I love seeing spoofs of children’s literature, even the obscene ones. However, as I was reading to my daughter the other night I started to notice there’s enough creepy nonsense in a lot of these stories to begin with. Spoofs may not even be necessary.
So now I will ruin some childhood classics-
Corduroy is one of my favorites. I loved it as a kid and I love reading it still. However, this is the first book that I really was like, “huh, I can’t believe I didn’t notice that before.” In most of the pages all the other toys are staring straight ahead, with that deadpan flopped head look they are supposed to have.
When Lisa comes back to buy Corduroy however, things turn dark. All the toys glare at poor Corduroy and the bunny next to him stares hard with bright red eyes. RED EYES?
You man already know my stance on Goodnight Moon. It’s not great. It’s so easy to find flaws in this comically nonsensical children’s book. One can argue that Brown was a revolutionary, writing children’s books that represented life at the time of publishing (1947). Before that most children’s story were telling tales of far away places, fairy tales, and other things that were not super relatable to children.
I would still have to say…I just can’t stand it.
Why is that fireplace so big? Where are the parents stopping the children from toppling in and cooking themselves into a nice rabbit stew? Who is the decorator, because they need to be fired.
Green walls, red carpet, yellow and blue curtains, we want this child’s room to be avante garde…nailed it. Oh, but throw in a tiger skin rug, that will really pull everything together.
Love You Forever
I know some of you are going to be like “noooo, leave Love You Forever alone!” but come on.
Why is she crawling? Why is she crawling into her teenage son’s room? I have a son, I will not be doing that.
Then continue on to see her spooning her adult son like he’s still an infant. Shoulder to cry on? Sure. Rocking to sleep at 25? Probably not.
In a Dark Dark Room
At least this book is supposed to be creepy, but I had to add it. I saw in another post someone mentioned the green ribbon story. I second that fear. That story has stuck with me my whole life. When I started teaching I saw this book in our collection and was like “oh man, that freaking girl with the ribbon is in there, nope”.
And Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark? The stories aren’t even scary but those drawings are terrifying.
There really isn’t anything wrong with the Arthur books, I actually really like Arthur. Arthur the Aardvark, the story goes that Marc Brown’s son wanted a story about a weird animal and the first one that popped into Brown’s head was an aardvark. The first illustration is from the original Arthur books published in the 70’s. The middle is Arthur’s transformation in the 80’s. Then the last is him now. I can’t even tell what the last Arthur is anymore! Is he a dog? A giant hamster type thing? Maybe a bear?
Richard Scarry Butcher Shop
So the butcher character is in multiple Richard Scarry books but there’s a common theme for the character…it’s a pig. A pig, slicing up ham and sausage and pork chops and bacon and…yeah it’s a little gross.
Curious George Takes a Job
Curious George is a favorite at my house. I did not realize this one particular book actually has quite the following. Curious George Takes a Job is like all classic Curious George tales of mishap and mayhem…except this time George tries ether.
So…yeah kids try drugs and feel like you’re flying and rings and stars will dance around your heads then you’ll pass out with a giant smile on your face while your family looks down at you in shock. I guess it’s accurate at least.
What are some more classics that maybe need to be reread with adult eyes?
Another interesting historical tidbit that will hopefully inspire the desire to learn more. I received a lot of positive feedback about the Mad Hatter post so I thought I would hurry up and do another one.
I am an animal person. Being a librarian, I kind of have to be a cat person. It’s a prerequisite to get into a Library Science program. So, from my research and gatherings of cat history over the years I have learned that cats became domesticated sometime around 7000 B.C. in the Middle East. Wild cats are found all over the world except in polar regions. They aren’t natives to Australia but were introduced by Europeans and are now considered a huge pest. The Australian war on cats is a whole separate post topic to be honest.
Cats were worshiped in many cultures, and even mummified in ancient Egypt. In Africa, Asia, and even in most Germanic tribes, cats were kept as pets to help ward off vermin and for companionship.
They weren’t completely without contempt however; the saber tooth tiger, and other large cats, created a fear of “man eating cats”. Which, back then, may not have been false. The Celts had legends of shape-shifting cats. Cat Sidhe or Cait Sidhe, could transform into a witch. They could also steal the souls of the dead before they could reach salvation. So, not a pretty picture of them there.
After Pope Gregory IX came to power in 1227, he was considered well liked for the most part, at least in the beginning. He was fierce in his beliefs and started to do some questionable things to defend them. In the 1230s he called Vox in Rama, which expressed that black cats were part of satanic cults and represented Satan. Yes, thee Satan.
At the time, many “witches” and even a few “wizards” had been burnt at the stake for suspicion of witchcraft. Decades of cat killing began.
The Middle Ages, which is about 470-1450 A.D., was rampant with witchcraft accusations and the murder of hundreds of men, women, and children. Women were the most susceptible to the crime and along with them were their cats. More precisely, black cats.
So became of this decree? In 1346 trade ships anchored in Sicily. The ships had just returned from a voyage to Kaffa, which is present day Ethiopia, and were filled with items from Asia. Sailors aboard started to have these large, black, boils erupt on their skin. They were painful and covered their bodies, along with high fevers and (unbeknownst to them) internal bleeding. The pain only lasted a few days however, since most of them died quickly. These were the first European victims of the bubonic plague, or the Black Death.
The plague was spread from a bacteria that lived in the bloodstream of rats. Fleas would bite the rats then spread it to humans. Or, if a rat just bite a human they could bypass the flea altogether. Without as many cats roaming the streets and killing off wild vermin (rats for instance), the rodent population skyrocketed. It took about five days for an infected person to show any signs. Most infected people did not know they were sick. That means they were walking around, talking others, and infecting others unknowingly.
The bubonic plague was one of the worst epidemics this planet has ever had. It killed thirty percent of Europe’s population with its peak years being 1347-1351. This is estimated to be twenty-five to thirty-five million people. The crowded cities of Europe were great breeding grounds for the plague to spread. With no cats around, and no way for people to know at the time that’s how the disease spread, it seemed unstoppable.
The only logical explanation that could be thought of at the time was that the plague was punishment from God for all of mankind’s wrongdoings. First the Jews were persecuted for bringing the plague to kill off the Christians. Because it only makes sense that they would start a disease that also killed millions of Jews. They were expelled from parts of Europe and even killed from this accusation. Pope Clement VI thankfully used common sense and put an end to that. So the next logical explanation were the Gypsies, the Turks, and of course; witches.
With the fear of new outbreaks of the plague, witch hunts ensued for decades after. The most murderous years took place during 1500’s to the 1650’s. The plague did have several small outbreaks arise, which only furthered the ideals of paranoia among the general public and the substantial need to continue these witch hunts.
Finding a total number of people killed for suspicion of witchcraft in Europe is almost impossible. Many of the court records are long gone, many of the convictions were not documented anywhere at all. The Witch-Hunt in Early Modern Europe by Brian P. Levack estimates the total is under 90,000. Depending on where in Europe someone was accused may have meant the difference of life and death. In some areas only 10-15% of the accused were put to death, while in others, like Switzerland, 90% of the accused were put to death.
So how were witches spotted? Basically if you were a single woman over the average marrying age you were probably a witch. If your neighbor didn’t like you, you were probably a witch. If you were succeeding at life, you were probably a witch. If you owned a cat, petted a cat, fed a cat, or just looked too long at a cat; witch. People would claim that black cats would sneak into their homes at night and turned into a witch (someone in their community) to harm them. Many people did confess to this but most were under some sort of physical torture or knew it was coming.
Today, there is still a depleted population of black cats throughout Europe. More visible though, is our association with black cats and witches. Around Halloween you can see dozens of decorations of black cats in witches hats and witches petting a black cat.
Occasionally, I do research things other than crafts and educational activities. History is a subject, like I mentioned in the Teaching Teens Tolerance post, that is sugar coated and glazed over a lot in my opinion. I am going to try to post interesting historical tidbits now and then to better help bring history to life and in turn (hopefully) inspire you and your kids to want to learn more. This post is rated PG-13.
With the release of the new Alice in Wonderland movie (which I heard has mixed reviews, I personally haven’t seen it yet) I decided to put up a post about Mad Hatter Disease, which is still a term used today for mercury poisoning.
The felt hat industry started in the 1600’s namely in France, and migrated to England in the early 1800’s. Basically, it was found that a mercury complex made the process of turning fur into felt much easier. In turn, hatters would be breathing in these chemicals. During this time, workshops were not monitored or kept to any sort of standards so most were poorly ventilated.
Most people know by now that hat-makers were known to be mad because of the mercury in the felt. The story of how this came to be is kind of gross but in a nutshell, hatters were using urine to process fur into felt prior to mercury. One hatter, who was being treated for syphilis with mercury, seemed to have the best felt product. People started to see the connection and used mercury instead. The validity of this account isn’t one I would bank on but I have seen it mentioned more than once.
Once mercury starts to accrue in someone’s system the following things can (and did) happen:
“Hatter’s shakes” (trembling)
Tooth decay and loss
Irritability and depression
Anxiety and nervousness
Hallucinations and paranoia
Antisocial behavior or extreme aggression
Mercury poisoning is not a thing of the past. Mercury can still be found in things like:
Fish such as tuna, shark, and salmon (also why pregnant women are advised to not eat these in excess)
Air conditioner filters
Dental fillings called “silver fillings”
Obviously, the Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is probably the most famous of all the hatters who have lived. However, there are others who made an impression on our history who you may not be aware of.
For instance, Boston (Thomas) Corbett. Boston Corbett grew up in New York after his family emigrated there when he was seven in 1839. He became a hatter and soon after was married. Tragically his wife died in childbirth, as did their infant. He became severely depressed and moved to Boston. As the tale goes, he was drunk one night walking the streets and heard a preacher. That experience apparently turned him into a religious fanatic and he grew out his hair and beard to look more like Jesus. Even more strange (and painful) was the fact that he castrated himself in order to not have any feelings of lust (with a pair of scissors I might add).
Once the Civil War erupted he did end up joining the Union Army. His high morals seemed to get him into trouble during his training and first attempts to serve. When his commanding officers would swear, Corbett would step forward to protest, which as you can imagine did not go well.
What Corbett is famous for however, is not his eccentric behavior, but for being the man who killed John Wilkes Booth. As detective Everton Conger tried to smoke Booth out of a barn by setting it on fire, Corbett crept up to an opening in the barn door and shot him in the neck. Theophilus Carter, was an eccentric furniture maker and inventor, who always wore a top hat. He displayed his invention the Alarm Clock Bed at the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. The bed was supposed to tip the sleeper out of their at the set time. Carter is believed to be the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s Mad Hatter.
Some reading recommendations for those interested in Mad Hatters: