From the land of dashcam videos, Chernobyl and the constantly shirtless and fearless Macho Vlad Putin, comes a book of the most depressing nursery rhymes you’ll ever read. “Russian Optimism: Dark Nursery Rhymes To Cheer You Right Up” is a coffee table book filled with quick and incredibly dark nursery rhymes Mother Russia has ever produced. From creator Ben Rosenfeld, there’s plenty of cute anecdotes about death, dismemberment and suicide taken from the original Russian and written into English. And nothing is lost in the translation. You get all the despair and horror found in the original.
Ben says his father shared a few of these bits of “Optimism” with him one day when he was in a bad mood and needed a laugh. “These nursery rhymes have been around in Russia from the 1970’s and they’re basically like knock-knock jokes where nobody owns them,” Ben told us. “A few years back my dad showed them to me and I started doing them as part of my stand up set to explain why so many of my jokes are messed up and dark.”
Ben was born in Russia, but moved to the US when he was only 4 and doesn’t remember much about the mother country. “Most of my memories are my parents coming back from business trips and complaining how Russia is getting shittier.”
There are 30 dark rhymes and 31 beautiful illustrations. Ben’s favorite is “Happy Singers” where illustrator Dov Smiley threw in an easter egg — Dov and Ben hanging from a tree branch outside the window. Ben says the reaction from his Russian relatives has been mixed. His father loves the book but was upset at the choice of the crocodile image for the cover– mostly because there are no crocodiles in Russia. His mom was worried that it might be too dark to give out as gifts. But mostly the reaction has been great.
“Russian Optimism”, so simple, yet so wise, and a great gift for your friends, but probably not your mom. The book is available at RussianOptimism.com