Delving into children’s literature reveals some chilling reads, probing the nature of existence and growing up. Here are We Buy Books’ top five novels to set a dark and thrilling bar for a younger audience!
V.C. Andrews’ disturbing first insight into the Dolanganger family became an almost instant favourite. The simple premise of familial dysfunction and greed is a theme much explored in adult fiction but perhaps considered harder to explore for a younger market.
Ruled over by domineering grandparents, four children are forced to face changing lives and bodies in captivity; suffering horrendous abuses and discovering their maturing sexuality between themselves. Flowers in the Attic, weaves themes of incest, murder and corruption into a complex and frightening coming of age novel.
The Velveteen Rabbit could, in some way, be considered the forerunner of Toy Story. As with many of the greats of children’s fiction, the story takes a simple concept: that of a toy given as a gift, to explore materialism, favouritism and the resulting sense of displacement and loneliness.
First published in 1922, the Velveteen Rabbit is a modern day fairy tale, mixing some difficult adult themes with a little magic for a younger audience. The sometimes abandoned toy seeks fulfilment through recognition; a parabolic and emotional take on the changing aspirations of children.
Jack London’s seminal tale of Buck, a working dog who suffers at the hands of various owners and other dogs, is a classic of children’ literature. It is a dark and faced paced novel which tackles the sense of isolation many children feel growing up.
Buck suffers early tragedy and uncertainty until he is rescued by Thornton who he later avenges. The sinister narrative adds depth and realism to the themes of death, loyalty and endurance. Call of the Wild is nothing short of a masterpiece of veiled realism which leaves a chill in the spine and a lump in the throat.
William Golding’s foray into children’s storytelling proved both important and timeless. Left to fend for themselves a group of evacuees stranded after a plane crash quickly develop a microcosmic hierarchy which ultimately factions leading to corruption, bullying and death.
There is little humour in Golding’s narrative but a bleak exposition on the nature of leadership and rivalry, which pierced the skin of social stratification. Perhaps one of the most influential books ever written for children, Lord of the Flies is a darkly allegorical treatise on human nature.
The idea of a dystopian future where predetermination ensures functionality raises questions of human nature and fatalism through fantasy. The Giver, exploring themes set out in 1984 and Brave New World, is a coming of age drama set against such a repressive backdrop.
A little knowledge becomes a dangerous thing leading to loss of both faith and innocence. The Giver is a stark warning on totalitarianism and well suited to exploring these adult themes with a teenage audience!