The Bad Seed by William March
This is one of favorite classic movies, so I was very curious to read the novel and see how it compared. Originally published in 1954, this novel became a bestseller, a successful play, and a popular movie.
Devious little devil disguised as an angel, Rhoda Penmark, age eight, is the epitome of “Little Miss Perfect” in her red and white Swiss dotted dress and pigtails on the day of the annual school picnic when all the other children are wearing playsuits and coveralls, but inside she is burning with fury, all because Claude Daigle, a thin, timid boy, has won the gold penmanship medal.
When Claude dies at the picnic, the tragic victim of what was apparently an accidental drowning, despite some curious bruises on his head and hands, and the mysterious absence of the medal he so proudly wore pinned to his shirt, it soon comes to light that Rhoda had been hounding the poor boy all day, following him around trying to badger him into letting her hold the medal.
This is not the first time death has come so close to Rhoda. Her puppy fell out of a window shortly after Rhoda made the unpleasant discovery that it was her responsibility to take care of it. And an old lady who had promised to leave Rhoda the opal pendant she admired so much when she died fell down a flight of stairs and broke her neck.
When Christine Penmark, Rhoda’s mother, discovered the penmanship medal hidden in Rhoda’s room, she is forced to confront the terrifying and uncomfortable truth about her daughter and her own past.
I really enjoyed reading this book, and the movie adheres very closely to it, although the ending was changed for the film, so if you've seen it and enjoyed it you might want to give the book a try too.