Press Release

Santa — and Shock-Headed Peter — Know Who's Naughty

(ARA) — "Shock-Headed Peter" (also known as "Slovenly Peter" in English-speaking countries), is a Victorian-era collection of sometimes ghastly, always gleefully macabre cautionary tales which has been the secret delight of children and adults for over a century and a half. Perhaps the best-known German children's book, "Shock Headed Peter" includes the stories of Cruel Frederick (dog abuser "bites" the dust), Harriet and the Matches (cat duo predicts pyromaniac girl's demise, and Little Suck-A-thumb (tailor with scissors — enough said).

The book, "Der Struwwelpeter" in German, written by Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann, was first published in Frankfurt in 1945 and has been popular ever since. These "merry stories and funny pictures for children between 3 and 6 years old," as Hoffman termed them, are cautionary tales, by turns macabre, touching and wickedly funny.

Hoffmann wrote the book as a Christmas present for his three-year-old son, intending it as a commentary on the moralizing prevalent in the stories offered up for children of the 19th century. In his own words: "Towards Christmas, when my eldest son was three years old, I went to town with the intention to buy as a present for him a picture book, which should be adapted to the little fellow's powers of comprehension. But what did I find? Long tales, stupid stories, beginning and ending with admonitions like 'the good child must be truthful' or 'children must keep clean,' etc."

Hoffmann decided he could write a better book, and "Der Struwwelpeter" was the result. It has spawned dozens of translations as well as literally hundreds of imitations, adaptations, take-offs and parodies. Mark Twain is one of the more well-known English language translators (go to to see his version online). A popular play based on the stories of "Shock-Headed Peter," has played to great acclaim in London, New York, Washington, D.C. — at the prestigious Eisenhower Theater of The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts — and Chicago.

The tales of Peter and the other children in the book may remind readers of the rather grisly narrative of the unexpurgated "Grimm's Fairy Tales." Right and Wrong are clearly delineated, and just deserts are swift and sure. While today's parents are likely to deem the stories too intense for young children, the book makes a wonderful gift for older children, as well as for adults who daydream about people getting what's coming to them.

To our precariously balanced world, where shifting sensibilities lurchingly guide expression and conduct, "Shock-Headed Peter" is a remnant of a past where things are tongue-in-cheek simpler, where the recalcitrant child or cruel adult gets his or her comeuppance. Better yet, there's no waiting for the wheels of justice to grind slowly: There's an exceedingly fine, excruciatingly apropos resolution in fast-forward time

Bolchazy-Carducci has just published a new version of this classic, which features a stylistically elegant, rhyming Latin translation that is accessible to the non-scholarly reader. It includes the original German text and a popular English translation on the facing page. Readers are treated to Hoffman's original illustrations, plus detailed enlargements of them.

The appendix has a new, never before published contemporary English translation, "Scruffypete," by Ann Elizabeth Wild. The afterword by Walter Sauer explores the history of the work and its Latin translations. A select Latin-English glossary completes the text.

Visit Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers at for more information on "Shock-Headed Peter." The book is available from Bolchazy-Carducci and at bookstores nationwide, including Barnes & Noble, Borders and

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