Once upon a time, back about 150 years ago, a German doctor couldn’t find a storybook with stern enough cautionary messages for his son.
So he wrote one himself.
Fast forward to a decade ago, when I was introduced to the book via the Tiger Lillies’ stage show based on it. (Thank you Album 88 Freeform.) Of all the things I regret not seeing, this may be the biggest.
I bought the book for my kids plus copies for anyone else I thought might appreciate it, and I’ve continued to be drawn to the artwork and the sentiment behind it. The “avatar” on this site is Harriet, aka Pauline — she’s a bit of a pyro. Besides nasty Peter who won’t comb his hair or cut his nails, there’s a spacey “head-in-air” little boy who wanders into the river, a picky eater who wastes away until he’s dead, a rabbit who steals a hunter’s gun and shoots him with it, and some bullies who pick on a “black-a-moor” and are rewarded with being dyed black themselves by a giant scholar of sorts (gotta love, really, how progressive this one must’ve been for its time).
Freakiest of all is the little boy whose mother warns him . . . but he sucks his thumb anyway and a guy runs in with giant scissors and — snip snap snip! — cuts off his thumbs. Warning: nightmarish graphic violence!
If you’re the read-aloud type, click here to have it read to you. Here’s a ‘tween the wars version, with more 20th-century misbehaviors, and a much less frightening modern-day one,which does absolutely nothing for me.
Next time you need a baby gift, don’t say you can’t think of anything. Or just go ahead and buy a copy for yourself.