The Complete Borrowers

Look what I just found in our delightful local secondhand bookshop:

The Complete Borrowers by Mary Norton Puffin edition

More Borrowers than I even knew existed! The first tale – The Borrowers – was published in 1952, followed by The Borrowers Afield (1955), Afloat (1959), Aloft (1961). No wonder I never caught up with The Borrowers Avenged (sounds a bit violent?!) as it did not surface until 1982. By then I was more into Virago Modern Classics than classic children’s literature. There is also a Borrowers fragment called Poor Stainless, only a few pages long.

The Complete Borrowers by Mary Norton (Puffin) back cover

The introduction is a letter from Mary Norton herself, describing how the Borrowers came to be.

There are lots of lovely atmospheric black-and-white illustrations by Diana Stanley.

Diana Stanley illustration for The Borrowers

Illustration by Diana Stanley

Those accompanying The Borrowers remind me of Maurice Sendak’s style: chunky figures and normal, non-beautiful faces. And they remind me a bit of gargoyles and other faces carved around old churches, based on the stone-carvers themselves or people in the local community which were probably quite recognisable to those in the know.

Diana Stanley died in 1975 and the final book is illustrated by Pauline Baynes, whose work is inseparable in my mind from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books.

I blogged about the perennial attraction of Borrower-sized people and other tiny things here at Girls Heart Books.


Rhymes with Oomph and Zoom

I Saw Esau edited by Iona & Peter Opie, illustrated by Maurice SendakMy latest book find is a gem – I Saw Esau: The Schoolchild’s Pocket Bookedited by Iona & Peter Opie and illustrated by Maurice Sendak, first published in 1947.

‘They were clearly not rhymes that a grandmother would sing to the grandchild on her knee,’ Iona Opie says in her introduction. ‘They have more oomph and zoom; they pack a punch.’ Well, a grandmother with a taste from the macabre, the grim or the rude might well do, and have a good giggle besides. But there would have to be a lot of explanation, too.*

There are 170 rhymes grouped into themes: Insults, retaliation, teasing and repartee, more insults, lamentation and reproachfulness are just some of them, which gives you a taste. It is ‘a declaration of a child’s brave defiance in the face of daunting odds’. illustration by Maurice Sendak toIona & Peter Opie's I Saw Esau, Walker Books

The book was born in the days of post-war paper rationing. The wonderful illustrations only came with the 1992 edition from Walker Books, and for an illustration-fiend the helping is more than generous. There’s at least one picture on every page and sometimes one for every short verse on the page.

*But there are Notes at the back. Hurray! I love Notes. Especially when the Notes have pictures, too.

I Saw Eau, The Schoolchild;s Pocket Book, I & P Opie & Sendak