It’s no secret that some of the world’s best loved children’s books were written by men on drugs (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), or who’s interest in the subject matter is questionable at best (Alice in Wonderland). Others, like the poems of Shel Silverstein, are just the slightest bit creepy in their own right.
The ten books below, though, seem normal enough on the surface…until you learn the inspiration behind them.
#10. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
There’s no denying the charm and popularity of Dr. Seuss’s whimsical, rhyming children’s books, and Green Eggs and Ham is no different. What you might not know, however, is that the book was the result of a bet.
Seuss’ publisher bet him that he couldn’t write a book using only 50 words. The publisher ended up out $50 after the end result.
#9. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
One of your kid’s favorite books was inspired by – wait for it – office supplies.
“One day I was punching holes with a hole puncher into a stack of paper, and I thought of a bookworm.”
The book was, in fact, named A Week With Willi the Worm before his editor suggested they change it to a caterpillar.
#8. The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Giving Tree almost didn’t make it onto shelves because the publishers were doubtful that it would resonate with readers of any age.
“The trouble with this ‘Giving Tree’ of yours is that…it’s not a kid’s book – too sad, and it isn’t for adults, too simple.”
I think we can all agree now that editor William Cole was wrong.
#7. Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
Apparently, we’re wrong about everything when it comes to little Madeline – at least according to a 2013 interview with the author’s grandson.
“It’s not an orphanage, Miss Clavel is not a nun, and Madeline is not French. I used to get almost indignant over it, but these things take on a life of their own and sometimes misperceptions are the stuff of legends.”
#6. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It may or may not surprise you to learn that The Little Prince is basically the result of hallucinations. The tale resulted from the author’s experiences waiting to be rescued from the Sahara Desert after a plane crash.
#5. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
The author had no idea that she’d borrowed the name of her imaginary kingdom from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. At least, that’s what she says on her website:
“I thought I’d made up Terabithia. I realized when the book was nearly done that there is an island in Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis called Terebinthia. I’m sure I borrowed that unconsciously…and Lewis got Terebinthia from the Biblical terebinth tree, so it wasn’t original with him, either.”
#4. Curious George by H.A. Rey
The author and his wife were fleeing Paris on bicycles just ahead of the Nazis in 1940. They were detained on suspicion of being spies, and nearly had the manuscript confiscated.
#3. Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
The steps that Alice takes in the book make up a playable game of chess, though not necessarily one that’s going to win you a match.
According to Martin Gardner, the author of The Annotated Alice:
“At two points the White Queen passes up a chance to checkmate, and on another occasion she flees from the Red Knight when she could have captured him. Both oversights, however, are in keeping with her absent-mindedness.”
#2. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
All of the book profits and product sales from Peter Pan belong to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children. J.M. Barrie gifted the rights and royalties to the charity in 1929.
#1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Apparently, E.B. White had a thing for spiders, not pigs. Before coming up with the idea for the book, he toted a spider’s egg sac from his Maine farm to his NYC apartment, where he let them hatch and run free like pets.
His house cleaner eventually complained.
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