Thursday 19 February 2009

Books for childers: Real rabbits/Sammich!/So THAT's why that...

Having moved downtown where pretty much everything that's important to me is within walking distance, I fear that my Curious/Creepy feature, young as it was, has already become extinct. I'm just not finding myself in situations where my peering over other readers' shoulders is possible. Be assured, that if I am, I will; I kind of like Curious/Creepy, if only as a sort of sociological look into others' book choices. We'll see, but I don't think I'll be on a subway, a streetcar, a train, or a plane in the near future. But I was wrong once - in 1983 - so you never know.

I do, however, live/work in a bookstore that has a pretty good collection of kidlets' books (and literature, which I'm trying not to horde for myself), and perhaps this post will turn into another kind of feature for

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. Okay, I didn't actually briefly borrow this from the shop's kids' section, I bought it for myself during a lovely walk with my hubby on the weekend. He'd been telling me for years that I needed to read this book AND that it would make me cry.

He was right on both counts. I loved this book and I cried as disconsolately as I imagine I would have had I read it when I was 7. One of my cats looked worried, which embarrassed me. But the point is, I wouldn't have cried that way if I hadn't first loved the book - it's so good! Margery Williams knew how to do a lot with a very few words.

This book is a classic and it deserves to be.

The Sandwich by Ian Wallace and Angela Wood. I don't know if this one's a classic or not; I do know, however, that someone ordered it today and I read it before packing it up because I realized that it was set in Toronto.

This is a weird one. It's cool insofar as it mentions specific Toronto-y things like the main kid's dad driving the St. Clair streetcar. It's also cool insofar as it was written in 1975 and it's all about cultural diversity and acceptance via food. (The main kid, whose name I've already forgotten, is of Italian extraction and he gets mocked for his stinky meat sammiches by all the other sprogs, who are eating pb&j sammiches.)

It's not cool insofar as I feel like the two authors didn't talk to each other or read one another's sections; the narrative changes without warning from 1st to 3rd and there are no transitions between scenes/places/times of day/etc. An unsatisfying read but an interesting archaeological artifact.

The Singing Shell and The Naughty Smoke Fairies by Enid Blyton. Another huge gap in my childhood reading: no Enid Blyton. TODAY is the first time I've ever read anything by Enid Blyton!!! Indeed, most of my knowledge of Enid Blyton comes from reading other books in which characters talk about reading Enid I knew she was formative and central and a sign of what a lame reader I was as a child (reading, as I did, one book over and over and over again instead of trying anything new).

So, this is actually two short, sweet books in one binding and both were pleasing in that way olde timey British children's books often are, emphasizing as they do words that one wouldn't necessarily expect to be emphasized, and because the world is kind and lovely and the danger minimal.

Also, I now know why you can hear the ocean in sea shells and why poppies are black in the centre.

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