Catching Up With The Issues That Matter [cont.]

Norm’s post the other day discussed a very fine book – Harvey’s Hideout, by Russell Hoban – which I don’t think I’ve thought about in more than twenty years. Go and read the post, if you haven’t already, and go and read Harvey’s Hideout, if you haven’t done that either.

Mention of Russell Hoban also reminded me of a rather odd conversation I once had with my PhD supervisor, when we were trying to work out what kind of animal Frances was (as in Bread and Jam for Frances, etc., picture here). Badger and chipmunk were, I think, our preferred alternatives, though I don’t think that either of us was at all confident in our identifications. The matter was referred to his small daughter, who prononced that “Frances is a hairy creature!”, which was both indisputably true and good enough for me.

Fine though Russell Hoban’s children’s books are, my favourite writer of this kind of thing is probably Arnold Lobel, in particular for his magnificent volume Owl at Home (image here, discussion here). Owl really is a hero for our time, and Lobel’s five short stories about Owl’s day to day existence comprise some of the more imperishable pages in the history of world literature.

(Lobel’s Uncle Elephant is another fine book, a classic Bildungsroman, but with an elephant. This book is, however, one that I only ever encountered as an adult, which means that I will always react to it in a different set of ways to those other works mentioned above.)

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