A children's story from a sadly bygone era

Posted by Marie on Wednesday, March 18, 2009 in , , ,
The Otterbury Incident – C. Day Lewis, Illustrations by Edward Ardizzone
Fiction, Children's ; No ISBN; Puffin Books edition, 1961 (first published in 1948).

I’ve done it again. I’ve placed a book in my Bookmooch inventory that I now want to keep for myself. *Sigh*

When I saw this book in Booksale, I was intrigued by the cover – that is unusual because I usually decide chiefly from the back blurb (which this book doesn’t have). It does have some sort of front description though:

“This is a really super story – I should know, I wrote it.”

So says George, the smug narrator. Of which the editor added:

“P.S. George is right, although he sound a bit too pleased with himself – it’s a very good story and we think everyone between 9 and 12 will enjoy it – girls as well as boys”.

I’m not sure if that is accurate though, unless the editor meant girls that are slightly tomboyish (although one have to admit that most real girls are tomboyish). It is an action-filled novella after all, full of heroic battles, mortal combats by water-pistols or wooden swords, some Sherlock Holmesian sleuthing, funny stuff, crime-fighting commandos, and other jolly good deeds.

Oh, I had just to mention the writing. For example: “The Abbey tower rode the morning mists like a galleon’s poop.” Yup, that sounds like a cheeky 12-year old English boy to me.

Despite the details that set the book in England of World War II, the story doesn’t talk directly about that war, which makes one even more sensitized to the situation. The War is something that the children accept all too tacitly for comfort, such as it is natural to have older brothers in RAF and to have food rationed out, or to even have bombs occasionally fall from the sky. And this is one of the reasons why I liked it – of course, it is tragic but look at this quiet insignificant village – despite the hardship, lives bloom, and boys will still be (adorable, pesky little) boys.

5 out of 5 stars



Yup, I think you would. Sadly, the orginal print of the book is rare. Why did I ever let it escape my library? Arrgh!

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