A short illustrated book written by Edward Gorey and published by Harcourt Books in 1963. Its full title is "The Gashlycrumb Tinies: or, After the Outing."
It's a rhyming children's alphabet primer -- except it's not really for children. Or at least, that's what Sensitive Parents will say. Yes, it's meant for adults. But lots and lots and lots of kids love this book, too. Why?
A is for AMY who fell down the stairs
B is for BASIL assaulted by bears
C is for CLARA who wasted away
D is for DESMOND thrown out of a sleigh
Twenty-six adorable little moppets done in by means both mundane and gruesome -- what's not to love?
The entire book is illustrated by Gorey's famously morbid, intricately crosshatched, neo-Edwardian artwork. Ernest smiles sweetly at a peach on a long, empty table, never realizing his fruit snack will be the death of him. Ida leans precariously over the edge of a boat, trying to trail her fingers through the disturbingly dark waters of a lake. Neville, so very tiny, so very bored, gazes out a gigantic window in a gigantic, stately mansion. Kate lies still in the snow, her eyes black pools of despair, a hefty axe buried in her stomach, a bloody trail leading from her into the forest.
And the cover -- our 26 "tinies" with their guardian, a skull-faced undertaker carrying a large bat-winged umbrella that casts a far-too-large shadow over the doomed kiddies.
What adult or child wouldn't love this? Only adults or children who need to be watched carefully for signs of deviancy or psychosis, that's who!
"The Gashlycrumb Tinies" was made into a poster sometime in the 1980s, which is where I suspect many people are the most familiar with it -- I remember seeing it on many dorm room walls, including my own, over the years. But it was originally a book -- a book that's still available for purchase, hint hint. You should buy it for your nieces and nephews, just to cement your reputation as "the fun uncle/aunt who makes mommy drink."
The book has inspired at least one band -- the horror-loving pseudo-goth group Creature Feature has a song called "A Gorey Demise" which is a blatant shout-out to "The Gashlycrumb Tinies."
Research: I got the book!
Length: Yeah, this is a little short, but it's a 26-page book, gimme a break, man!