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Your lifestyle, your quirk
I’ve never been to France, but I’ve always been fond of it, at least from a distance. These are the people who gave us the baguette, the croissant, and Versailles, after all. I’ll forgive them the escargot, if only because the Statue of Liberty is still inspiring after all these years.
The French intrigue me, particularly their approach to children’s literature. My usual nosing around on the internet led me to a Storify blog by author Jenny Colgan, who’s been living in France with her family. I don’t know the full story behind this particular blog, but as her website says she has children, I’m guessing she was looking around for some books for them and instead came across…well…I get that the world is a scary place and all, but isn’t childhood supposed to be a bastion of safety from all that horror?
Hell, some of them are enough to make me want to climb under the covers, and I’m 28 years old. I don’t want to imagine what these would have done to me as a child.
The Rabbit’s Revenge
This rabbit has that same wide-eyed blank stare and washed-out features as the ghoulish ghosts in Pulse, which was a sucky film but still managed to be aesthetically terrifying. And what is that…tool…next to the rabbit? Is that his tool of vengeance?
Like your child wasn’t already suspicious of what went lurked in the dark corners of his room. Now he’s going to have a lifelong fear of giant shadow salamanders.
“Crisis” from The ABC of Anger
Holy crap, someone call 911, that man is vomiting up farm animals!
Jenny says it best: “Clowns are scary. Surgery is scary. HEY! I've just had a GREAT idea for a children's book!!”
I had to run this book’s Amazon page through Google translator to make sure I got the whole story: “Little Death is a delightful person who visits the dying.” Understandably, the dying are not often happy to see her, until she meets Elsewise, and “a friendship develops.” It is about death, likely to introduce children to the concept. Not so terrible as an educational tool, but maybe not the first thing I’d choose for a bedtime story.
The other entries are similarly astonishing. There is a book in France called Chicken-Eating Day! There is an entire literary subsection around children’s dogs dying. The one Jenny showed us was not the sweet, life-affirming tale you’d hope for; no, it ends with the protagonist hiding in a dustbin, no doubt still mourning her late pet.
I’m not an expert on children’s literature by any means, but the scariest thing I remember reading at seven years old was the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy, which wasn’t really all that scary, aside from the illustrations.
Maybe the French are just more realistic? Perhaps they feel their children should realize life isn’t all cuddles and sprinkles early on.
Or maybe they just need a hug.