10 of the Most Terrifying Children’s Books From Around the World


This week, we checked out a series of totally terrifying French children’s books over at The Guardian , but we weren’t satisfied with just letting the French frighten us. We scoured the web for other incredibly scary (whether intentionally or not) illustrations from children’s books, from cautionary tales for bad kids to books of highly unusual monsters, to stories of um, let’s say questionable morality. Of course, many of the illustrations are fantastic, so we love them for their macabre beauty, but that said, we wouldn’t necessarily want these books read to us before we tried to traipse off to dreamland. Click through to peek inside ten of the most terrifying children’s books from all around the world, and let us know if we missed the one that gave you chills in the comments.

The most notoriously upsetting children’s book is definitely Struwwelpeter, the German collection of cautionary tales. The original 1845 version by Heinrich Hoffman is horrifying enough, but we are particularly terrified by (and enamored with) these updated illustrations by the brilliant Sanya Glisic. These illustrations are from “The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb.”

The title of this chilling gem translates to The ABC of Anger, which makes that Koala all the more frightening, at least to us. But your fears will be confirmed when you open it up to find illustrations like the one on the right.

In Brave Mr. Buckingham by Dorothy Kunhardt (the author of tiny child classic Pat the Bunny!), the brave Native American man Mr. Buckingham is slowly dismembered — losing one foot to a buzzsaw and another to a fish before his arm is sliced off by a gardener and he gets hit by a truck — as he tries to prove to little Billy that it won’t hurt to pull on his loose front tooth. That’s him there, just a head left. [Picture via]

From Primus, a 1925 Russian collection of “poems for children” by Osip Mandelshtam. [via 50 Watts]

In Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin, circa 1865, the sparrow kills Cock Robin and then all the other terrifying creatures of the forest talk about how they’ll bury him. An excerpt: “Who saw him die? I, said the Fly, with my little eye, I saw him die. Who caught his blood? I, said the Fish, with my little dish, I caught his blood.” [via 50 Watts]

This cautionary early ’90s Russian children’s book includes such important lessons as: “You like to fight with your fellow-friends? Then you’ll be bitten by different snakes!” and “If you plan not to listen to father wild black cats would scratch your brother” and “If you are greedy as old and don’t share balls probably you would be eaten by wolves.” Yikes. [via English Russia]

Jorōgumo (which is literally translated as “whore spider”), from Gojin Ishihara’s 1972 children’s book Illustrated Book of Japanese Monsters. [via Comics Alliance]

Lustiges Kinderbuch, a 1908 German cautionary children’s book with illustrations by Ernst Seifert. The moral being mostly that bad bad boys get what they deserve. [via 50 Watts]

Is that a team of cyclops decked out in Klan gear torturing a small child? Probably not, but we still find this 1948 children’s comic The Magic Underground Castle by Japanese cartoonist Rokuro Taniuchi highly terrifying. [via 50 Watts]

We had to include Outside Over There, by Maurice Sendak, of course. This scene depicts ghostly French horn-playing Ida’s baby sister being stolen by goblins, who leave a terrible ice replica in her place.