June 29, 2006

DT Bizarre Book Contest: The Thumbtown Toad

thumbtown_toad.jpgTitle: The Thumbtown Toad [alibris] [ebay]
Author/Illustrator: George Mendoza, Monika Beisner
Reviewed by: Bryan

The most bizarre children's book I've ever come across is The Thumbtown Toad by George Mendoza (Prentice-Hall 1971). This book scared the bejeezus out of me when I found it in a library as a kid.

The Thumbtown Toad is not a toad--although decorative toads pop up throughout the book's
illustrations--she is a wicked woman. She does all kinds of unpleasant things like wear skulls for shoes and cook juicy children in stews, but what's really off-putting about this book is its understated menace;
it's written in non-rhyming verse of obscure form, building an queasy current of real dread under the obvious "wicked" antics of the Toad--it's as if there's some truly unspeakable horror underneath the
already nasty things we are told about. The intricate pen-and-ink illustrations by Monika Beisner are similarly sinister in their suspended stillness, in their somewhat antique stylization, and in the
rather babyish face of the Toad herself.

The real clincher, though, comes at the end--the Thumbtown Toad has a nightmare that she laughed so
hard, she burst into flames. The accompanying drawing is horrifying. I obsessed about this book for many years, occasionally looking through library catalogues for it (if it appeared, it was no longer in
circulation--not so surprising!) I finally found a copy on ebay a couple years ago, and bought it for my bizarre book collection...but you can bet I'll keep it out of our daughter's reach for quite some time!

3 Comments

Is it just me or are these descriptions making you want to read these horrible books too?? Especially this one. It sounds like a book that would have traumatized me as a kid but one that I also would have read more than once.

I would have totally read this book but I was a weird child. I am going to put this on my list of if I see it I must buy it books.
So is this bizarre book collection on the same shelf? Could we get a picture? I like looking at other people's bookshelfs for reasons I am unsure of.

[hm, I'm sure you make perfect sense to you. If I understand correctly, you're wondering about this photo of the book. It's the only online image I could find; I grabbed it from whoever's selling it on Amazon at the moment. -ed.]

My sister Inger gave this book to my son when he was 5 years old. It scared him so badly we put it away forever. Inger laughed, but she would be furious if anyone did anything like that to her son. She also gave my daughter 50 condoms for her sixteenth birthday. Cute, huh?

For different reasons, I don't speak with her anymore.

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