Holy schmoley! I forgot how wonderful this book is!
My kindergarten teacher gave me a hardcover version when my family moved away, and while I remember reading it, I also remember having a really tough time with the dialect and the Indian words and phrases. And, of course, the significance of Mary being born in India of British parents didn’t hit me at all at age seven. Mostly I just remembered that Mary was a brat.
Then when my husband, daughter, and I moved away from California again, my friend gave my daughter this illustrated edition. My daughter (now seven herself) read it aloud with her dad before bedtime, and they both loved it so much, I picked up the audiobook (read by Finola Hughes) so we could all enjoy it on long car rides.
The book is delightful by itself, but hearing Finola Hughes’ “broad Yorkshire” really helps our Yankee brains to understand the dialect. Inga Moore’s illustrations in this edition are beautiful and heighten the whimsy in the story.
I had forgotten how wonderful this book is. I appreciate the subtlety and innocence of the discussion of “Magic.” I especially loved the portion of a chapter written from the robin’s point of view. It was a little jarring at first because it was so different from the rest of the book, but once I got my bearings, it really added an interesting dimension. I didn’t like so much the chapter written from Mr Craven’s point of view. It was less colorful and more difficult to follow than the others, although I understand its importance in illustrating how he made such an abrupt transformation from how he seemed at the beginning of the book. Burnett’s treatment of culture is respectful and focuses on the universal elements that connect us all, regardless of our heritage. She treats nature almost like another culture, suggesting that an understanding of nature goes hand-in-hand with understanding other people.
As I finished one of the later chapters, I found myself impelled to go out to my own garden and weed. I even braved the creepy spider webs and cleaned out the shed. Alas, the book’s effect so far has not been enough to get my kids to go outside and work in the garden with me, but I still have hope. I also hope that, if I do manage to get them outside most of the day, they might be less picky about the “victuals” I set in front of them.