The Worst Canonical Kids’ Books and What to Replace Them With

Recently over at Slate, Gabriel Roth made a very good argument for the basic awfulness of Janette Sebring Lowrey’s The Poky Little Puppy, postulating that the only reason that book and books like it persist in our cultural consciousness is because of the nostalgia effect — my mom read this to me, so I’d better read it to my kids, etc. But there is another way! Why not replace some of those canonical (but actually boring, or lame, or morally questionable) kids’ books with some better ones, and stop the nostalgia cycle in its tracks? To that end, please find below a list of canonical children’s books that could be retired, and which books, new and old, to read instead.


Retire: The Poky Little Puppy, Janette Sebring Lowrey

As Roth points out, this book is profoundly boring and pointless. There’s no moral to speak of, or even internal logic other than lip-service repetition. Also, what kind of parenting is going on in this book? Anyway, it’s terrible.


Read Instead: The Sweetest Fig, Chris Van Allsburg

A highly satisfying story in which a mean dentist gets his due AND there’s a cute dog to look at AND there are Van Allsburg’s typical hazy-wonderous illustrations. The cute dog, by the way, wins the day in an epic way.