20 Bad Books To Give To Young Kids

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(Image via Penguin)

20. Watership Down

Oh, Watership Down. I read this when I was in my last year of middle school, and still managed to give me some major creeps.

Published in 1972, this novel was author Richard Adams’ first novel. It follows the adventures of a small group of English rabbits who leave their warren to strike out on their own. Why leave the safety of their home? Well, one of the rabbits, Fiver, is a seer with the power to see visions of the future. He sees the warren’s imminent destruction by local humans, complete with the horrific deaths of all the rabbits’ friends and families. So, you know, normal rabbit stuff.

Once the all-male group of rabbits escapes their fate and establishes their own warren, they realize a significant flaw in their plan. There are no does, or female rabbits, to ensure the continuity of their new settlement. The male rabbits proceed to infiltrate another warren, currently in the grips of a dystopian fascist police state, and help the female rabbits escape. The does are in especially dire straits at this warren, though their subordinate position in rabbit society in general leaves much to be desired.

Despite the rabbit sexism, Watership Down is an arresting work of fiction. The rabbits across the countryside have a complex society and elaborate mythology, complete with a rabbit messiah called El-ahrairah. Adams created a work that’s equal parts gripping adventure story and sociological study. It’s a wonderful book, but perhaps wait until your kid knows the difference between fantasy and reality before handing it over. And be prepared for them to consider becoming a vegetarian, too.