No, David! by David Shannon
Every book from David Shannon’s No, David! series is a scary book. Why? David, as an illustrated character, is a terrifying little dude. Those sharp teeth, those beady eyes — imagine this demon running around your house, breaking your stuff and killing your pets.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a violent tale disguised as a colorful alphabet book. Lowercase “p” ends up with a black eye, “t” finds itself with a loose tooth, and “g” can’t breathe — all because that dirt-bag “a” wanted to meet “b” at the top of the coconut tree. Luckily, once the tree inevitably bends, the letters’ uppercase counterparts are nearby to mend all wounds, and all is well — or so we thought! The last page reveals “a” announcing, yet again, “Dare, double dare, you can’t catch me. I’ll beat you to the top of the coconut tree.” After that, the book ends. Mind you, it’s the middle of the night at this point; if Chicka Chicka Boom Boom continued, it would most likely show the lowercase alphabet dying a slow, painful death at three in the morning because the uppercase letters aren’t awake to untangle them, right? We’ll never know.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Love You Forever is a tender tearjerker — that is, until you ruin your childhood and rename the characters Norman and Norma Bates. “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living my mommy you’ll be.” Sounds about right. Hey look, it’s a baby Norman in the iconic Psycho bathroom!
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Strega Nona is about a witch, but that’s not the scary part. When a young townsman named Anthony is hired to help the elderly witch with her household duties, she advises him to never, ever touch her magic pasta pot. As you’d assume, Anthony gets hungry and decides to whip up some insta-pasta, and all hell breaks loose when the pasta doesn’t stop growing. Noodles overtake the town, the mayor tries to build a barricade, and everyone is seemingly doomed. Eventually, the witch returns from her journey, blows a few kisses at the pasta, and tells Anthony to eat his way through the town. But the damage is done — it’s enough to put a kid off Italian food for weeks.
Popcorn by Frank Asch
Here’s another situation where a naughty character defies authorities and nearly drowns in his own delicious mistake. In Frank Asch’s Popcorn, a rebel teenage bear throws a party while his parents are at the movies. As shown above, the cub pops far too much popcorn, and the whole party nearly drowns while simultaneously shouting about how much they hate the party-thrower. Moral of the story? Popcorn ruins lives. (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs also deserves a place on this little list of death-by-food books.)
Bumble-Ardy by Maurice Sendak
Maurice Sendak, author of Where The Wild Things Are, released Bumble-Ardy in 2011. The book tells the a tale of a huge 9th birthday blowout that gets out of hand, as inspired by this Sesame Street bit. As always, Sendak’s illustrations are slightly offbeat, but at the time of the book’s release, parents were primarily alarmed by the Grim Reaper’s unexpected appearance. But hey, if anyone’s going to teach your kid about the Angel of Death, it might as well be Maurice Sendak, right?
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Oh, a board game that’s trying to kill us? This one and its film counterpart didn’t give us nightmares or anything.
The Wump World by Bill Peet
In Bill Peet’s The Wump World, the furry little Wumps’ homes are destroyed by creepy blue creatures called “Pollutians,” who turn the forest into a concrete jungle and fill the air with dirt. Once the Pollutians find their new home to be too filthy, they find another place to live, deserting the land that once belonged to the Wumps. The story ends with a flower sprouting from a sidewalk, which is supposed to be hopeful, but we’re too busy fearing the fates of those poor little Wumps.
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman
Through creepy illustrations, Neil Gaiman’s The Wolves in the Walls teaches children that the mice in their walls are probably just wolves. The end.