Kid Lit Dish

Kim's Magical Journey Into the World of Children's Picture Books

Twelve Terrible Things

I can’t believe it’s been nearly a month since my last blog post!  December flew by, and I can’t believe that Christmas is over… let alone New Year’s Day!  It has been a fantastic winter break, though, and much to my 9-year-old’s chagrin, he goes back to school this Monday.

That means Mama needs to get back to work!

So I made my usual trip to the library to pick up a few (25!) great picture books to study story arc, theme, character and plot building, etc.  And on this last trip, I found a little gem I had never heard of.  Spare text, beautiful illustrations… and FUNNY!  (Hey, you’ve gotta love funny sometimes…)

Twelve Terrible Things

12 terribleWritten and Illustrated by:  Marty Kelley
Tricycle Press (a now-defunct division of Random House), 2008

I’m not sure about awards for this book, but rave reviews:

“[Has] a wonderful sense of how kids sometimes feel the world treats them… turns the terrible into the terrific.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Minimal text and detailed artwork combine to convey a macabre humor that is bound to ensnare even the most hesitant readers.” (School Library Journal)

Themes/Topics:  Everyday (though scary) things that kids have to deal with as they go through childhood

Suitable for:  Grades 1-4

Opening Lines (start on the endpapers and they are brilliant):

I’m warning you.  If you turn the page, you are going to see some terrible things.  Some really terrible things.  This book is full of them.  Didn’t you read the title?

Just about everything in this book is terrible.  You’re probably going to turn the page, anyway, aren’t you?


Go ahead.


Brief Synopsis  (from Amazon): At last, a grown-up brings to light some of the awful, horrible things kids must endure. A brother’s smelly socks, a jump off the high-dive, or a sloppy kiss from a great-aunt–hey, childhood isn’t without peril. In-your-face graphic paintings paired with droll text will have readers chuckling and sympathizing. Reviews

 “This is essentially Gary Greenberg’s Pop-Up Book of Phobias (1999) but with a wonderful sense of how kids sometimes feel the world treats them. Expect this book to be a hit with not just younger children but their older teenage siblings as well.”-Kirkus Reviews

Links to Resources:  Marty Kelley has some neat things on his web site, including artwork that didn’t make it into the book.  More than anything, though, the illustrations (and terrible things) can create some great discussions with your child… about the book AND about other terrible things that fill their everyday lives.

Why I Like (LOVE) This Book:  This is a great find.  The illustrations really do tell 90% of the “story” in each spread.  It starts with the aforementioned warning, followed immediately by a beautiful shot of a plop of strawberry ice cream… that has just fallen out of its cone.  The next spread deals with nighttime frights (as in the proverbial “monster under the bed.”)12 terrible_dentist

Then we get to a nice close-up of a dentist… about to look in your mouth.  Who doesn’t love the dentist?  Kids don’t – that’s who!

There are more that follow (twelve total, of course)– and some funnier (and truer) than others.  One of  my favorites– SCARY CLOWN… aaarrrghhh!  Another favorite– standing (actually, clinging) to the high dive at the community pool… with everyone yelling “Come on already… JUMP!”  Been there, done that.


I strongly recommend this book, for both little and big ones alike.  My 9-year old loved it (of course, he’s in that phase where he really  likes gross humor… not that the humor here is gross.  Well, some of it is– like the lunch lady ladling gravy on… everything.)

Go get it– great fun!

Discover more “perfect” picture books on author Susanna Leonard Hill’s fantastic web site, located here.


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