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Books about naughty kids

Literary bad influences make for good reading.

Written by
Eileen Clarke

It's time for the annual assessment of who's been naughty and who's been nice. And regarding the latter, we ask, Who cares? The naughties are lots more fun, at least on the page. For years, kids have delighted in the dastardly deeds of characters like Eloise and Dennis the Menace, so we thought we'd add some fresh faces—and we do mean fresh—to the mix. In case you're wondering: Some of the little scamps get their comeuppance, some don't—but rather than beating readers over the head with a message, isn't it better to let them figure out right from wrong for themselves?


Spawns from The Horrid Henry series by Francesca Simon; illustrated by Tony Ross (Sourcebooks, $5; ages 7 to 10)
Naughty behavior The British bad-boy ruins Miss Impatience Tutu's recital when he knocks over all the dancing vegetables and raindrops, and makes an entire campground's tents collapse when he uses the wooden pegs to feed the campfire.
Frequent victim His younger brother, the aptly named Perfect Peter, whom Henry never wastes an opportunity to push, pinch, shove or throw peas at
Trash talking To the scariest babysitter on the block: "If I see you or hear you or even smell you, you'll be sorry you were born."
Learns lesson? No way. He's as horrid in the eighth (and counting) sequel as he was when he debuted.


Spawns from The No, David! series by David Shannon (Scholastic, $17; ages 2 to 5)
Naughty behavior Typical toddler stuff: tracking mud on a cream carpet, making a puppet out of dinner, picking his nose, streaking alfresco
Frequent victims Inanimate objects, mostly—a living-room vase, a window
Trash talking "But Dad says it!" reasons David, as he sits in the bathroom with a bar of soap in his mouth.
Learns lesson? Very well. Told to stay after school to clean up the desk he'd scribbled on, David makes the whole room sparkle.


Spawns from The Ivy + Bean series by Annie Barrows; illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Chronicle, $15; ages 6 to 10)
Naughty behavior Bean swipes older sister Nancy's candy stash and, with neighbor and fellow seven-year-old Ivy, pitches worms at big sis in order to put her under a dancing-forever spell. Bean also repeatedly disrupts fussy Mrs. Trantz's rose garden.
Frequent victim Eleven-year-old Nancy, who forks over money she'd earned babysitting Bean after the wily younger sister comes up with a blackmail plan
Trash talking "I can't help it. There's a magnetic force pulling my tongue out of my mouth."
Learns lesson? Oh, yes. Bean realizes that bad behavior can be contagious when neighborhood kids give her a good dousing with her own water-hose.

King Ethelbert

Spawns from The Tiny Tyrant series by Lewis Trondheim and Fabrice Parme (First Second, $10; ages 9 to 12)
Naughty behavior The petulant, arrogant six-year-old in this graphic-novel series (think Family Guy's Stewie) ships all the children in his domain, Portocristo, off to sea and has them replaced with robot replicas of himself. He also passes new laws at whim, declaring himself the winner of all game shows and decreeing that only desserts will be served on Christmas.
Frequent victim His archenemy/cousin Sigismund, who competes with Ethelbert for princesses and inheritances
Trash talking To Santa Claus: "Move your whale blubber and do as you're told!"
Learns lesson? Grudgingly. All the robot-children are expelled from school and demand such things as primrose-flavored ice cream, a death match between a giraffe and a penguin, and, oh, their rightful place on the throne. "I think my entire plan may have been a bad idea," admits the king.


Spawns from The Constance and Tiny series by Pierre Le Gall; illustrated by ric Hliot (Sterling, $10; ages 7 and up)
Naughty behavior Surly, belligerent and downright violent (tacks on the principal's seat? Really, Constance), she's also the ultimate contrarian: Constance is so rotten that she manages to get sent home from reform school—by convincingly pretending to be a goody two-shoes.
Frequent victims Her long-suffering parents, who suffocate her (with hugs), feed her disgusting food (like french fries) and take issue with her "sweet and gentle" cat, Tiny (who's the size and temperament of a charging rhino)
Trash talking "They are terrible people—unfair and mean!" says Constance of her folks, as they offer her a sweetly wrapped gift.
Learns lesson? Never—she's as uncompromising as the book's stark illustrations, rendered in shades of black and red.


Spawns from The Nicholas series by Ren Goscinny; illustrated by Jean-Jacques Semp (Phaidon, $20; ages 7 and up)
Naughty behavior The little French schoolboy ruins three sets of pajamas and sheets while home sick, thanks to ill-fated interactions with chocolates, cream cake and his dad's fountain pen. On a playdate, he makes paper boats from the pages of his friend's math book, tosses a globe into a mirror and explodes a beaker over a Bunsen burner.
Frequent victim His parents and teachers, who are constantly breaking up fights and digging him out of trouble
Trash talking On his mom's choice for his friend: "Cuthbert is top of the class and teacher's pet and a rotten sport but we can't whack him much because of his glasses."
Learns lesson? Painfully—he gets sick to his stomach from smoking a cigar with his friend Alec.

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