The Strange But True Stories Behind Your Favorite Childhood Books

We all grew up reading a select few childhood classics. Our parents read these books to us as kids, we’ll read them to our children, and they’ll live on forever in the minds and hearts of entire generations.

Although these books seem innocent enough, they all have some pretty crazy stories behind their creations. Keep reading to find out which classic children’s author wrote a silly song about BDSM for Playboy, and to learn about the peculiar way the author of Goodnight Moon literally kicked the bucket.

Where The Wild Horses Are?

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Maurice Sendak’s classic book, Where the Wild Things Are was supposed to be titled, “Where the Wild Horses Are.”

Sendak said he didn’t know how to draw horses. When his editor asked him what he could draw, he said, “things.” So “things” is what he drew.

The Creators Of Curious George Narrowly Escaped Nazis

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Curious George almost didn’t make it into book form. George’s creators, H.A. Rey and his wife, Margaret, were both German-born Jews.

They fled from Paris by bicycle in June 1940, carrying the manuscript of what would become “Curious George” as Nazis prepared to invade. Now the Curious George Rides A Bike book is so much more meaningful.

The Disaster That Was The Cat In The Hat Movie

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In 2003, Mike Myers played The Cat in the Hat in a live-action comedy film. The movie was so bad that Dr. Seuss’s widow specifically said that she wouldn’t allow any more live-action adaptations of his work.

Good thing we got The Grinch before Mike Myers destroyed a good thing.

Beatrix Potter Liked Mushrooms

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Beatrix Potter, the author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was also an amateur mycologist. She was so obsessed with fungi that she taught herself the proper technique for accurate botanical illustration.

She also conducted her own experiments and germinated her own spores.

Peter Rabbit’s Father’s Gory Death

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I don’t know about you, but I don’t remember any gore in the original Peter Rabbit books.

Whoever was reading them to me must have skipped over the part where Mr. McGregor bakes Peter’s father into a pie and eats him. That’s why all the rabbits are scared to go into the garden.

Eric Carle Dug Trenches In WWII Germany

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Eric Carle, the American illustrator and writer of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other children’s books, moved to Germany as a kid in the 1930s.

While he was there, he was ordered to dig trenches for the German army when he was 15 years old. Now, at 88 years old, he is one of the youngest surviving WWII veterans.

There Is A School In Japan Inspired By Anne Of Green Gables

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Anne of Green Gables is a children’s novel about an orphan girl with carrot-red hair growing up in the tiny Canadian province of Prince Edward Island.

The novel has been in Japan’s school curriculum since 1952. In 1979, it was made into an anime. There is a school of social work and nursing in Okayama called The School of Green Gables. The Anne Academy in Fukuoka teaches Japanese students to speak English with the distinctive Prince Edward Island accent.

The Little Prince Was Based On A Fever Dream

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The internationally-beloved story The Little Prince was inspired by the visual and auditory hallucinations the author experienced after he crash-landed his plane in the desert and nearly died of dehydration.

The story begins with a pilot being marooned in the desert. Although it was originally published in 1943, The Little Prince still sells 1.8 million copies every year.

Shel Silverstein Wrote For Johnny Cash

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Shel Silverstein, author of The Giving Tree and Where The Sidewalk Ends, wrote the Johnny Cash song, “A Boy Named Sue.”

The song tells the story of a young man’s quest for revenge against his father who abandoned him when he was just three-years-old. The only thing his father ever did for him was to name him “Sue,” a feminine name, which causes the man a lot of undue suffering.

Oh, Also He Wrote For Playboy

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That’s right. Good ol’ Shel Silverstein wrote satire for Playboy and he penned a BDSM song called “Freakin’ at the Freakers Ball.”

SFW lyrics of the song include: “C’mon babies grease your lips grab your hats swing your hips and don’t forget to bring your whips I’ll take you to the Freaker’s Ball” and, “Leather freaks’re dressed in all kinds of leather, the greatest of the sadists and the masochists too, Screamin’ please hit me and I’ll hit you.”

C.S. Lewis’ Devoted Himself To Christianity Because Of J.R.R. Tolkien

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C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia book series, was known to be pretty religious in his day. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is basically a Christian parable (Aslan=Jesus).

Lewis wasn’t always so religious, though. Although he was raised Catholic, he didn’t have much of a connection to Christianity growing up. Lewis says that his return to Anglicanism at age 32 was due to the influence of his good friend J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Lord of the Rings.

Green Eggs And Ham Exists Because Of A Bet

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Bennett Cerf, Dr. Seuss’s editor bet him $50 that he couldn’t write a children’s book using 50 words or less. The Cat in the Hat was pretty simple, after all, and that book uses 225 distinct words.

Dr. Seuss accepted the challenge. He won the bet with his book Green Eggs and Ham.

The Author Of Goodnight Moon Dated A Rockefeller And A Woman

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Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny author, Margaret Wise, was briefly engaged before she dated U.S. representative William Gaston. She had a summer fling with Preston Schoyer, and then in 1940, she began a long-term relationship with Blanch Oelrichs, the former wife of John Barrymore.

In 1952, she met James Stillman “Pebble” Rockefeller Jr. at a party, and they got engaged later that year.

…And Then She Died Pretty Ironically

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Before Margaret and Mr. Rockefeller could get married, Margaret went to the doctor. She wanted to show the doctor how healthy she was feeling, so she kicked up her leg— which dislodged a blood clot which then traveled to her heart and killed her.

When she died at age 42, she had written over one hundred books.

Spike Jones Almost Turned Harold And The Purple Crayon Into A Movie

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In the mid-1990s, Spike Jonze tried to make a film version of Harold and the Purple Crayon. He worked on the project for a year and a half. The movie was supposed to be half animation, half live action, with a soundtrack by the Flaming Lips.

Jones slowly lost creative control of the project, until the plug was finally pulled, but he learned a lot from the experience and went on to make several wonderfully unusual films.

Roald Dahl Had All His Teeth Pulled When He Was 21

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Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had all of his teeth pulled out when he was 21 because he thought they were more trouble than they were worth.

He tried to talk everyone he knew into pulling their teeth too. Keep reading for even crazier Roald Dahl facts.

Charlie Was Supposed To Be Black

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Charlie, the titular character of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was actually supposed to be black. According to Roald Dahl’s wife, he changed Charlie’s race because his agent convinced him that a black protagonist might not appeal to potential buyers.

A lot of people criticized the book for being racist. In the novel, the Oompa Loompas are black pygmies from Africa. When the Gene Wilder Wonka movie came out, the Oompa Loompas became orange people with green hair to avoid accusations of racism.

Roald Dahl Also Wrote For Playboy

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Back in the day, Playboy was something of a legit literary publication. It was still pretty sexual and scandalous, though. Dahls final short story collection, Switch Bitch, was first published inPlayboy.

Dahl wrote a bunch of adult fiction. One story centered around a sickly infant who grew up to be Adolf Hitler.

E.B. White Let Spiders Take Over His House

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E.B. White got the idea for Charlotte’s Web after letting hundreds of spiders hatch in his home and spin webs wherever they wanted. He found a spider’s egg sac in a barn, put it in a matchbox and poked holes in the matchbox.

When the spiders hatched, they escaped through the holes and spun webs all over his personal belongings. His cleaning lady wasn’t too happy about any of this.

Also, He Couldn’t Record The End Of The Charlotte’s Web Audio Book WIthout Crying

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It took E.B. White 17 takes to record the ending of Charlotte’s Web for the audiobook. When it came to recording “that scene” (no spoilers here), White would cry or his voice would crack.

Readers of his famous book were just as emotionally attached to the characters as White, which is probably why his book was so successful.