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9.17.2011

The terrors of our youth

I may have mentioned that my mother is a children’s author and over the years collected some interesting kids books. I only remember a few of the unusual ones after all these years because they scared the living crap out of me. When I’ve told other parents and librarians about “Little Suck-a-thumb” and “Hat House” at first they think I’m making it up and then they cringe and say “Really? These were stories for children?”

When I googled the books and saw these pictures for the first time in 45 years, it gave me a fresh rush of the willies I guess back in those days moralizing tales to get kids to behave were more common. Here are a couple of choice pieces for your enjoyment.


STRUWWELPETER
Merry Stories and Funny Pictures bu Heinrich Hoffman
1844 (English Translation 1848)

The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb

One day Mamma said "Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.
But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don't suck your thumb while I'm away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys who suck their thumbs;
And ere they dream what he's about,
He takes his great sharp scissors out,
And cuts their thumbs clean off—and then,
You know, they never grow again."

Mamma had scarcely turned her back,
The thumb was in, Alack! Alack!




The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissor-man.
Oh! children, see! the tailor's come
And caught out little Suck-a-Thumb.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out "Oh! Oh! Oh!"
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast,
That both his thumbs are off at last

Mamma comes home: there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands;
"Ah!" said Mamma, "I knew he'd come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb."






The Story of Augustus, who would not have any Soup

Augustus was a chubby lad;
Fat ruddy cheeks Augustus had:
And everybody saw with joy
The plump and hearty, healthy boy.
He ate and drank as he was told,
And never let his soup get cold.
But one day, one cold winter's day,
He screamed out "Take the soup away!
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup today."

Next day, now look, the picture shows
How lank and lean Augustus grows!
Yet, though he feels so weak and ill,
The naughty fellow cries out still
"Not any soup for me, I say:
O take the nasty soup away!
I won't have any soup today."

The third day comes: Oh what a sin!
To make himself so pale and thin.
Yet, when the soup is put on table,
He screams, as loud as he is able,
"Not any soup for me, I say:
O take the nasty soup away!
I WON'T have any soup today."

Look at him, now the fourth day's come!
He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum;
He's like a little bit of thread,
And, on the fifth day, he was—dead!





Hatt-Stugan (Hat-House) 1930
by Elsa Beskow



This cheery little tale is about a momma and three children who live in a hat. Momma goes to town one day and the kids burn the house to the ground.

It's in rhyming couplets to give the story a special upbeat feel. 






Anyone want to share these with their grandchildren