cover image Jim: A Cautionary Tale

Jim: A Cautionary Tale

Hilaire Belloc, illus. by Mini Grey, Knopf, $19.99 (26p) ISBN 978-0-375-85970-0

Schoolboy Jim is a cousin to the ill-fated urchins of Struwwelpeter and The Gashlycrumb Tinies. In this macabre rhyme from Belloc's Cautionary Tales for Children (1907), re-engineered with interactive elements, Jim enjoys nice meals and toys, but his eyelids droop with boredom. He prefers breaking rules, and when Jim visits the zoo, the text carps, "[C]hildren never are allowed/ To leave their Nurses in a Crowd." Jim pays no heed, and while his distracted sitter flirts with a dandy, he breaks free: "He hadn't gone a yard when—BANG!/ With open Jaws, a Lion sprang." Belloc and Grey (Traction Man Is Here!) work in the British tradition of dark comedy, and some readers might take it in stride as a lion pops from the spread and devours the terrified Jim ("beginning at his feet"). Others will be aghast at the witty but grisly sequence of the attack and the sight of Jim's severed head. Jim may be undisciplined, but his demise seems undeserved. Playful windows and gatefolds imply lighthearted fun, while the troubling content could shock the uninitiated. Proceed with caution. Ages 8–up. (Sept.)