10.11.2012

Scariest Picture Book of All Time

THE TAILYPO, A Ghost Story
Told by Joanna Galdone
Illustrated by Paul Galdone

I love picture books. I really do. But there is one picture book that scarred me for life. Or should I say SCARED me for life...

It was the late 1970's. I was a second grader, like my son is now. It was a cold, grey October day at Ridgeview Elementary in Liberty, Missouri. And it was library day. Our class shuffled onto the carpet in the reading corner of the school library and sat around a short stool where the librarian sat and read us picture books. Books about big red dogs and curious monkeys. But not this day. She probably said something like, "Children, today I'm going to read you an Appalachian folk tale." And then, my sweet, kindhearted librarian proceeded to scare me out of my wits. For months afterward I was unable to look at the foot of my bed at night. Trips to our family's lake cabin in the woods were sources of constant terror for me. To this day, when squirrels or the neighbors' cat scratch across our roof at night, I shiver and think, "Tailypo..."

That's me. Did I mention
it was the 70's?
If you are unfamiliar with this diabolical little gem, I won't ruin the ending for you. Go see for yourself. After all, it's just a picture book, right? A picture book about a lonely old hermit who lives in a one-room cabin in the middle of the woods with his three hunting dogs. And in this picture book, maybe the hermit shoots the tail off a mysterious creature in the woods. Maybe that night, after the old man has gone to bed, there's a scratching outside his cabin door. And maybe he hears a soft moan in the darkness, "I want my tailypooooo..."

The Tailypo is honestly the scariest book I have ever set eyes on. The Shining pales in comparison. The story alone is bad enough. But it's Paul Galdone's illustrations of the three bloodhounds running into the creepy woods, the old man huddled under his covers, and the small, furry creature peering over the foot of the bed with its huge yellow eyes that have haunted me for over 30 years. I suppose it's a testament to the power of children's literature, eh? As Halloween approcheth, you might consider locating a copy of The Tailypo. Maybe you'll read it to your kids. Maybe you won't. If you do, chances are they'll remember it for the rest of their lives--whether they like it or not.