Cautionary Tales

My son and daughter in law have asked for some children’s books for their baby shower.  I plan to give them many of the books we have at home.  They have been used for both son and daughter, and are a little worn, but they are still wonderful.  I will not, however,  give them any of the stories I ran across the other day-German cautionary tales by Heinrich Hoffman. This is how Wikipedia describes them:

Der Struwwelpeter (“shock-headed Peter”) is an 1845 German children’s book by Heinrich Hoffmann. It comprises ten illustrated and rhymed stories, mostly about children. Each has a clear moral that demonstrates the disastrous consequences of misbehavior in an exaggerated way.[1]The title of the first story provides the title of the whole book. Der Struwwelpeter is one of the earliest books for children that combines visual and verbal narratives in a book format, and is considered a precursor to comic books.[2]

  1. Struwwelpeter describes a boy who does not groom himself properly and is consequently unpopular.
  2. In Die Geschichte vom bösen Friederich (“the story of wicked Frederick”), a violent boy terrorizes animals and people. Eventually he is bitten by a dog, who goes on to eat the boy’s sausage while he is bedridden.
  3. In Die gar traurige Geschichte mit dem Feuerzeug (“the very sad story of the matches”), a girl plays with matches and burns to death.
  4. In Die Geschichte von den schwarzen Buben (“the story of the black boys”), Nikolas (or “Agrippa” in some translations)[6] catches three boys teasing a dark-skinned boy. To teach them a lesson, he dips them in black ink.
  5. Die Geschichte von dem wilden Jäger (“the story of the wild huntsman”) is the only story not primarily focused on children. In it, a hare steals a hunter’s musket and eyeglasses and begins to hunt the hunter. In the ensuing chaos, the hare’s child is burned by hot coffee and the hunter falls into a well.
  6. In Die Geschichte vom Daumenlutscher (“the story of the thumb-sucker”), a mother warns her son not to suck his thumbs. However, when she goes out of the house he resumes his thumb sucking, until a roving tailor appears and cuts off his thumbs with giant scissors.
  7. Die Geschichte vom Suppen-Kaspar (“the story of Soup-Kaspar”) begins as Kaspar (or “Augustus” in some translations), a healthy, strong boy, proclaims that he will no longer eat his soup. Over the next five days he wastes away and dies.
  8. In Die Geschichte vom Zappel-Philipp (“the story of fidgety Philip”), a boy who won’t sit still at dinner accidentally knocks all of the food onto the floor, to his parents’ great displeasure.
  9. Die Geschichte von Hans Guck-in-die-Luft (“the story of Johnny Look-at-Air”) concerns a boy who habitually fails to watch where he’s walking. One day he walks into a river; he is soon rescued, but his writing-book drifts away.
  10. In Die Geschichte vom fliegenden Robert (“the story of flying Robert”), a boy goes outside during a storm. The wind catches his umbrella and lifts him high into the air. The story ends with the boy sailing into the distance.

Not the most comforting books to get little ones to sleep.

What were your favorite books from your childhood? What are your favorite children’s books now?

73 thoughts on “Cautionary Tales”

  1. Rise and Read to the Kids Baboons,

    As a child I had a very difficult time learning to read. At about the same time I was learning to read, my dad was diagnosed with MS causing family stress (we moved, parents’ roles changed). Mom also was pregnant with her third child who they knew would be an RH baby before sophisticated treatment was available. To top it all off, my kindergarten teacher was abusive to all students, which was demoralizing and stress-producing.

    After we moved, Mom started reading to us every night. She selected her favorite book, Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, then proceeded through the books of that series: Little House on the Prairie, On the Shores of Plum Creek, The Long Winter. I still love those books.

    I also had a “Children’s Book of Bedtime Bible Stories” someone gave me after I finally learned to read, as well as “Children’s Book of Bedtime Stories” which I rebelliously read anytime of the day until the book disintegrated.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Two books that I loved as a kid were one called “Whobody There?” (a key plot point: mail from “anybodys” – people you don’t know or companies – and “whobodys” – friends and loved ones), and one called “The Monster’s Nose Was Cold” (by a local author – can’t remember her name…kid adopts a monster because he was outside in the cold and tucks him under his crib mattress…). I also enjoyed a Moomintroll book we had, though could not figure out why I couldn’t read it like Mom (until I got old enough to finally figure out it was in Norwegian and she had translated on the fly). And, of course, Pooh. Daughter was a fan of the Sandra Boynton board books, most especially, “But Not the Hippopotamus” and “The Belly Button Book,” so those are often baby gifts now when I have occasion to give a baby gift. Our “Hippopotamus” book has lovely things like smears of smashed green beans and drabs of applesauce…I’m not giving that book up ever. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You are the second person who has mentioned the Moomintrolls to me in less than a week. The originals were in Finnish. Our son loved the Moomins and the Snork maidens

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yikes! And we thought the Brothers Grimm were a little dark… How did you find them, Renee?

    We had mostly the little golden type books at home, and we had a kind of hokey Sing a Song of Manners:
    Later on we played library, and these ended up with those little sleeves pasted in them, and library cards.

    I also remember several treasures from the library – Curious George, Make Way for Ducklings, Flicka Ricka & Dicka

    Then when teaching kindergarten, I found a whole world of picture books – favorites are Clare Newberry’s Marshmallow, and a collection of nonsense verse: A Great Big Ugly Man Came Up and Tied his Horse to Me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My favorite picture book as a child was Home for a Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Garth Williams.

    Favorite picture books nowadays: Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (makes me soooo sleepy to read it); the Alfie books by Shirley Hughes, and anything by Robert McCloskey. Some 4-year-old boys I know like the Richard Scarry books (What do People Do All Day, etc.) and National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs, a encyclopedia-type book of more dinosaurs than you knew existed. When Twin 1 was sick a few weeks ago, we read through the entire thing in two sittings and he soaked it all up.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. She really had a way with rhythms and words. A lot of her books are very calming and peaceful. To this day, when I read Home for a Bunny, or one of her other books, to the grandkids, I still like it. You would think I would be tired of it by now, but I’m not.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. I mostly read by myself in a big family of 7 kids. My mom told me I liked to read the dictionary and take it to bed. When I would visit a friend’s house, I always loved her Dr. Suess hardcover books and was jealous that we didn’t have really nice books like that.

    Although a book I do remember was a very old hardcover book of Norse or Greek myths with a few illustrations. Just enough to fire the imagination about Andromeda, Perseus, Medea, etc.

    The book I loved and bought for my kids was a beautiful colored fish book, called “Rainbow Fish”. Lots of brightly colored fish, bits of foil, sparklies and glitter to accentuate the colorful fish. And I’m sure there was a nice story with a moral, too. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Oh my, these sound like a darker version of mrs. Piggle-wiggle. I’m going to work hard to not write a novel today okay? I loved reading from a very early age. We didn’t have much money for books so the few kid books that we owned were memorized after a while.
    People thought I was some sort of prodigy because I would sit with my book and read, turning the pages at the appropriate time. I wasn’t actually reading, I just knew the books by heart.

    My mother used to get those Little Golden Books from the grocery store, back in the day when you could get a dish or Green Stamps when you shopped. That’s how I ended up with The Pokey Puppy, The Velveteen Rabbit, Peter Rabbit and several more I loved all these books (probably why I’m still a little worked up over the upcoming Peter Rabbit movie) and had them all memorized. As I got older and got my first library card, my reading expanded a lot. I still remember the day I started (and finished) Wrinkle in Time (another upcoming movie I’m worked up about) and I loved all the Little House books.

    In high school I remember weeping until I thought my heart would break when I read A Separate Peace. And it was in college that I discovered Tolkien and began my lifelong love affair with fantasy books and dragons.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Lots of Anne McCaffrey. I would say my favorite is Dragonflight, the very first of the Dragons of Pern series, although I really like all of them. Then all the dragon books by Naomi Novik- they feed my dragon love and my fascination with alternative histories. Rachel Hart wrote a couple of good ones where the dragons can assume human form and there are hybrids as well. Barbara Hambly wrote three excellent ones beginning with Dragons bane before she got too dark and depressing. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman have written boatloads together, I’ve read quite a few of those. And I did love the dragons in Earthsea although technically the dragons were the bad guys.


        1. Hartman. Rachel Hartman. And I know some people are saying hey what about the Christopher Paolini books, Eragon. I just couldn’t get through the first one so never went any further. When he introduced at least 6 characters and then had them all killed off in the first hundred pages, that just did me in.


      1. YA and I went to Walnut Grove many years back for the annual Wilder Days. Lot of fun but made me glad I didn’t have to live back then.


        1. One of the most enduring insights I have from reading that wonderful biography of L I Wilder and her daughter is that the Little House books represent some serious misrepresentations of what actually happened. Those books are romanticized, sanitized versions of reality. That happens a lot, of course, but fans of this book series usually want to believe the reality was close to what is in the books.

          You don’t want to live “back then” vs. LI Wilder didn’t like living back then. which is one of the reasons her family moved so often.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. I read the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books as a kid, too. I found one a couple of years ago in a little free library and thought it would be fun to re-read, so I brought it home. Reading it as an adult, I kinda wondered what I had seen in those books as a child. They seem a little preachy now.


  7. The aim of Hoffman’s stories seems to be to teach manners and common sense by scaring children to death. It is interesting to consider that he may have been targeting what we would now view as ADHD, sensory problem related to food aversion, and childhoid anxiety.

    We loved the Ahlberg books like Each Peach Pear Plum, and others like Goodnight, Gorilla and the Carl books, about a clever Rottweiler.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I think I have written this before here:

    ala 1959

    What do Daddies do all day?
    Daddies work while children play.

    Daddies work on big high wires.
    Daddies work to put out fires.

    Some Daddies work in stores.
    Other Daddies work outdoors.

    And on and on it went. My dad used to hide that book he got so tired of reading it to me.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Very poor memory of my pre-school reading. I KNOW my father never read to me. Doubt Mother did. Little Golden Books floated around. The Little Big Books. We exchanged/borrowed from other families. The Snick, snack, Snurr (Have I got that right? Too Much pain to look up.) Some other Scandinavian book/s I think. I have told before that my sister came home from school and we held pretend school so that I had mastered/read 1-3 curriculum. I guess more than anything else I was reading my sisters lessons and text books. Somewhere before grade 2 I read Bobsey Twins books and some other series by him. I was given for my sixth birthday/Christmas (They were the same thing in my childhood.) a Red Ryder book that I wore out. By first grade (I was age 6.7 by that time) I was reading chapter books, some of which my sister brought home from school. What they were I forget. I have no other memories of children’s books. In first grade I started reading the classic novels: Mart Twain, R.L. Stevenson, Anne of Green Gables, what else?
    In first grade the principal gave us the special treat of reading books to us. I could not figure out at first why we were not reading them ourselves. The first book she read was Puss in Boots. I could not figure out this thing about animals as humans. Today I love the modern bestiaries. I used to read some with Mr. Tuxedo, such as the owl series. In first grade I was only allowed to pick out first grade books from the school library, maybe in retaliation for the fact that I was able to read, which caused a furor between my mother and the teacher and my mother’s insistence that I was going to remain left-handed.
    In grades 2-3 there was not school library. The room had to be used as a classroom. Indeed my second classroom had been a storage room. (Post war baby boom.) I started going to the public library but was not allowed to go upstairs where were the books of the sort I was reading. When I was allowed upstairs in grade 7, I was only allowed to check out books from the small junior high section. My brother and sister checked out books for me through all that nonsense.

    Going into MRIs today in very high pain. I was the last time. The wonderful young women who work there and know me well by now, had to help me up and down from the low sliding bed. Hope the Valium gets me through especially the neck MRI.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. curious george , make way for ducklings , mike mulligans steam shovel, pong the chinese duck, all great captain kangaroo books.

      we had spotty and pong books that were poorly written catholic moal fo the story books
      dr suess gotta love dr suess and feeble attempts at wind in the willows abnd such but my mom couldnt stay focused enough to turne it into the regular deal it needed to be (maybe i had a little to do with that) my dad traveled construction work doing raod building and i am thinking back to what a terror i was. stories at bed , yeah right.
      she would read the brothers grimm and point out how scary htye were. but normally nothing. dreams of playing and runnign and climbing trees populated my munchkin head

      Liked by 3 people

    2. sorry to hear about the pain clyde. thanks for hanging in there with us
      hope they fix your screwed up nerve endings.
      i remember being kept in age appropriate reading stuff on library day at catholic shcool. although they had such a limited library it didnt matter. then the public library and that library card with the silver plate in the corner to slide when you checked out the books and the ok to go anywhere in the library to get stuff.
      i am still amazed when i wander through the library all the different areas of interest i run into. almost every area is of interest and hadnt occurred to me.
      my favorite kids books for my kids were polar express. the movie kind of spoiled it for me . the book was better. ( i get weepy at the end)
      ameiliia bedilea is maybe my favorite. berenstine bears was good for a story with a little charachter development and a punch line in the 5 minute time frame required for kids to go to sleep.
      i also tended to make up the stories. the kids would have to remind me how they went because there was no agenda when the story started and they took different turns as the charchters developed. then we would shelve a charachter and start a new one with different adventures adn attitudes and create a new firend to think about at night. i would let the kids help develop the story lne.

      Liked by 3 people

        1. They weren’t around when I was a kid, VS, but were when my children were young.

          tim – perhaps it is you that is wrong. 🙂


    3. Swallows and Amazon books, unknown in America. About grade 6 level but I read them earlier and later and still now and then as an adult.


    4. It’s Snipp Snapp Snurr (very similar to what you had and makes the same amount of sense). By the same author as Flicka Ricka Dicka. I think it was a Swedish author? Both were about triplets – SSS were boys and FRD were girls.


  10. Oh, my! So many wonderful books. And the right one depends on the age of the child. Here are some that come to mind:
    Pat the Bunny, illustrated by Dorothy Kunhardt
    Goodnight Moon, illustrated by Margaret Wise Brown
    The Visit, illustrated by Eloise Wilkin
    Assorted books by Sandra Boynton
    Assorted books by William Steig
    What Do People Do All Day, illustrated by Richard Scarry
    Isle of the Skog, illustrated by Steven Kellogg
    The Church Mouse books, illustrated by Graham Oakley

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Sandra made the TH library such a wonderful welcoming safe haven for kids of all ages. Some kids she took through preschool, reading programs, high school and college studying. Oh, how she know books and how to match them to kids!

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Oh, I’ve got to share something with you guys. I won a pair of tickets from MPR yesterday morning to the Rose Ensemble concert at St. John’s on March 16. I was riding the bus as usual listening to MPR when John Berge announced the ticket giveaway and the number to call. I’ve tried several times in the past to call for free tickets and all I’ve gotten was busy signals. So I waited, trying to decide if I should try. Looked up the number and finally dialed it — and John answered saying “you’re a winner!” I was so surprised, but I had to talk real quiet because it’s a long quiet ride from Big Lake to St. Cloud for commuters.

    I’m really excited to go to the concert as I don’t get out much.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. We had an ancient book about birds (for adults) that had the most wonderful color plates for pictures. No idea of the title – I’ve looked for it in antique shops for years…. have yet to find. I could sit and look at it for hours (well, for a long time).

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oooh! And my favorite princess book – “The Paper Bag Princess” by Robert Munsch. I don’t think it was around when I was a kid, but read it lots to Daughter. Best. Ending. Ever.


  15. I’m a little surprised that nobody has mentioned the McClosky books yet– Blueberries for Sal, One Morning in Maine, A Time of Wonder, all classics.

    I have a book for you that’s kind of a sleeper. Both Robin and I had a copy when we were young. It’s called The Tall Book of Make Believe and to look at it, you wouldn’t necessarily think it’s special. But it is. This will give you a sense of it:
    The illustrations are by Garth Williams.


    1. Ahem. I mentioned the McCloskey books, Bill. Not by title, just mentioned the author. A Time of Wonder is my favorite.

      Have you read the book Robert McCloskey: A Private Life in Words and Pictures by Jane McCloskey. I enjoyed that. I own a copy if you want to borrow it; the public library also has a copy.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. It’s a challenge to remember the books we read to our kids when they were very young. One that stands out clearly is Father Fox’s Pennyrhymes by Clyde and Wendy Watson. I understand it’s been reissued.

    Our granddaughters, when they were younger, were quite taken by Voyage to the Bunny Planet (Where the bunny queen is Janet) by Rosemary Wells.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I haven’t chimed in earlier, not because I didn’t read as a kid, but because I suspect most of what I read would not be familiar to most baboons.

    I didn’t learn to read until I entered first grade, three months after turning seven. I don’t recall mom ever reading to us, but dad did whenever he was home, which, of course, wasn’t all that often. Mostly he read H.C. Andersen stories, which I loved, and a fair amount of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales as well. The ladies who worked at the nursery school my sister and I both attended, read to us every morning, an array of children’s stories familiar to most Danish kids.

    One book that I owned and treasured long before I knew how to read, and certainly long before I could read English, was a hard cover copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll illustrated by John Tenniel. I had no idea what the story was about, no one had ever read it to me, but I was spellbound by the illustrations. I would sit for hours, trying to wrest from the pages the secrets hinted at by those fascinating, sometimes grotesque illustrations. By the time I was old enough to read English, Alice’s Adventures as written by Carroll were anticlimactic. My own version of Alice’s adventures had become so real to me that it took me a good many years to warm to Carroll’s version.

    Much of what I read as a child and a teen was a hodgepodge of whatever struck my fancy at the time. Selma Lagerlöf and Astrid Lindgren were among my favorites, but I read a smattering of everything from Dickens to Baroness Orczy, from Willard Motley to John Steinbeck, and from Henrik Pontoppidan to Karen Blixen. I also read a fair amount of Russian literature by authors such as Mikhail Sholokhov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Ivan Turgenev. I have no memory of where my interest in Russian literature came from; I know we weren’t exposed to it in school. Perhaps my interest was sparked by my father’s communist leanings? I really don’t know. I do know that while reading these novels, an abiding curiosity about Russia took hold, a curiosity that culminated in my year in Moscow in 1964.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Would you believe, PJ, that daughter briefly dated the great grandson of the boy Selma Lagerlof used as the model for Nils? Daughter dumped him because he was a Republican and didn’t support her work schedule.

      Liked by 2 people

        1. True that! Got confused there for a minute, thinking it was Ms. Lagerlöf’s great grandson. She never married, and as far as I know, didn’t have any kids.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. It was once suggested to James Thurber that a new version of Alice in Wonderland be published with drawings by him instead of Tenniel, which has a logic to it. Thurber answered they should keep the Tenniel drawings and he would rewrite the text.

      Liked by 3 people

  18. I always loved settling into a series of children’s books – it meant you could keep going back the library week after week and finding another. Mary Poppins, Dr. Doolittle, and the Andrew Lang Fairy books were favorites. And Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Louisa May Alcott.

    Liked by 2 people

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