recess radio program

Good Manners Month
    by John Cech

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You're hearing the English group The Tiger Lillies with part of Fidgety Phil, from their Junk Opera that they based on Heinrich Hoffmann's hilariously awful Struwwelpeter or Shock-headed Peter -- it s an off-kilter, campy musical accompaniment to Children's Good Manners Month. Hoffmann was a German physician who, in the early 1800s, the story goes, went out to buy a book for his ill son, but all he could find were heavy-handed, moralistic tales. So Hoffmann decided to write and illustrate his own stories for his child, and the result became an extremely popular satire of all those sagas that were meant to scare children into proper behavior.

They were so over-the-top that one couldn't help but laugh at them. There's Harriet who plays with matches and turns herself into a pile of cinders; Johnny doesn't watch where he's going and ends up falling into the river and .... well, I'll stop there. And these are the tame ones. Yet these grotesque, Monty-Pythonesque fables have stayed timeless -- the Tiger Lillies Junk Opera was a smash hit with family audiences when it toured this country last year. For after all, what kid, young or old, hasn't been just a little shock-headed, once upon a time.

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Copyright 2006 John Cech

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Monday, 28-Aug-2006 15:04:56 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."