Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Find: "Alle Kinder, ein ABC der Schadenfreude"

One of the more entertaining book discoveries of the past few years, one that I have gifted several times over now, is a kid’s picture book in the spirit of Edward Gorey’s “The Gashleycrumb Tinnies.” It is one of those alphabet books where each page, each picture is devoted to a letter of the alphabet. However, instead of the normal, pleasant kid-friendly items, this book has a series of kids suffering unpleasant situations.

Titled: “All Children, an ABC of Schadenfreude” it rhymes each kid’s name with an unpleasant, often deadly situation. Not all the children are killed. Sometimes the unpleasantness is nothing more than wearing a moth costume to a fancy dress party, or there is even one child who simply refuses to read this inappropriate book.

What is it that causes some of us to enjoy others’ misfortunes? We are told it is normal, but that doesn’t really make it right. Here, however, it is not a normal case of Schadenfreude where we delight in the problems of those who somehow deserve it. These are kids, after all. It really feels more like a little taste of the horror genre. And, in that sense, the pleasure comes from the realization that we are laughing at terrible things. On the one hand we can laugh at the knowledge that we are not facing these “unpleasantries,” but we are also reminded that life has unpleasant aspects. That is an awareness that even kids need to realize.

Just maybe not ONLY with such a book as this.

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