Amazing news: the people who penned some of your favorite stories as a kid have dark sides!
Here are five children’s authors who got dirty and weird during the same years they were forming your imagination.
Shel Silverstein was a Playboy contributor for twenty years.
Though Silverstein will be remembered primarily for children’s literature masterworks like “The Giving Tree” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” his career ranged from writing songs for Johnny Cash (“A Boy Named Sue,” if you’re wondering) to writing and illustrating a global travel column for Playboy Magazine back in the 1950s. Some of his more famous excursions included his trip to the then-forbidden homosexual paradise of Fire Island, a few days in a nudist camp (featuring extensive photographs and illustrations of the author in the buff) and in communist Mother Russia.
Edward Gorey wrote a hilarious book about losing your virginity.
If you’re a fan of brilliantly illustrated satire or you’ve ever set foot in a Hot Topic, chances are you’re familiar with the work of Edward Gorey. He’s most famous for his macabre children’s alphabet books, which included lines like, “B is for Basil, devoured by bears.”
In 1965, the notoriously asexual author wrote “The Recently Deflowered Girl,” an advice book written through the lens of the fictional Hyacinthe Phipps, that gives young women advice for what to do when one loses their virginity. Except the advice is for when they lose their virginity on a cross-country bus to a marimba player, or to the ghost of Rudolph Valentino at a seance.
Roald Dahl wrote a book called “Switch Bitch.”
If you haven’t read Dahl’s works for children as an adult, do yourself a favor and go back: nearly every volume is jam-packed with dark humor and references to life as an adult. A few times, Dahl just cut to the chase.
In 1979’s “My Uncle Oswald,” he writes a soft porn sex romp of “the greatest fornicator of all time,” and originated the character back in 1974’s short story collection, “Switch Bitch,” which featured four tales of sex and deception. His follow up to “My Uncle Oswald”? 1980’s children’s classic “The Twits.” Go figure.
Lemony Snicket wrote a novel about teen murder.
Before his now-iconic, macabre “Series of Unfortunate Events” hit the shelves in 1999, Lemony Snicket went by his original name, Daniel Handler, and released his debut novel “The Basic Eight” in 1998. Though the chronicle of his famous Baudelaire orphans is certainly dark, this book takes it to the next level: it features a split personality and a graphic, graphic murder via crochet mallet.
Handler takes his dark side to an extreme.
Dr. Seuss drew a book of nudes.
While Dr. Seuss’s pre-kid’s lit career as a political cartoon satirist is relatively well-known, his one foray into the dirty ended up being one of his biggest career failings.
“The Seven Lady Godivas: The True Facts Concerning History’s Barest Family” was an illustrated story about the famous Lady Godiva published in 1939 when Seuss, whose real name was Theodore Geisel, signed with Random House publishers on the condition that he could write a work for adults. After only selling 2500 copies of its 10,000 print run, the work was considered a flop.