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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston alum finds success with controversial children’s book series

Bianca Oppedisano
A proud UMass Boston alum reads his rather controversial collection of books. Illustration by Bianca Oppedisano / Mass Media Staff.

In yet another case of a UMass Boston alum finding tremendous success post-graduation, former student Jeff Heffley has hit it big with his massively popular—and controversial—children’s book series, “Little S—s.” 

The series, which includes titles such as “Smart Ass” and “Hare’s Looking At You, Kid,” attempts to teach kids valuable lessons about behaving in a civilized way, as one does in a society. Where the series runs into problems is in how it chooses to get those lessons across. 

For example, in the book, “No, I Insist,” an anthropomorphic hippopotamus invites himself to the funeral of a complete stranger’s mother, where he then proceeds to push the corpse from the casket and take its place, all while saying, “No, I insist,” whenever anyone protests. Events escalate until the hippo is buried alive in the casket, although, it’s completely unclear whether it was by choice, or as some kind of strange punishment for his actions. 

Each book follows a similar format, focusing on a morally reprehensible character and providing little in the way of a redemption for that character, if any. This has led parents to fear their kids could walk away exhibiting the toxic traits of the book’s characters instead of learning from them. One worried mother, Lily Seagulls, blames a certain story in particular for turning her daughter into a little, dare I say, s—. 

“After reading ‘Schmidt the Nit-Spit’ I can’t take my daughter out in public, on account of her hawking up fat loogies every two seconds!”

In the book being referenced by Seagulls, the main protagonist, an alpaca named Schmidt, is displayed going about his day, spitting constantly in public places with no regard for those around him. The book has also been accused of containing certain uncomfortable illustrations, such as a drawing of Schmidt as a bipedal alpaca with an anatomically correct human penis and ballsack.  

This kind of confusing and inappropriate blunder has led many to question how Heffley got a publishing deal in the first place, but it helps when your father is the owner of one of America’s leading publishers of children’s literature, Tinkle Dinkle Press. But despite being a nepo-baby, Heffley is insistent that it was his hard work, determination and ingenuity that made him who he is today.

“Do you know the kid’s menu at restaurants?” explained Heffley. “It’s a bunch of cheap garbage. I’m talking Lunchables quality! Here I am eating a $30 gourmet potato and these little s—s are eating a couple of rubber weenies in Kraft! And they f—ing love it! Kids don’t know quality until you teach it to them, so as long as you don’t show them what’s good, they won’t know what’s bad!” 

Heffley used this philosophy to jump-start his career in children’s entertainment; however, before getting into books, his first interest was television. Sadly for him, though, this first venture was a complete and total failure, mainly because his planned show, “Laundry Land,” posed a high danger to its target demographic of toddlers. For those curious, here’s the official synopsis of the series. 

“When children see the magical Laundry Lark flap its way into their home, they chase it excitedly into the basement and into the washing machine, where they wolf down a couple of magical transportation pods, close the door and wash themselves away to a realm of pure imagination: Laundry Land.” 

And if a show seemingly enticing children to climb into washing machines and eat Tide Pods already seems like a terrible idea, it may interest you to know that Heffley pitched the concept to studios with a live-action pilot episode filmed with his actual children and an actual washing machine. 

Now that Heffley has found success with one of his ideas, he sees no reason to stop. As of now, he’s published 53 “Little S—s” books, and plans on putting one out every month for the rest of time. Of course, this has led to even more backlash, as now the books are not just inappropriate, they’re of bad quality, and for whatever reason, parents seem to be more upset about that. 

Regardless of the backlash, Heffley considers himself a lucky guy, imparting one final piece of wisdom before returning to his office to finish his latest book. 

“All s—s start out as little s—s. Then they snowball and get bigger and bigger until, next thing you know, you got yourself a big s—. That’s the message of ‘Little S—s.” Stop it while you can. Don’t be me, kids. Don’t be me.” 

About the Contributors
Joe DiPersio, Humor Editor
Bianca Oppedisano, Illustrator