by Heinrich Hoffmann
This is a very nice book. This is a children’s book. This is not a very nice children’s book.
The original Struwwelpeter (“Slovenly Peter”) appeared in Germany in 1845. The story of the book and its author is more conventional than you’d think, given this collection of tales about bad children and their eventual downfall. One look at its contents, and you realize that people like Edward Gorey and Roald Dahl (in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ) were extremely talented at what they did, but not necessarily doing anything new.
This reissue from Feral House adds perspective and dimension to the original release, by not only reprinting the stories as they first appeared, but also providing a historical overview of the book (by Jack Zipes) and versions with artwork way more congruent with the gruesome text, courtesy of Sarita Vendetta. Like an accident on the side of the road, looking at these images is equal parts fascination and repulsion. The “Color Painting of the Scissor Man,” a “bonus” I’d presume, is especially disturbing, with its caged toddler and Silence of the Lambs/Nighbreed overtones.
To sum it up, I may be the kind of out-there parent that would willingly read the tales in Struwwelpeter to my kids, but I’d be hesitant about having to explain some of the updated artwork, which is truly the stuff of childhood nightmares. This one’s for the big kids…
Feral House, 2352 Lincoln Blvd. #359, Venice, CA 90291; http://www.feralhouse.com