“Miss Hamster Gives an Injection”: Highlights From Three Terrible, Terrible Kids Books


1. Eight is Enough: Kite Fun Book
Date: 1979
Publisher: Western Publishing, Racine, WI
Discovered at: Thrift Town, El Cerrito, CA

Based on a chilling science-fiction TV series set in an alternate 1970s in which birth control has been outlawed, Eight is Enough strained audience credulity by asking them to believe that Dick Van Patten had had sex at least eight times.

The show also apparently was a hit with kite enthusiasts, which is the only possible explanation for this flimsy pamphlet on kite safety paid for by Pacific Gas & Electric, the California utility not especially celebrated for safety itself.

While the authors and artists are careful to warn Adam Rich fans not to fly kites during thunderstorms, they are oddly cavalier about the rules for safety around wildlife. According to this, upon encountering bears the best thing to do isn’t to speak calmly and back away — it’s to frolic.

This typical set of panels combines the joy of listening to Van Patten explain how to build something with the terror of having your home violated:

Note Van Patten’s spidery/gorgeous lashes … and eyes that light up like opening night on Broadway.

Judging from the back cover, even the artist wasn’t really on board with the whole kite-safety theme:

Adam Rich’s impossible horseplay is so dangerous that the writer had to whip up some new nonsense to excuse using the illustration: “It’s all right, dad!” the kids calls. “You’re just dreaming!”

That’s proof that eight truly is enough. This father is scraped so raw by all his brood demands that when he dreams he dreams of kite safety.

2. Be Careful: A What-Will-Happen-Next Book of Safety
Authors: Michelle Herx, text; Ralph R. Miller, illustrations
Date: 1976
Publisher: Gallaudet College
Discovered at: Maj-R Thrift, Kansas City, MO

Anyway, all this safety talk brings us to book #2, a 1970s be-safe guide for deaf children that on every other page pretty much shows you a deaf child dying. It’s like the gritty 1970s version of a childrens’ book, more like The Deer Hunter than that one wimpy kid. I’m sorry to say it’s cover is ripped off, so I can’t scan it in for you. But there’s still horror to relish:

Here’s how it works. First, the creators give us a page of a kid dicking around with something kids shouldn’t, like matches. Below this is the first half of a cheery rhyme, helpfully signed.

Here’s another. The lesson seems to be that kids who play around in the car…

 …and gets exactly what he wants.

Anyway, here’s the strangest of this week’s finds, the coloring book that asks “What jobs would animals have if animals had jobs” — but then gets that answer hilariously wrong again and again.

3. Animals at Work
Illustrator: Vivien Botha
Date: 1995
Publisher: Pyramid Publishing
Discovered at: St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, Los Angeles, CA

The cover of Animals at Work boasts that this is a coloring book designed “to help children learn the fun way.” By my count, there’s two lies there: Kids subjected to this fantasy America where there’s enough jobs to go around that we start handing them out to animals will neither learn nor have fun.

In fact, they may come to fear their elementary school’s hamster cage:

Animals at Work doesn’t just posit a world where animals are full participants in our economic system. It also encourages kids to stop thinking that animals are defined by nonsense like those animals’ actual traits. As a small-minded grownup, I would have guessed that the best animal to teach an aerobics class would be, say, a gazelle.

I would have been wrong.

To make a buck, the animals of this coloring book aren’t above selling each other:

Good news, humans: The melting ice caps aren’t our fault after all. It’s hot-dog carts!

This next animal works at the rare restaurant where diners get to pick their waiters from a tank.

One item I can guarantee was not on illustrator Vivien Botha’s list of Animals at Work goals: Making kids feel better about visiting the dentist.

If your children find that image frightening, just point out that it actually looks like a hoagie with teeth.

Animals are even taking the jobs once held by American teenagers.

I take back what I said about this book not teaching kids anything. In that last image, they learned that lady gorillas have racks.

Maybe that would have cheered up Jimmy Olsen in this, the best-ever panel of any Superman comic book:

There’s a serious moral question begged by this most upsetting image from Animals at Work:

How much must bull be paid to murder bull?

Finally, like Eight is Enough: Kite Fun, Animals at Work treats its readers to bears where they absolutely shouldn’t be. For some reason, this one works at the airport.

But wait! Look where the wheel is! It can’t be safe standing so very close to a large moving vehicle! If only there were a book around that could teach kids the consequences!

Thanks, Be Careful! In conclusion, animals have no thumbs and limited brain function, so the only job they are really qualified for is illustrating coloring books.