Saturday, September 27, 2008

Self-winding


The child, hanging from his father's hands, now saw again the bright star Sirius. It seemed to fly onwards, keeping pace beside them through the distant sky. As before, the child found its light a comfort. His good-luck coin clinked against his drum, and now he felt luckier than ever before. "Maybe we shan't always be helpless, Papa," he said. "Maybe we'll be self-winding someday."

"Maybe," said his father.

The Mouse and His Child by Russell Hoban is one of my favourite books, and every time I recommend it to someone I feel a teeny bit jealous, because they'll be reading it for the first time, and I can't ever experience that again. Anyone else feel like that about a book?

The Jute Mill Song, by June Tabor
Somebody Bring Me a Flower, I'm a Robot, by Kev Russell
Jackie's Train, by Mary Gauthier


14 comments:

Frogprincess said...

The Secret History. And once you've read Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go - you can't ever read it on the same way again...

snadfrod said...

A huge dond for Secret History. For me, Catcher, The Corrections and The Road were all gobbled up in awe.

And, for the kids, I weep almost every time I read Tim Burton's Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy. I think it's Jimmy the Hideous Penguin Boy that does it. Every time.

ToffeeBoy said...

@ tfd - I LOVE The Mouse And His Child - it's sad and beautiful at the same time and admirably non-patronising. Russell Hoban is one of my favourite authors and the author of two of my Desert Island books - Kleinzeit and Ridley Walker. He also wrote some lovely books for younger children.

I'm jealous of anyone reading Behind The Scenes At The Museum for the first time.

saneshane said...

Oh I got 'Amaryllis night and day' as a valentine present.. so loved it..

Klein bottles Mobius strips think my brain imploded.

need to explore more then.. and kids books cool.

alimunday said...

The Mousehole Cat gets me every time, especially when Mowser sings to the great storm cat. The illustrations are wonderful and Mousehole is one of my favourite places, where I used to take my mum on holiday after my dad died. Oh, and I like cats too. Only snag is I can't read it to my son because I get choked up - very strange!

Blimpy said...

i tried to visit the jute mill, but it was closed the day i went.

Blimpy said...

i think the jute mill song would work better without any backing track or effects. it was good tho'.

Abahachi said...

The Mouse and His Child is a work of absolute and heart-breaking genius; my favourite is the philosophical turtle - it's like the cartoons (e.g. Toy Story) that get praised for putting stuff in to keep the parents happy while still engaging the children on every level, just a million times better.

I re-read a lot of books, and usually don't feel that I'm missing something in the fact that it's not the first time. The few exceptions which come immediately to mind are those which have some sort of twist; Philip K. Dick's Time Out of Joint - his best, I think - where the whole thing rests on the sudden change of perspective, and in a similar way but rather more arty, the second volume of Lawrence Durrell's The Alexandria Quartet, where the narrator's version of events gets turned upside down and taken to pieces.

GarethI said...

The last book I read in one go was probably The Music of Chance by Paul Auster. It's less tricksy than some of his later books: in fact, it more like a fable-cum-horror-thriller. I started reading it at about 10am one Sunday morning and finished it at 11 that night.

What age is The Mouse and His Child suitable for? Thinking about Christmas presents here…

Abahachi said...

Good question. I think I read it at about 8, but then I was a precocious little so and so. Some of the vocabulary and sentence structure, and a lot of the themes and plots, are distinctly advanced and challenging - as implied above, it's a book that fully repays reading even if you're an adult with no children, whereas usually we read children's books either because we are reading them to children or because we're re-reading childhood favourites. Anyway, my feeling would be that it might be suitable for anyone from 8-9 (if they already read a lot) up to 13 or 14 (if they're open-minded enough to take on something that looks at first sight like a fairy-story about toy mice).

I would also say that it's a brilliant book for reading aloud; lots of characters and extraordinary dialogue, and quite possibly much easier for children to go with the flow of the story, even if they don't understand exactly what some of the words mean (and there are some passages where the joke is that the words don't really make sense), rather than leaving them to try to struggle through it themselves.

treefrogdemon said...

For younger kids Hoban's 'Frances' series are excellent...they're stories about common events in children's lives, eg 'Bread and Jam for Frances' has Frances giving up eating everything except bread and jam...There's a message, but it's not laboured, just lots of fun, and the person reading the story gets to sing a lot.

In our family we still talk about "making it come out even."

Mnemonic said...

From two upwards, try getting "Slow Loris" by Alexis Deacon. It's one of the most successful presents I've ever given to a two-year old. He's five now and knows it by heart.

For five upwards, any of the "Olivia" books are fun, especially "Olivia Saves the Circus". If you don't already know these, Olivia is a rather charming pig with red knickers.

For adults, I envy anyone reading Haruki Murakami's short story collection "The Elephant Vanishes" for the first time. Edward Gorey's "The Hapless Child" would probably go with me to a desert island, too. Anyone brought up on a diet of late Victorian children's books (especially Frances Hodgson Burnett's "The Little Princess) will probably shriek with laughter throughout.

Cannot go without Cold Comfort Farm. I reread it at least once a year.

steenbeck said...

I liked the June Tabor and the Kev Russel. I do always try to listen to your selections, TFD, and am always glad I heard them--weekends are busy here and I don't always get through all the lists before it's too late to dond.

treefrogdemon said...

Sorry, steenbeck...rant over