Irony in Children’s Literature
Irony is one of those things that younger children don’t really understand. However, their books are filled with irony that makes only the adults laugh and will cause the children to look back on with wonder at how intelligent those authors really were. Read through these examples and see how many you caught:
Example #1: The Wizard of Oz (By L. Frank Baum )
Dorothy spends the entirety of the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the book), and The Wizard of Oz (the movie), wishing and hoping that she could go home to Kansas. She goes through hurdles, makes friends, and even battles a wicked witch. In the end, it turned out to have all been a dream, and she had never left home all along.
Example #2: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (By J. K. Rowling)
In the Harry Potter series, Professor Snape despises Harry, and thinks that he wouldn’t be anyone or anything special if it weren’t for his fame and his story. However, Snape is the one who jumpstarted Harry’s fame by telling Voldemort about the prophecy that lead to his downfall.
Example #3: Messy Room (By Shel Silverstein)
In one of the classic poems that everyone has read at some time in elementary school, the speaker of the poem criticizes the little boy’s room, saying:
“His vest has been left in the hall.
A lizard named Ed is asleep in his bed,
And his smelly old sock has been stuck to the wall.”
In the end, it is the speaker’s own room he talks about.
Example #4: The Land of Stories (By Chris Colfer)
In this hugely popular book series, Alex and Connor spend their days dreaming about fairytale worlds that they believe don’t exist. They retell the stories that their late father once told them. Soon, however, they find out that their grandmother is actually Mother Goose, and they are part of those worlds they dreamt of.
Example #5: The True Story of the Three Little Pigs (By Lane Smith)
This twist on the classic fable is an ironic one that shines a sympathetic light on the Big Bad Wolf. Here, the reader learns that the Big Bad Wolf just has a cold, and he is only looking to bake a cake, but the Three Little Pigs definitely do not know that.
Example #6: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (By Laura Numeroff)
While the words of this story aren’t overtly ironic, the age at which we read the story is. The story was developed after the author’s son asked for drinks, toys, and “another story” before going to bed. The cycle that the mouse goes through in the book is built to be a bit of irony for the poor mom who has to go through all of that.
Example #7: The Borrowers (By Mary Norton)
This story is ironic from the start of the book, because these small creatures that live in the walls aren’t borrowing from the full grown humans who live in the house – they are stealing from them.
Example #8: Where the Wild Things Are (By Maurice Sendak)
In this book, Max is, to be honest, a completely terrible little boy. He runs around and yells at his mother, threatening to cannibalize her. His mother then, in a fit of irony that only a few caught in grade school, puts him to bed without any dinner.
Example #9: Creepy Carrots (By Aaron Reynolds)
In this more recently popular children’s book, Jasper is a young rabbit who absolutely loves carrots. However, one day the carrots turn on him, and start stalking him! If there is something more overtly ironic than carrots scaring a rabbit, it will be hard to find.
Example #10: Tuck Everlasting (By Natalie Babbitt)
In this tear-worthy book that almost every little girl read around fourth grade, the Man in the Yellow Suit calls the Tucks criminals. Later on in the novel it is revealed that he is the one who is a criminal.
Example #11: The Princess Bride (By William Goldman)
In this novel (and the movie), Wesley kidnaps Buttercup, beats Fezzick and Inigo, and faces the Sicilian with poison. When the two drink from the poisoned cups, only the Sicilian dies. While everyone thinks that Wesley has outsmarted him, it turns out that was just because Wesley has a tolerance to iocane powder.