Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Growing Summer (or ideology and children's fiction)

The Noodle and I have been enjoying The Growing Summer by Noel Streatfeild a good deal. He had a moment of absolute terror when Robin fell out of the boat, and the story immediately switched to Penny and Naomi waiting at home for the boys and Aunt Dymphna to return...and it's getting later, and later, and later.

Took us three days to get past those chapters, with much clinging and many looks of anxiety and insistences that nothing terrible happens to anybody in The Growing Summer (unless you think having to eat Penny's cooking is cruel and unusual punishment). Aunt Dymphna is very anti-whining. She may be mad and addicted to poetry, but she's a handy identifier of edible mushrooms and she is not interested in keeping things clean. Not perhaps an A grade aunt, but certainly not the worst either - worst aunts are probably Spiker and Sponge in James and the Giant Peach I reckon.

I have been reading Apple Bough also by Streatfeild on the bus. I bought it at the Fiesta last week (harrumph cookies). Or at least the lads bought it for me after I had to rush off to look after the tipping over cans of formula stall for a while. I wonder how much money we made?

Anyway. Apple Bough is, if anything, an even weirder book than The Growing Summer. Streatfeild is so insistent that Myra is ordinary and untalented, so much so that we never even find out what Myra enjoys doing (except for hanging about with her dog and pining for her old house). It doesn't sound interesting. She never gets any embarrassing m'audition moments because she does not dance. She never outshines anyone at skating, because she does not skate. She is always patient and kind and also tidies up after everyone. She is not boisterous or opinionated in any way shape or form. I don't think she belongs in a Noel Streatfeild novel at all. I believe she escaped from a more than usually dull Sunday School prize book and migrated into Sebastian, Wolfgang and Ettie's family in search of excitement only to be enslaved bythose theatrical over-achievers. Thursday Next should turn up and send her home (with the dog of course).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't thought of 'The Growing Summer' for oh.... 32 years! And now I've suddenly had a flashback to the local library where we our books out as kids; a sense of vague discomfort - so maybe I had anxious moments with the story too--I certainly remember having a bad dream somehow linked with the book. And was there a TV series? The copy I read had a yellow-tinted photo on the cover of Aunt Dymphna in a cape and man's hat. Perhaps that's what disturbed me.

Kerry ;)