“A is for Amy, who fell down the stairs…” And so begins one of the most gruesome children’s books ever written. Satire it might have been, but one has to wonder just how many children in the last forty-odd years have had nightmares as a result of reading Edward Gorey’s book. Gorey put the children featured in his book into the most bizarre and unbelievable situations, in an attempt to not only teach children the alphabet but to point out the absurdity of some parents’ paranoia regarding their children’s safety in a day long before the term “helicopter parent” was coined.
The downright morbid (but mostly ridiculous) fates of these children aptly illustrated the irrational fears many parents harbored regarding their children’s untimely demise. At one time some of these catastrophic ends may have been legitimate concerns (being attacked by a bear was not entirely out of the question in frontier days, after all, and even in modern times a fall down the stairs can easily prove fatal), but most of them are extremely unlikely, particularly the fate of the last child (unless she had somehow managed to become an alcoholic as a preschooler, or the gin was produced in her parents’ homemade still and therefore prone to having unintentionally poisonous ingredients in the finished product). But as long as there are parents, I suppose there will be equally ridiculous and totally irrational fears for them to deal with, so why not laugh at them along with everyone else who reads this classic children’s book? (Okay, some of us laughing at the book may sound like we belong in a psych ward somewhere, but that’s another story entirely…)