Friday, August 8, 2008

Make time for The 13 Clocks. . .

New York Review of Books has a children's classics line that is simply delightful. These are books that have truly stood the test of time, beautifully bound and illustrated and are just as much fun for adults to read. Just published is James Thurber's wonderful The 13 Clocks, illustrated by Marc Simont. At the Ontario Library Conference back in January, I had a poster of this cover in our booth and it generated more squeals of delight from librarians and their inner child than almost any other "new" book we had. So if you've been looking to reread this classic, or introduce it to a wee one, it's now available!

Or, if you've never read it, wait until you are having a really, really bad day. One of those that are full of problems that particularly plague adults. Then climb into your most comfortable jammies with a mug of hot chocolate and this book, and I guarentee you'll feel better in no time. This is a very funny fairytale about an Evil Duke, his beautiful niece the Princess Saralinda, the Prince Zorn of Zorna who tries to win her hand by performing impossible tasks, and his terrific sidekick, the Golux, "the only Golux in the world". In the background lurks the menacing Todal which looks like a "blob of glup" and likes to "gleep". And that's all I'm going to say about that.

As you've probably guessed this tale is full of intricate and clever wordplay and really works best when read aloud. But it also contains some witty riddles and lots of sharp observations on human nature. Neil Gaiman, in his introduction calls The 13 Clocks, "probably the best book in the world". You have to check it out.

I'm also very fond of Australian Norman Lindsay's extremely funny The Magic Pudding. And in September, NYRB will be publishing John Masefield's The Midnight Folk, the prequel to The Box of Delights. This is British fantasy at its best - full of magic, talking animals and fast-paced adventures in the English countryside. Perfect for kids who love the Narnia series or Harry Potter or for adults like me, who grew up with Enid Blyton (though Masefield is far more sophisticated a writer). Yes, you can be a kid again.

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