The child as organizational colleague

Lessons learn from the ‘Tiny anarchic guerrillas’ in our midst

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…

And so this alphabet continues, a twenty-six-page litany of horrible ends. Written and illustrated by the utterly original talent Edward Gorey in the 1960s, The Gashlycrumb Tinies is a short and darkly funny romp through a Victorian-esque catalogue of arbitrary, sometimes implausible deaths that might befall a child—“U is for UNA who slipped down a drain”—each lethal incident brought about by heedlessness, external malevolence, or simple bad luck. The humour of the work arises from Gorey’s way of combining de-familiarization (the children are roughly sketched and dressed in late nineteenth-century clothing) and slightly exaggerated period-appropriate language (Hector is “done in by a thug”) with our own fears and guilts as adults.

The process by which children...