Picks and Pans Review: Childhood Is Hell

UPDATED 01/16/1989 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 01/16/1989 at 01:00 AM EST

by Matt Groening

Given the titles of this book and Groening's previous cartoon sagas—Love Is Hell, Work Is Hell and School Is Hell—one might be tempted to conclude that he is not exactly a Pollyanna. Among the chapters he includes in this happily insidious little volume, for instance, is "Your Childhood Trauma Checklist," wherein a budding youth can keep track of such catastrophes as being forced to eat broccoli, meeting another child with the same name, having to perform in front of parents' friends, getting underwear as a birthday present, having a fear of bears, being punished for telling the truth and undergoing the experience of having your mom read your diary. Groening's compendium of "The 16 Types of Moms" includes "psycho mom," "guilt mom," "worry mom" and "sick & tired mom," who likes to say such things as "Please don't bother me for the next three months. I'll be napping." Among "The 16 Types of Dads" are "runaway dad," "bitter dad," "lord dad" and "cold dad, also known as the stonewall, the withholder, Mr. Freeze, ignore-o-matic." A lot of the book—which was collected from Groening's syndicated newspaper comic feature—is devoted to various parental advice, platitudes, deceptions and words to live by, such as "The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary," "Be a master of your habits or they will be a master of you" and "Premarital sex can blow your legs off." Groening seems to lose sight of the importance of maintaining some sense of good taste even in this sort of anarchic business; his trauma checklist, for instance, includes "sexually molested" and "being hit by parent." He obviously hasn't forgotten what it's like to be a child, though, facing all that confusion and hypocrisy and trying to make some sense of it while reserving enough time to play video games and fantasize that you're a superhero. (Pantheon, paper, $5.95)

(Thaddeus Novak, 9, says, "I've seen other books in this series but I like this one best because it has a lot of situations I find myself in.")

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