It’s a truth generally acknowledged that Book Rioters love dark books. And since we’ve noticed that Book Riot readers gobble up any book list with “dark” in the title, I immediately noticed one audience who is not being served: babies and toddlers! So here are some suggestions, whether you already have a gothic toddler, or you’re trying to raise a baby bat.
Let’s start off with something something to set the mood. Jane Eyre isn’t scary, but it is broody and atmospheric. This Cozy Classics Jane Eyre introduces your infant to this gothic-inspired story while the felt illustrations keep it cuddly and approachable. Each page just has one word and an illustration, plus the sturdy cardboard pages can withstand even a baby bat’s sharpened fangs. A nice beginning to your Dark Board Books curriculum.
Keeping it classic, this BabyLit Wuthering Heights introduces a few more words per page while familiarizing your kid with the stormy moors of this tumultuous, toxic romance. BabyLit simplifies classics like Cozy Classics, but moves away from the cuddly felt towards the sharp lines of these cartoon illustrations. A great way to ease your were-pup into darker narratives.
Once they’ve mastered Wuthering Heights, you’re ready to move on to the epitome of dark BabyLit board books: Edgar and the Tattle-Tale Heart. What reader hasn’t finished the original tale of a murderer driven mad by the disembodied heartbeat of his victim, closed the book with a sigh, and thought “I can’t wait to read this to my future child?”
Now you’re ready to introduce some things that go bump in the night with Goodnight Goon. If they’ve already read one of the 18 copies of Goodnight Moon they received at their baby shower, your baby bat will be delighted at this monstrous take on a tired bedtime story. Goodnight tomb. Goodnight goon. Goodnight Martians taking over the moon.
Your gothic toddler is now familiar with both the basics of dark board books and parody, so it’s time to pick up The Very Thirsty Vampire!* The Very Thirsty Vampire keeps trying different beverages, but he just can’t seem to quench his thirst. What will finally satisfy him?
Finally, it’s time to test your little ghoul’s Darkling status by reading them I’m Going To Eat You by Matt Mitter. Spike keeps hearing a terrifying voice saying “I’m going to eat you!” but when he goes investigating, it’s only the same old monsters lurking in his house. What he finds in the end is much more terrifying than he could imagine. (This one is out of print, but you can read it by watching this youtube video!)
And there you have it! My six dark board books suggestions for the gothic toddler. Do you have any that I’ve missed? These are just the board books (cardboard pages), but I might just make this a continuing series with picture books next! Let me know if you have any favorites I should know about.
*Disclaimer: Your miles may vary for how appropriate any of these books are for a baby, but The Very Thirsty Vampire in particular is written as a parody for adults, so maybe don’t hand it to a toddler that’s anything short of a True Gothling™.