Check out these icky—at times fascinating—reads for kids of all ages.
Cringey. Mischievous. Delightfully crude. Also deceptively educational.
Love it or hate it, kids crave it. And when it comes to reading, that can actually be a good thing. According to this piece by The New York Times, “Sometimes stories that delight children and make adults cringe are the best way to win over new readers.” And why? Quoted in the Times article, clinical psychologist Pooja Sharma says, “Reading books that include silly ideas or that include potty humor allow for a child to connect to their peers in a way that lets them be ‘seen’ by others who find those topics funny.”
Makes sense to us. Embracing these types of topics could also be a great way to draw in reluctant readers and sneakily inspire them to get into books. So we’ve pulled together a list of some of our best “icky” reads to get ‘em reading, laughing and learning all at the same time. Get ready to be grossed out—in a good way—with these books for kids of all ages!
“Gross” Children’s Books on Epic
Does a Bulldozer Have a Butt?
Written by: Derick Wilder
Illustrated by: K-Fai Steele
|According to the publisher’s description, this book is “Green Eggs and Ham meets Everyone Poops in this laugh-out-loud story that asks—and answers—the burning question in every kid’s life.” This fun, clever rhyming book starts when an inquisitive little boy asks his dad, “what things don’t have butts?”|
Does a scarecrow have a butt? Yep, you stuff him with a straw one.
And does a crayon have a butt? Nope, but it can surely draw one.
Over the course of a long walk to school, he gets answers to these and more. The silly text and funny illustrations make this jokey book the perfect read-aloud for you and your curious kid.
13 Ways to Eat a Fly
Written by: Sue Heavenrich
Illustrated by: David Clark
Thirteen flies become tasty snacks in this funny STEM picture book. When a swarm buzzes along, one by one they get snatched up by a predator along the way. From getting zapped or wrapped, to liquefied or zombified, the science is real, and offers plenty of gross-factor to tickle your young reader as they learn about predators and prey—and subtraction, too. It even includes a bug-eating guide with nutritional info!
Belches, Burps, and Farts-Oh My!
Written by: Artie Bennett
Illustrated by: Pranas T. Naujokaitis
There’s no denying it. Kids find flatulence irresistibly funny, and this book uses that fixation to sneak in science about the why’s and how’s of this less-than-pleasant bodily function. In fun gas-tastic rhyming text, this book will teach your kid about all the—ahem—wind-breaking critters of nature, from cows and dogs, to bugs and fish (Did you know they communicate with gas bubbles?). It even includes a fact-filled spread on “Fart-tastic Facts & Burp-tacular Bits” in the back.
By: Nadia Higgins
Lady bugs are pretty cute, right? But did you know that when they sense danger they ooze smelly yellow stuff warning predators to back off? Your kid will learn this and a lot more in this intriguing edition of the “Back Off! Animal Defenses” series. With vibrant color photos and engaging text, it’ll appeal to their curiosity and yes… appreciation for grossness.
Bee and Flea and the Compost Caper
Written by: Anna Humphrey
Illustrated by: Mike Deas
Most of us don’t expect to make friends in a compost pile, but then, we aren’t Bee and Flea. It all starts when Flea (agent of F.L.E.A.—Fenced-in-Area Law Enforcement Agency) rides in on a dog’s back to investigate shenanigans on the nearby compost heap. Enlisting Bee’s help, the two fly off to see what’s going on. They arrive at the crime scene to find critters dancing, wild games of dodge-poo and other forms of chaos. This hilariously gross early chapter book is part of a crime-fighting STEM series that’ll keep your kid learning and laughing.
By: Brenda Ponnay
Well, they can’t all be educational, but do they have to be? This silly picture book serves up page after page of stinky jokes. This illustrated collection includes gems such as, “Why are ninja farts so dangerous?” and “Why couldn’t the skeleton fart in front of his friends?” Your kid will just have to crack the book to find out.
Barf and Poop: Animals Eat What?!
By: Holly Duhig
Do some animals really eat this stuff? Behold your kid’s incredulous face as they discover this yucky survival tactic is a thing. With light-hearted illustrations paired with color photos, your kid will learn a myriad of fun facts about how creatures in the wild live. From vampire bats drinking blood to rabbits getting the most out of the nutrients in their dung, this book will educate just as much as it entertains.
The Adventures of Captain Underpants (Audiobook)
By: Dav Pilkey
Faster than a speeding waistband! More powerful than boxer shorts! No list of gross kids’ books is complete without Captain Underpants. In the first book in this #1 New York Times bestselling series, 4th-grade best friends George Beard and Harold Hutchins invent the wedgie-powered superhero Captain Underpants, a.k.a. the greatest superhero in the history of their elementary school. This audio version of the zany book will serve up plenty of giggles for your kid.
Written by: Edward Kay
Illustrated by: Mike Shiell
This intro to germs from award-winning comedy writer Edward Kay will turn your kid into a master of microbes. Silly and entertaining, it’s well researched and serves up tons of valuable information about the science and history of germs. From how the human immune system works to bizarre but true stories about early attempts to fight disease and the plagues that changed history, it’s a kid-friendly overview of the good, the bad and the ugly about these microscopic creatures.
Weird But True: Gross
By: National Geographic Kids
Last but not least, here’s one from the incredibly popular and acclaimed National Geographic Weird but True series. Slimy, sticky and packed with over 300 fun facts and photos, it’ll be hard for your kid (or you) to put it down. From the world’s “ugliest” animals, to sports trivia and bizarre science experiments, it offers knowledgeable, mind-blowing tidbits on every page.
Fun, right? These just scratch the surface of all the creepy-crawly, yuck-inducing, often educational, and always fun titles available on Epic! Check out the full New York Times piece to learn more about why literacy experts and educators agree that “gross” books can be great for kids. Happy reading!