This is one of those weeks when I have needed to retreat into the safety and solace of gentle books. Reading the kindly written The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, by Alexander McCall Smith, was just such a healing respite.
Then, when reaching for The Moorchild on my shelf to read for Carl’s Once Upon a Time challenge, I found Natalie Babbitt’s The Search for Delicious sitting next to it. Speaking of kind and gentle writers…I love Natalie Babbitt’s writing, but I’d never read this little book. Not having enough to read already (ha!), I sat down to look at it and ended up reading the whole thing. It’s a short, but delicious (sorry) read, written with her usual beautifully crafted poetic prose. The story is a simple tale, but with lots to think about (which is something I love about reading fantasy), and lots of humor.
The Prime Minister is writing a dictionary for the kingdom, and thus far has A (affectionate is your dog), and B (bulky is a big bag of boxes), and C (calamitous is saying No to the king). D is for Delicious, but no one, including the King and Queen can agree on what Delicious should stand for…and the quarreling spreads throughout the kingdom. And due to a mean and nasty character that stirs things up because he wants to be king, the kingdom is brought to the brink of civil war. Finding out what the people of the kingdom really think is the most Delicious thing, and hopefully resolving the quarreling and averting war in the process, is the task assigned to young Gaylen. His adventure is a lesson in human nature.
Natalie Babbitt has written some of the most beautiful little books I’ve read. They are short and simple, but profound in their ideas and emotional honesty. Tuck Everlasting is a favorite (so different from the movie) and deals with the idea of what it would really be like to live forever. The Eyes of the Amaryllis is a haunting story about love transcending death, and the healing power of such deep love.
You find Babbitt’s books in the children’s section, but sharing them with children, or reading them alone as an adult, are both lovely experiences. She has a new book coming out in May, called Jack Plank Tells Tales, which should be a lot of fun. Also, if you are interested in listening to her thoughts on writing, you can watch a webcast from Bookfest 2001, which is part of the Library of Congress literature webcasts collection.
I appreciate so much these writers that bring a little sunshine into a dark day or week, and provide a little solace with positive, caring words. And they remind us, when we most need reminding, of what is good in people and in the world.