How To Traumatize Your Children is one in a series of intentionally dubious “how-to” books by the publisher Knock Knock. Artfully called the “self-hurt” series, these books are put together like a standard how-to or field guide, but cover topics that one would likely rather not have happen. So it’s all a joke, kindof, and if you see the cover and think it looks funny, you’ll probably think it’s funny.
The construction of the book itself is very nice, with a plastic-y feeling cover that reminds one of water-resistant guidebooks or first aid manuals. It’s a nice size and it feels good in the hand, being both substantial and slightly textured, though it is prone to creasing, and when it does it is quite unsightly. The pages are nice and thick, with a substantial binding that really locks everything in place. The presentation is just really nice and evocative. I’m a fan.
Unfortunately, once inside things start to go downhill a little bit. The book is divided into 10 chapters, 7 of which are various types of parenting styles, bookended by an introduction and conclusion like this is some kind of essay. It starts off pretty funny, with an interesting rationalization for the book’s existence at the front and a nice step-by-step guide on how to traumatize kids in different ways. The first problem here is the graphic design: little yellow “bubbles” with competing thoughts start to pop up in chapters as little asides, but these quickly start coming in between connected paragraphs, or in some case in the middle of paragraphs, running the flow of reading into a brick wall at inopportune moments. And the second is that the joke gets old pretty fast, and the writer(s?) makes no attempt to get more creative with it as time goes on. While the book lists many “different” parenting styles, they all end up being described in the same way, and the list of effects they have on the children is essentially unchanged each chapter. There’s nothing new, it just keeps talking and talking and talking. If I had read the introduction, two middle chapters at random, and then the conclusion, I would’ve gotten all this book had to give me, and maybe even had a better experience.
It’s not too egregious, and I wasn’t frustrated or angry as I continued, but it just got boring. And for a book that is basically a joke, that’s forgivable. I don’t think anyone was really intended to read the entire thing. It seems more like something you’d leave lying around for when guests come around, or give as a gag gift (or get tricked into buying at a store) that someone will pick up, laugh, leaf through a few pages, laugh again, and then put down. And it does that quite well. Whether or not that’s worth the cover price is up to you.
I was disappointed, but only mildly. My expectations for a book called How To Traumatize Your Children were justifiably quite low, and this book actually surpassed them for a moment in the beginning, but failed to live up to its own promise. It’s a well put together item, with well done if… lifeless artwork, and questionable graphic design/layout. The contents are funny, but not too funny, and maybe at bit too cynical. It just left me really ho-hum on the whole matter. If you read the title and thought it sounded funny, this might be the book you’re looking for, but it really has nothing more to offer than that, and to some it might still fall flat.