Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Odds and Ends

First, a picture to evoke summer in the dead of winter.

Stars For Christy (1958, author Mabel Leigh Hunt, illustrator Velma Ilsley)

Now, new books and newish movies.

Frances Hodgson Burnett's 1904 novel A Little Princess has gotten a not-particularly-necessary sequel from Hilary McKay. Wishing For Tomorrow has just been released in the U.S. While I've been a fan of McKay's Exiles and Casson series, I was underwhelmed by this one. There's nothing really wrong with the book, it's just that there's a sameness to it. An uncontrollable little girl who's a force of nature, a grinning boy who acts as an amused spectator to a group of mad girls, a book-obsessed girl, a clutzy heroine, jealousy, girlish intrigue - there were times when it simply all felt too similar to the Exiles and Casson family books. And I've never been a fan of an author hitching a ride on someone else's work, no matter how creative or well done their own effort may be.

Elizabeth Goudge's 1946 novel The Little White Horse is also a 2008 film called The Secret Of Moonacre. I've never truly recovered from the scene where Maria discovers a cunningly placed box of biscuits on the mantel in her dreamy new bedroom. Biscuits. Mantels. Villains named, literally, Blackheart. Lions. Unicorns. Midnight forest rambles. There's no way a nice, rousing film version won't ruin it.

I've always found the 1001 series by Universe - you know, those enormously fat books claiming to contain the films you absolutely MUST see, places you absolutely MUST visit, etc., etc. before you die - to be irritating. I read for many reasons, but not to be goosed into action by the idea that if I don't act now, I'll die uncultured and parochial. But everyone I know loves these books and scans them eagerly to see how they match up against the compilers, so it you like that sort of thing, Universe has produced a kid book version. 1001 Children's Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up by Julia Eccleshare, the children's book editor at The Guardian Review.

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