Snip! Snap! Snip! The scissors go...

Today is World Book Day and I've dusted off a certain book that both enthralled and terrified me as a child. Struwwelpeter (Shock-headed Peter) by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann was first published in 1845 and must have turned a fair few generations off thumb-sucking.

Alongside Conrad and his missing digits, who could forget the dreadful story of Harriet who when left alone, lights a match – 'they crackle so' – and is burnt to a crisp, leaving only her scarlet shoes and crying cats. Fidgety Philip refuses to sit still at the dinner table and ends up with the entire table contents on top of him. Johnny Head-in-air is determined not to look where he is walking; preferring to face the sky, he strides headlong into a river. Johnny is hooked out and lives, teased for his stupidity by the fish. Others are not so lucky. Augustus, who would not have any soup, is a 'chubby lad', he stops eating and on the fifth day... he is dead.

Who can say whether I was a better behaved child as a result of this book. Whether Hoffmann's gloriously gruesome tales kept me sitting still at the dinner table, eating soup, and far away from matches, is unknown. But one thing is for sure. I never, ever, sucked my thumb... 

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