Monday, 9 July 2007
This is my all-time favourite children's book. My copy, much read, dates back to when I was twelve, and has illustrations which are very-badly coloured in. When I picked it up recently to write a recommendation for a friend it was three chapters later before I could put it down.
Set in Devon in the 19th century, it tells the story of Maria, an orphan who moves from a dull London existence to Moonacre Manor, to live with her guardian. Maria's first impressions of the valley as a place of unalloyed perfection gradually give way to a realisation that there are things amiss - the Black Men who live in the forest which adjoins the Moonacre estate guard the coast fiercely, and have been known to take lambs from the village of Silverydew. Maria and her new friend Robin set out to put things right, ably assisted by both animals and humans from Moonacre.
Goudge, as always in her books, details the minutiae of everyday life which creates security and comfort, with vivid descriptions of place, texture, taste, character. Her animals are particularly good - they are strong and interactive characters without being unduly anthropomorphic. Some of Goudge's best characters are members of the Anglican clergy, and she writes about moral fortitude and integrity with a delicacy of understanding and perception which, in a cynical age, I find genuinely uplifting.
Its suitability for the iPod generation is questionable, but it's worth a try!
Sunday, 1 July 2007
"A house is never said to be perfectly furnished for enjoyment,
unless there is a child in it rising three years old, and a kitten rising three weeks."
Robert Southey, the poet, lived in the Lake District, where his house, Greta Hall, was home to three families - his own, and those of his two sisters, Mrs Coleridge and Mrs Lovell.
The household had a number of cats - Hurlyburlybuss, for whom this blog is named, was one. Southey is credited with having written the original version of The Three Bears; he seems a worthy posthumous patron of a blog dedicated to children's writing and I hope he would have approved.
I have been blogging since 2007 at GeraniumCat's Bookshelf, and an important strand there has been my interest in children's writing. In 2008 I compiled a list which was my personal choice of 101 children's books which I thought everyone ought to have read, or have read to them. Ever since, I've meant to expand on the list (I limited myself to only one book from each author) because I had to leave out so many favourites. I stopped at 1975, too, because after that date I only kept up intermittently for a number of years.
My love of children's writing remained undiminished, though, and I've decided that it's time to do something more with it - hence this new blog. I'll be adding reviews to the original list and expanding it to include other books by listed authors, books published since 1975 and anything else I can think of. I know there are other sites out there which do something similar, and no doubt better, but this is a personal project and will run alongside, and complement, GeraniumCat's Bookshelf.