(Note: Some of this was originally posted as a comment to 10 Great Books for Traumatizing Children)
When I was growing up (late 70s early 80s,) I remember a series of cheap paperbacks, which, in retrospect, must have been created with Let’s get these kids reading with our gritty, tough stories in mind.
- The "True Ghost Story" featuring a ghost with a bleeding hole in his head (drawing helpfully included). We’re told in life he “sniffed glue”
- The "True Ghost Story" of basement haunted by the decomposing corpse ghost who'd been murdered by her husband, then cut up and buried under the floor bricks. Gruesome illustration included.
- The guy on the baseball team who brought cheer and joy, even when the team lost. Surprise! He was secretly sick. Then died.
- Little Jimmy is sick in the hospital. For Christmas he gets a dog and names it "Lucky." He seems to be getting better. Surprise! He dies a few weeks later.
- ”Cool Sed,” some pimp-esque lowlife who’s oh-so-cool. Then he gets shot. “Cool Sed is Dead.”
Real or fictional, characters in these books had it rough. Blood pooled, bones broke, diseases struck, animals attacked, ships sank, quicksand awaited...
...it wasn’t until years later that it occurred to me how violent and grim these books were, and how odd it was that they were aimed at kids. What were they thinking?