#53 in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the alphabet.
It’s time to polish off a few tummyticklers, plushnuggets and globgobblers. Wash it all down with a big tall glass of frobscottle and you’re all set (no whizzpopping, please). 🙂
I was actually introduced to Roald Dahl’s writing by one of my high school students in Wimbledon. Danny M. (who made good chocolate chip cookies and scoped out a yummy bagel shop in Queensway) raved about a collection of Dahl’s adult short stories called Kiss Kiss. Though I do not have a taste for the macabre, I found the stories addictive and loved the surprise endings.
After I read as much of his adult fiction as I could find, I moved on to Dahl’s children’s books, impressed by the eyebrow-raising irreverence and sardonic wit, delighted by the clever, inventive wordplay and generous servings of lickswishy, delumptious treats. He was unlike any author I’d read in my childhood. There was nothing Pollyanna or namby pamby about any of his magical stories, and I liked his recurring themes of child empowerment, justice and retribution. He made it okay to be a nonconformist, appealing to the inner rebel in all of us.
Whenever I’m asked about my favorite food-related children’s books, the first that comes to mind is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Here was every child’s dream come true — a world where everything was sweet and edible. I want my own Oompa-Loompas, and even if Mr. Wonka wouldn’t approve, just once I’d like to drink from his river of hot melted chocolate.
What’s the best way to honor two beloved British icons with 90th birthdays this year?
Feature them both in a beary good story, of course. 🙂
Mr Cornelius is convinced 2016 is extra special and that 90 is a magic number. On January 13, much to the delight of the 50-something resident Paddingtons, Michael Bond turned 90. On April 21, HRH Queen Elizabeth turned 90 (with her official birthday celebration taking place just over a week ago), and this coming October marks the 90th anniversary of Winnie-the-Pooh’s first book.
Goodness. This is like a golden trifecta for us anglophiles who are mad for Brits, books and bears! Just so happens that Her Majesty loved the Pooh books when she was little, and the year she was born, Mr. Milne dedicated his Teddy Bear and Other Songs (1926) to her.
Earlier this year, Mr Bond was asked to write an address for the National Service of Thanksgiving for the Queen’s 90th Birthday. His “Reflection on the Passing of Years” was read aloud at the service by Sir David Attenborough (and yes, he turned 90, too, on May 8). This piece, a special gift for the Queen, described the experience of life for those born in 1926. Is there any better gift than the gift of words?
So we could say that in effect Paddington has “met” the Queen, but until this new story Pooh had not.
The one and only Michael Bond is 90 years old today!
All of us here at Alphabet Soup — especially the 50-something resident Paddingtons — are in a full out tizzy of joy. We’ve been rereading the stories, noshing on marmalade sandwiches, sloshing about in our wellies, and ever-so-politely tipping our bush hats to honor the man who gave us our beloved bear from Darkest Peru some 57 years ago.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Rescuing a lone bear from a department store shelf on Christmas Eve says a lot about a man. This small kindhearted gesture would prove to be delightfully fortuitous, spawning a bear chapter book written in just 10 days, 25 more published novels, numerous picture books, board books, an avalanche of Paddington-related toys and other merchandise, several television series, a play, and an award-winning motion picture. Paddington’s likeness has appeared on postage stamps and marmalade jars, and a Paddington balloon was recently introduced in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Michael Bond, who created Paddington, my most favorite bear character in all of children’s literature, turns 89 today!
Thought we’d celebrate by taking a look at his latest novel, Love from Paddington (HarperCollins, 2014), the 14th chapter book in his beloved series featuring the marmalade-loving, well-mannered, endlessly charming “rare sort of bear” from Darkest Peru.
Thanks to Mr. Bond, we now have vital proof that bears are indeed good letter writers. LFP contains 15 of Paddington’s letters to his dear Aunt Lucy describing how he met the Brown family at London’s Paddington Station, and about some of the unexpected “misadventures” he gets into (for he’s “just that sort of bear”).
This is the first of the novels to be written in Paddington’s own words, so expect to be totally delighted and amused by his endearing personality and refreshing innocence. Who else could manage to wallpaper himself or saw a table in half while constructing a magazine rack? What happens when he climbs atop a horse, plays a game of cricket, or attends the theatre for the first time? Let’s just say it isn’t every day a marmalade sandwich lands smack dab on a bald man’s head.
It’s hard to pick a favorite episode, but I do love the time Paddington helps out at the barber’s. If some bear accidentally shaves some man’s hair off, the least he can do is glue it back on — and, of course, make further amends with his knowledge of antique Spode Blue Italian bone china (how I love a bear who knows his crockery!).
The man had told me not to touch the top of his head, but it was too late. Whereas it had been covered by a mass of thick black curls, now there wasn’t a hair to be seen. He was completely bald!
There was only one thing for it. I reached for my tube. Mr. Sloop had said his floor was covered with unwanted hair, so I wouldn’t be short of material to repair the damage.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but there were so many different kinds of hair, and so many different colors, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.
Whatever the mishap, Paddington always lands on his feet and things work out in the end much to everyone’s relief. Love from Paddington is a great way to whet the appetite for the other books in the series, where these stories are described in greater detail. Those who’ve already read the previous books will enjoy hearing Paddington’s unique take on these somewhat sticky adventures, enjoying yet again his strong sense of right and wrong, his capital bargaining skills, his admirable hat-raising politeness, his enduring kindness, his unmatched appetite for chunky marmalade sandwiches, and his masterful hard stare.
Written to coincide with the Paddington movie release, the book contains wonderful pen-and-ink drawings by Peggy Fortnum and R.W. Alley. Ms. Fortnum was the first to depict Paddington on the page back in the late 50’s, and Mr. Alley, Paddington’s current illustrator, has been drawing him since 1997. I think there have been at least 6 different illustrators through the years, but it’s nice to have the first and the most recent represented in this book.
I’d like to think that part of Paddington’s enduring appeal is the theme of unconditional acceptance and tolerance. He is an immigrant, after all, and an ursine one at that — yet the Browns happily welcome him into their home and he becomes a member of the family just like that. Good manners (often lacking in these crazy times) never go out of style — something I’ve always loved about this bear. Could you resist him if he tipped his hat at you? 🙂
Saw these wonderful naive cut paper collages by Amanda A. White on Etsy the other day. A former Londoner now living in the Canary Islands, Amanda specializes in depicting the homes of famous British writers — notably, the Romantics and the Bloomsbury Group.
For me it was love at first sight, especially since I’ve actually visited some of these places — Brontë Parsonage in Haworth, Keats House in Hampstead, Dickens House in Gads Hill, and Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage in the Lake District.
Amanda’s charming collages make me want to see all the other homes I didn’t know about before, especially Vanessa Bell’s Charleston Farmhouse (Vanessa was Virginia Woolf’s sister):
Pretty amazing what the right artist can do with old magazine clippings (mostly from Vogue and National Geographic). What’s also cool is how the Keats House Museum contacted Amanda after seeing her Keats House collage on her website. Now, her prints and cards are for sale in the museum gift shop!
Sigh. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to step right into these pictures?
Find out more about Amanda’s Writers’ Houses Project at her website, blog and Etsy Shop. Check out the Christmas cards too. 🙂