July 13, 2006

DTBBC: Goops and How To Be Them

goops_cover.jpgTitle: Goops and How To Be Them: A Manual of Manners for Polite Infants [J. B. Lipincott Company, 1900]
Author/Illustrator: Gelett Burgess
Reviewed by: JJ Daddy Baby Momma

When seeing Mr. Yuk caused all my repressed childhood terrors to surface, I recalled that my most bizarre childhood book, Goops, was still on the shelf.

The book, published originally in 1900, was brought home in my early days in the mid-60s, most likely stolen from the library junk pile at the reform school where my father served as industrial arts teacher.

Each page features a rather stolid poem encouraging children to do things like be polite, don't interrupt, and use proper table manners. And, while there are charming almost Aubrey Beardsley-esque caricatures of adults, it takes a strange turn with the illustrations of the recalcitrant children. They seem to suffer both from congenital hydrocephalus and whatever spell Gilderoy Lockhart performed on Harry Potter to remove the bones in his arm.

Two particularly terrifying pages are the ones on Books and Caution. The Caution page features a kid being run over by a horse drawn carriage, and exhorts the child to be cautions and discreet when you travel in the street and look about for horses when your little brother crosses. I guess those two Keystone Cops standing there are just for decoration, and that the little brothers safety rests squarely in the hands of his slightly older sibling.

The one that stayed with me, or rather, that I had successfully buried until Mr. Yuk came along, is the one on Books. It shows both a smoky-genie-like hag and a faun with sharp teeth (or, is it SATAN) coming from one book and holding another book that the Goops defiled. The poem warns that books on the shelf are just as much persons as Ķourselves and when you are older, youll find this is true, youd better be careful to make books like you! I remember I kept my books in the cabinet with locking doors when I was little, thinking they would fly around at night and paper-cut me to death if I so much as dog-eared a page. It goes without saying; a highlighter never touched a single textbook of mine in college, and all my bookshelves still have doors.

[ed. note; And to think it took 106 years for the sequel to come out: Grups and how to be them. d'oh! Sorry. Actually, judging from abebooks, it looks like the book was very popular, with dozens of editions, and it stayed in print for decades. And there WAS a sequel: More Goops and How Not to be Them: Manual of Manners For Impolite Infants Depicting the Characteristics of Many Naughty and Thoughtless Children with Instructive Illustrations. Who knew? ]


Gelett Burgess rocks, as do his co-tangent harmonious loops.

I distinctly remember a poem about Goops that I read as a child, but I'm not sure where it came from - probably one of the several anthologies of children's stories my grandparents had.

It began "The Goops they lick their fingers..." and went on to describe their horrible table manners, complete with round-headed illustrations. It ended with "I am not a Goop. Are you?"

The goops they lick their fingers, the goops they lick their toes.

Man, I totally forgot about this book. My dad used to read it to me, circa 1976.

reprints available on amazon.com--just thought i would share

When I was little (decades ago!), I came across this book and read it. It has haunted me to this day. Darned if I know why -- I can't recall precisely any of the contents. There was just something uniquely horrid about it, especially the pictures.

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