20 Bad Books To Give To Young Kids

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(Image via Rupert Hart Davis)

14. Something Wicked This Way Comes

Ray Bradbury was a rightfully renowned science fiction author. His work is passionate and lyrical, telling stories of worlds both familiar and deeply strange. With that in mind, however, you might want to keep Something Wicked This Way Comes up on a high bookshelf for a few years longer.

Something Wicked This Way Comes tells the story of two best friends, thirteen-year-olds Jim Nightshade and William Halloway. The two boys, just on the verge of their fourteenth birthdays, spend the first few pages wandering through their seemingly idyllic town. However, something strange is coming their way. They first encounter an enigmatic lightning rod salesman, who is the first to tell them that a storm of sorts is approaching. Other adults soon remark on the pervasive sense of strangeness that has descended upon their community.

Then, they realize that a traveling carnival has appeared on the outskirts of town. It’s strange for a fair of any sort to arrive in late October when the book takes place, but the boys are excited all the same.

The carnival is run by a mysterious group of people, including Mr. Dark, the Illustrated Man covered in tattoos. There’s also a backward-running carousel that de-ages people, a “Dust Witch”, and a disorienting, menacing mirror maze. Jim is especially taken in by the darkness of this strange carnival and comes very close to a kind of death.

Jim and the town are saved by love and community in the end, which is a perfectly fine message for kids everywhere. It’s just the creepiness and overall menace throughout that might make younger readers a little jumpy.