Beautifully illustrated abridgement of this classic. Perfect Gift.
The 1950s book that was the basis for the classic 1994 family film The Secret of Ronan Irish is now back in print as part of the New York Review Children’s Collection.
Hums with the mystery of Scottish folklore and the author’s own seaside upbringing in Vancouver and Wales invigorates the story with evocative details.
Rebecca Mead writes in the New Yorker about rereading My Friend Flicka as an adult and sharing it with her son:
One of the privileges of parenthood is re-reading beloved books from childhood with one’s own children, in spite of the sometimes pronounced stylistic gulf that exists between kid lit of earlier eras and that of today. (I doubt that, in the age of the Kindle free sample, Arthur Ransome would get away with a first chapter quite so replete with sailing arcana as he did, in 1930, with “Swallows and Amazons.”) But when I picked up “My Friend Flicka” again recently, to read it aloud to my ten-year-old son, I did so with some trepidation. What might the book, a realist family drama set in the American West of eighty-odd years ago, mean to a city child who, given a free rein, selects action-packed fantasy series—in all of which, it seems, a group of children, miraculously untethered from the influence of their parents, undergo adventures in a supernatural or dystopian-futuristic world, battling the forces of evil on behalf of the good? Besides that, how would “My Friend Flicka” read to a child whose exposure to horses is so limited that he doesn’t know a fetlock from a forelock?
So, yes: there is some unfamiliar horsey terminology—discussion of corrals, and sires, and lariats, and so on. (There’s also a rather gruesome chapter about the process of gelding, the discussion of which has made an interesting addendum to fifth-grade health class.) But the life of a child on a horse ranch is so wildly different from that of a child who rides the G train daily that the book’s realism—the spaciousness of Ken’s day-to-day existence—reads like fantasy. In the opening chapter, Ken has just returned to the ranch for the summer from boarding school, and is alone, on horseback, at dawn, surveying the land. “From here he looked west over a hundred miles of the greengrass; and south across the great stretch of undulating plateau land that ran down to Twin Peaks, and beyond that across broken crags and interminable rough terrain, mysterious with hidden valleys and gorges and rocky headlands.” When we got to the part of the book in which Ken and his brother Howard go out hunting rabbits—with their own guns—my son’s eyes widened with disbelief.
But the most compelling aspect of “My Friend Flicka” is not the external drama of Ken’s life, though there is plenty of that. (A mountain lion stalking the range looms as a perpetual threat to man and beast.) What makes it the perfect book for a boy on the cusp of puberty—particularly a dreamy, distracted, and imaginative boy on the cusp of puberty—is Ken’s inner drama. While the book is ostensibly about horses, its true subject is first love.
First published in 1955 and still one of the most popular fantasies for younger children.
The first in a series of classic texts from Frances Lincoln reimagined in the modern day.
Robert Hunter is a London-based illustrator working with traditional drawing and painting techniques. This is his first children’s book.
Jane Nissen Books has recently returned the copyright of some of its back-into-print classic children’s titles to the original publisher, notably in the case of Clever Polly and Stupid Wolf by Catherine Storr, written about here by Emma Healey:
One of the joys of revisiting the tales as an adult is discovering that, like all really good children’s fiction (and films too), there are many levels to them. The wolf is simultaneously a dangerous wild animal, a sexual predator and an annoying little brother, slipping from one role to another within the space of a sentence. In the title story he is at one moment saying “I shall be in your bedroom before it’s light tomorrow morning, crunching up the last of your little bones,” and the next proudly telling Polly that he bought half a pound of beans “with my own money … all by myself”. You get a real sense of the wolf being truly threatening, sinister and cunning, but this is almost immediately dispelled, a few lines on, by his childlike pleasure in having managed some shopping on his own.
Halfway through reading the stories I flipped back to a page I would certainly have ignored before – the edition notice or copyright page. This is something that has, unsurprisingly, become more important to me since being published myself, but I was also curious to see when Clever Polly was published. I was surprised to find it was written in 1955. The language doesn’t seem at all tied to that era, whereas some of Storr’s novels for children, Marianne Dreams for example, are full of characters who describe behaviour as “jolly decent” or apologise for being “beastly” to each other, and seem a little more dated.
I had always assumed Clever Polly had come out in the 1980s or 90s, when books with a positive message for girls – such as Robert Munsch and Michael Martchenko’s The Paper Bag Princess – or those that reimagined fairytales – for example Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs – were being written. Clever Polly fits so well with these, and 60 years later it still reads like a feminist reworking of Little Red Riding Hood.
What’s it like to illustrate a book already known for its iconic illustrations? Alice in Wonderland, originally drawn by Sir John Tenniel, was first published 150 years ago; here Anthony Browne describes his new surreal take on Alice. Look out for the primates!
Recommend you click the link to see 10 full colour illustrations from the book:
The Irish Independent, beginning today for the next 8 weeks, is giving away a free classic children’s title with each edition of the paper bought at Tesco…
There are eight marvelous Vintage classics to collect, one free every Saturday until March 1st, when you buy the Irish Independent at any participating Tesco store. Each book is worth €6.99 which is absolutely FREE with each Irish Independent purchased in a Tesco store.
A New York Times Book Review of the 150th anniversary newly annotated edition for adults of THE WATER-BABIES: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Babies, by Maria Tatar
The golden age of children’s literature — beginning in the 1860s with Charles Kingsley’s “Water-Babies” and Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and ending with the publication of the Winnie-the-Pooh books in the 1920s — earned its name by turning stories into luminous contact zones for adults and children. A million golden arrows point to Neverland, and you can reach Oz by passing through a gate studded with glittering emeralds. The heft of “Or else!” in cautionary tales about children going up in flames after playing with matches was replaced with the incandescent beauty of “What if?” Writers aspired to lure children into fantasy worlds that would leave them, as Frances Hodgson Burnett put it, “breathing quite fast with excitement, and wonder, and delight.”