Art & Literature

Scare Your Children

Children’s literature can often be too sappy for me.  I can only stand so many bland feel good stories before craving murder. Fictional murder of course.  My little burrito has a selection of stories which I enjoy reading. I have a couple which are pretty average and others that keep up both entertained.  My theory is that children will only be afraid of things we tell them are scary.  If the spider and bat finger puppet books I read to him now seem normal then hopefully he won’t find these things frightening in the future.  That’s my hope anyway.

Since I temporarily live in France I can’t build the library I want for my little guy. That doesn’t stop me from window shopping for all the wonderfully spooky books I want for him in the near future.

Original Fairy Tales

Everyone is familiar with some of the great writers of original fairy tales like Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. Not everyone has actually read them.  Forget the happy endings the Disney people have presented, the originals are much better.  Generally speaking the notion of happily ever after doesn’t exist.  The original versions are all cautionary tales intended to keep children from running off without their parents, talking to strangers or trusting people they shouldn’t.  Beyond just being cautionary these tales are down right terrifying. Cinderella (Brothers Grimm) for example did not end with the prince simply not being able to fit the glass slipper onto the step-sister’s feet.  Instead the step-sisters were able to trick the prince into taking them until he noticed the pools of blood in his carriage.  Why blood? Because the girls had cut off pieces of their feet to be able to fit in the glass slipper.  Honestly, I’m not sure if I would want to spend my happily ever after with a guy who is too dumb to notice mutilated and bloody feet until AFTER getting into the carriage….TWICE!


This tale of a vampire bunny who sucks the juice out of vegetables was one of my favorites as an early reader.  I guess I’ve always loved scary stories…and bunnies. Bunnicula grew from one book into a whole series between 1982 and 2006. There were a couple of spin offs series also called Tales from the House of Bunnicula and Bunnicula and Friends: Ready to Read. Just this year the stories were turned into an animated series.  I haven’t watch it yet, but it’s now at the top of my must watch list.

Where the Wild Things Are

An award winning classic featuring a wolf costume clad wild child participating in a rumpus with wild things.  Which sounds like for more fun that a child who deserved to be sent to bed without supper should be having. Despite some critics believing the book is too scary for children, the story of Max and his wild friends is one that has been beloved for more than 50 years.  It’s also one of the more beautifully works for children available.

The author, Maurice Sendak, is mostly known for writing and illustrating Where the Wild Things Are. However, he is also responsible for an even more controversial children’s story entitled In the Night Kitchen. One might not expect a dreamy tale of a little boy floating through a bakers kitchen to end up on the American Library Association’s challenged and banned book lists.  Until you find out that the little boy spends the entire story completely nude.  Featuring full frontal pre-teens is likely to draw some attention from more than a few parents.  If you think that type of illustration is appropriate for your child the book is supposed to be quite well written and the both of you may enjoy it….I haven’t decided how I feel about it yet.

The Worst Witch

The Worst Witch is a series of books about a clumsy young girl to which I think most of us can relate.  This should come as no surprise since the author, Jill Murphy, started the first book at the age of 15 and based the witch school and its students on her own school and peers.  There are a total of 7 stories now as well as a couple of TV series and spin offs. As a child or teenager it can often be comforting to read stories about people who are just as awkward and clumsy as you are….or get lost in the fantasy of having magical spells you can use on your enemies.

BabyLit® Books & First Steps

BabyLit® publishes a wide variety of baby book (board and hardcover) based on classic literature.  Some titles include; Frankenstein: A BabyLit® Anatomy Primer, Dracula: A BabyLit® Counting Primer, Alice in Wonderland: A BabyLit® Colors Primer (which my son loves), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A BabyLit® Fairies PrimerThere are over a dozen more to chose from and more on the way. BabyLit® also publishes a series about a little raven named Edgar based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe.  I own the hardcover version of Edgar and the Tattle-tale Heart, it’s really cute. I highly recommend anything they publish.



Say What?

Have you ever stopped to wonder where certain phrases started?  Some of the most common phrases have pretty dark origins.

Caught red handed

red handed

This originates from an old law regarding butchering. The law stated it was illegal to butcher an animal that was not yours. The only way to prove the crime was to catch the butcher with blood on his hands.

Crocodile tears

Ancient fables told of crocodiles who would cry like a person to lure people in to be eaten. Then after eating them would shed tears of grief for their victim.

Mad as a hatter

Mercury was once used in manufacturing felt hats. Unfortunately for the hatter working with the felt, mercury poisoning leads to madness.

Cat got your tongue

There are a couple of theories about where this saying originated. One is that ancient kings used to cut out the tongues of those who spoke against them and feed it to their cats.  Some say it was the tongue of blasphemers that received this punishment. Another theory is that the phrase started with witch hunting.  Some people believed that a witches feline familiar could take a persons tongue to keep the witches secret safe.

Over a barrel

I used to think this had something to do with laying on ones stomach over the side of a large wine casket like barrel.  The person would be in a very difficult and uncomfortable position. I was wrong.  In reality the phrase came from the Spanish Inquisition when people were tortured by being hung over a barrel of boiling oil.  If the demands of the inquisitor were not met the victim was dropped into the oil.

Speak of the devil

First recorded use in 1666 it comes from a superstition that if one spoke about the devil he would appear at your side. Now it just referee to anyone you mention showing up while you are talking about them.  Both cases could be bad luck depending on how much was heard the person who just showed up.

Throw the baby out with the bath water

In the early 1500’s people only bathed once a year.  As gross as that is, it only gets worse. The whole family would share the same bath water in a specific order. The father would bathe first, followed by the mother and then the children in descending order by age. The very last, when the bath water was dark with filth, would be the baby.  The filth would be so dark that the baby could have been lost and thrown out with the water.  However I can’t imagine anyone actually losing track of their baby for even a second, especially in the bath.

Pleased as punch

A 17th century puppet show called Punch and Judy featured a psychopathic killer puppet named Punch.  Punch was always very pleased after killing people. Thus when someone is very happy it is said they are pleased as Punch….did I mention this was a puppet show for children?  Yikes.