterical child who’s just head a suspicious bump under his bed: My Teacher Fried My Brains , My Teacher Flunked the Planet , I Lost My Grandfather’s Brain , Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher . Happily, they’re not hysterical, but charmingly bizarre and playful stories about magic shops where you can buy dragon eggs, what it’s like to be an alien in sixth grade, and how to survive summer camp.
We’ve already explained how Daniel Pinkwater’s Lizard Music scarred us for life, but he didn’t stop there: his absurd, surrealistic stories are called things like The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death , Fat Men from Space , and The Hoboken Chicken Emergency — and trust us, they’re all weirder than they sound. If there’s any doubt as to his epic strangeness, we will leave you with his author bio, as published in the back of Lizard Music: “DANIEL PINKWATER has written about one hundred books, many of them good. Lizard Music was almost the first one he wrote, and remains his personal favorite. It is entirely his own work, and the story that it was discovered as a manuscript inserted in a bale of banana leaves, probably to increase the weight, is merely legend, and without foundation in fact.” If you’re still wondering, just check out this picture of him in a Viking helmet.
Just the concept behind Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is rather weird — books where nothing good happens? What is this, Game of Thrones? — but Snicket earns his weirdness title by the way he is present in books, both an active narrator, given to asides about his love life, and later a character, though we never satisfactorily see his face. Snicket is also the proud author of books like The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story , and Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid . Never mind that Lemony Snicket is just a prolific pseudonym for Daniel Handler, who is just as delightfully weird (the man plays accordion), and therefore, we think, even stranger.
We adored Scieszka’s picture books growing up, laughing maniacally at the way they cut down and subverted our favorite fairy tales — where the Frog Prince was only kidding, the Really Ugly Duckling grows up to be a Really Ugly Duck, and Cinderumplestiltskin is a thing — strange enough, perhaps, but the author didn’t stop there. He also has several middle grade series under his belt, including his Trucktown series, which he says he created because he “really wanted to write something for all of those crazy little guys who didn’t think there was something out there for them to read.” Well, now there is.
Slartibartfast, Vogons, and So Long, And Thanks For All the Fish aside, anyone who calculates the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything and comes up with 42 deserves to be on this list.
We remember being rather baffled by the Wayside School books as kids. There seemed to be a million characters, always going about their business calmly in various scenarios, each more surreal and absurd than the next: the teacher that turns misbehaving students into apples, the girl trying to sell her toes, the non-existing teachers in non-existing classrooms on non-existing floors. Holes , which Sachar is probably best known for, is equally bizarre: the palindromic Stanley Yelnats and his compatriots at oppressive Camp Green Lake are forced to dig holes in the sun every day — mix in some onion fields, strangely-named kids and jars of Sploosh, and there just might be treasure to be found.
Applegate has written several science fiction series of varying degrees of strangeness, but she’s best known for the 62-book long Animorphs series, which is about — wait for it — a bunch of kids who can change into any animal they touch, and use this power to fight slugs that live in people’s brains. We’re not going to lie: we were super into these books when they first hit shelves in the ’90s, but even then we knew how freakin’ weird of an idea this was.
We probably don’t have to explain to you why Lewis Carroll was so weird, though maybe we do — the Alice in Wonderland franchise has become so ubiquitous that many people don’t even think of it as particularly strange anymore. We’ve just accepted it. But Carroll is the king of literary nonsense for a reason — Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland , Through the Looking-Glass , and the poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky,” are filled with insane, trippy characters, ludicrous wordplay, and brightly colored worlds that continue to take us aback.
You probably only have to look at the above graphic to be on board with this one. Andre Norton (née Alice Mary Norton) wrote hundreds of delightfully strange novels for both children and adults, a body of work which resulted in her being the first woman to receive the Gandalf Grand Master Awardfrom the World Science Fiction Society in 1977. In Star Ka’at , the Ka’ats — read: psychic cats from space — land on Earth to gather up all the kitties and fly them to safety before the humans destroy themselves with nukes. Psychic cats from space, you guys.
Though Miéville has only written two YA novels to date, including Railsea , which came out this month, he has infused them both with his special brand of steampunk/fantasy/dystopia and then wrapped them both up in some extensive wordplay. For instance, Railsea is an “affectionate parody” of Moby Dick, where the white whale becomes Mocker-Jack, an enormous “moldywarpe.” Miéville and even describes his own work as “weird fiction,” though he means it more specifically than we do — the term was popularized in the early 20th century to describe the writings of people like H.P. Lovecraft — and belongs to a group of writers that call themselves the “New Weird.”